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A Perspective on Accountability

During the Christian classical era in American schooling, say from 1640-1810, the curriculum of an American school was rather straightforward. You learned literacy and numeracy, largely at home and primarily with the Bible and maybe Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or some other important text.

Then when you got older you read a few great books and you learned Latin and Greek so you could do so. You didn’t study a lot of subjects because they were less concerned with a general education than with a disciplined mind. The belief seems to have been widespread that a well-trained mind would learn what it needed to learn on the practical side when it needed to learn it.

Things have changed, perhaps nowhere more than in the area of accountability. How could schools thrive in an era like that? And thrive they did. According to Ted Kennedy’s staff, literacy in Massachusettes before the 1840’s was upwards of 98%. How was this possible?

A number of unreproducible factors were involved, but one of them was community accountability. In other words, the children were being educated to become leaders and members of the community that was educating them. That gives an awfully concrete mind set to the adults in a community. If these kids don’t learn, the whole commuity will suffer for it.

Over the 200 years since that era, community has dissolved. So who is a school accountable to now? According to the law of nature and nature’s God, the school is accountable to the parents of the children in the school. But a whole stream of forces have eroded both the parents’ confidence and their willingness to be involved in their children’s education.

Consequently, schools now report to accrediting agencies, government agencies, and churches. Of these, the last has the highest potential for something like a community perspective, but churches are also governed by scientific management and marketing strategies, and even where this is not so it is rare for a church to be part of a community with a common worldview.

So we are left, necessarily, with a rather abstract reporting structure. Statistics and bell curves dominate accountability, rather than the personal involvement of the community elders.

As I say, this is necessary. We have chosen to be this kind of society in each of our elections and whenever we bought things because they were the cheapest available without consideration of who made them, under what circumstances, and with what end in mind.

It is wrong and harmful for any organization or individual to resist accountability, and therefore students, teachers, administrators, heads of school, and every other unit in a school needs to be accountable. It is best when the accountability aligns with the nature and purpose of the school.

Therefore, the practical problem is to determine how to maintain the purpose and nature of the school while submiting to forms of accountability that don’t necessarily align with that purpose and nature.

All of this assumes that there are two different natures at work and that the differences matter. That is the matter for a later entry, but let me start that reflection with a couple or few questions:

What is the nature of a Christian and or classical school?
How is it different from other schools?
What form of assessment arises from that nature?
How are conventional forms of assessment different?
How are they in conflict (if indeed they are)?
What should we do to protect the school while submitting to the assessors?

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