"Accountable" Schools or Student Automatons?
by Bill Archer
Public education will need many years to repair the damage it has
suffered under the recent onslaught of state and federal high stakes
testing programs that are attempting to force all students to reach what
amounts to a "homogenized" level of achievement at the same time.
But any goal that is contrary to the one achieved by an undistorted
educational process that results in the discovery of new ideas and
concepts is a wrong goal.
The present state and federal administrations' assembly line strategy
that is supposed to result in the production of so many identical units
doesn't apply to education unless what is wanted is a robotic sameness.
Sameness in beliefs, values, philosophical and political perspectives
that culminates in a product that believes it is unacceptable and
perhaps even criminally wrong to think differently is an automaton of
Under the banner word of "accountability," the state and federal
governments have conspired to create an education system that will mold
citizens into the feckless, fearful and forgetfully mindless peons that
will do as they are directed, believe what they are told and forget
about what true intellectual freedom without boundaries ever felt like.
But the "accountability" they refer to has nothing to do with what most
of us still remember as accountability.
In the not too distant past in public schools, we were tested
periodically to see how much progress we had made in the subjects we
were being taught by teachers like those today who are given a
curriculum to follow. If we were having difficulty in achievement, we
were given remedial opportunities. That was the accountability process
and it focused on each of us as individuals.
Each of us had separate learning styles that determined our learning
speeds. All of us were different, yet all of us managed to get where we
were going sometime in our futures.
But today's state- and federally nuanced accountability processes
measure entire groups of students at once with the inflexible
expectation that all will be at the same level, at the same time, or
else. The results of these measurements are then used to determine a
letter grade for the entire school. That grade will then determine the
consequences the entire school and individuals therein will suffer
whether or not all have been tested.
This is the new accountability. It is so rife with inequities and absurd
expectations that it is a wonder that those in positions of educational
leadership aren't rebelling with dramatically strong actions and words
to overthrow such an insulting and debilitating process.
Instead of a rebellion there is a new emphasis on changing the attitudes
of teachers from that of trained instructors and presenters of
information to that of persons responsible for encouraging all students
to meet the expectations of this new accountability. And each staff
member is being encouraged to reinforce the prescribed goals with the
same consistent message: Nonconformity is unacceptable. So those state
and federal authorities that have prescribed what's to be learned, how
it will be evaluated and the consequence for not meeting expectations
are now setting teachers up to be the implementers of a draconian
process that will inevitably subject them to consequences if unsuccessful.
At this time I can only imagine that educational leadership falls into
one of two categories -- those who believe that what is being done is
right and therefore encourage it or those who acquiesce for fear that
there will be a reprisal if they speak against it. And in this political
environment, where the present government administrations vilify those
who resist their processes, I can understand their reluctance to resist.
It is obvious by now the current administration wants to eliminate the
individual and abandon true education.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Remember always that you not only have the
right to be an individual, you have the obligation to be one." Courage
is the element of character in a person who stands up against wrong
doing no matter the consequence. And lastly, Martin Luther King Jr.
said, "Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education."
Archer, a school counselor, lives in Daytona Beach.
Daytona Beach News-Journal
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