Education Opinion

More on the NYC rally and accountability

By Deborah Meier — March 05, 2007 2 min read

Dear Diane,

I wish I had been there at the rally for Public Education. But I did hear on my way to Boston, that Klein/Bloomberg had appointed a Parent Engagement person as a response. They miss the point. This isn’t a PR problem. And, as you aptly note, hiring the opposition doesn’t always work to one’s advantage. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

We’re inclined to forget that democracy was invented as a response to the demand for accountability. For, of and by “the people” is a statement about accountability.

It’s a radical idea—that we have definitely forgotten. At best we think testing more often with ever direr rewards and punishments equals being more accountable. In the name of accountability we’re designing a system of schooling ever more tightly aligned and controlled by those at the top. If you want something else you’ve got to pay for it—go “private”.

The rally’s slogan—“where’s the public in public education” is right on.

The reader from Newark—if I understood his comment to this blog rightly—thinks that bad unions and collective bargaining are the culprit.

How did the idea of workplace democracy—which unions represent—become passé? We used to argue—in my youth—that you could quickly spot a despotic regime by the fact that it didn’t allow powerful unions of working people! Today we in the USA are almost union free.

Folks forget that union-management contracts are the work of unions and management. If “management” doesn’t take advantage of due process to tackle the quality of teachers, the answer is not to give the same managers more power to hire and fire based on their whims. We’re back to the question of whether “due process”—at root a basic tenet of democracy—is a luxury or a necessity? If it’s a necessity we need to design schools so that it doesn’t seem impossible to exercise due process for kids, teachers, families and principals.

When kids say, “but it isn’t fair!” they are expressing a fundamental human trait that schools ought to be designed to help its students understand, not dismiss it as childish whining. It probably requires twelve years or more to do the idea justice, when, in fact, at best we devote a few months in a Civics 101 course to “covering”—vs uncovering—it.

It’s what’s so endlessly interesting in playing with the design of a classroom and school. But it’s a form of play that can’t take place only in the abstract by smart business consultants, absent the back and forth of those effected by it.

If we don’t watch out Diane, we won’t find things to disagree with! So, let’s get back to some of those cans of worms—like the role of Scientific Evidence in schooling.


p.s. Thanks for the corrected data, Diane. Lying with statistics is not new—and anyone whose been a principal is probably an expert at doing it. Not just superintendents. It’s why I advocate a math education that spends more time on statistics and less on calculus.

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