- “Accountability for All” –Part 1: Education, Finance Markets, African Nations, Race, Congress. . . .
Is accountability a good thing? Obviously and most certainly yes! Talking about accountability implies talking about responsibility and responsiveness. Those are certainly positive and outcome-based terms. We want to see favorable results from every sector, but most times, if measures of accountability are not put into place, the results we expect become totally elusive. While some areas of our common experience have been held accountable for much too long, other areas have missed the accountability radar for far too long. However, it appears the wind of accountability is finally blowing full force and nothing is going to be left untouched by it.
Public education in this country has felt the impact of this wind in such a manner that a new visitor to the U.S. may innocently associate accountability with just the educational field! The 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is “fondly” dubbed the Accountability Bill. Rightly or wrongly, schools and educators have felt the weight of measures to keep them accountable: more standardized tests, negative media, school takeovers, job losses, to mention but a few. Meanwhile, as educators argue, parents, society, state and federal governments have not fulfilled their responsibilities of adequately funding schools and establishing equitable policies to ensure successful and quality outcomes for all children. Be that as it may, the existence of blatant achievement gaps within minority groups can no longer be waived off. Age old excuses for failure are being muffled by the wind of a dramatic and non-partisan embrace of new approaches, not excluding charter schools, alternative pathways to teaching, teacher merit pay, and universal preschool. Not only does President Obama’s agenda strongly promote these measures, many state governors are advocating similar strategies. Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio has promised and proposed extra funding, teacher residencies, universal preschool, oversight and increase in charter schools, increase to 220 school days. His reform plan is ambitious, courageous, yet accountable. There is no room for excuses for failure.
Turning to the economy and the financial markets, many old ideas and practices have now come under the serious scrutiny of accountability. The recent unscrupulousness of the likes of AIG not only exposed the sheer lack of accountability for these businesses, but also their arrogant yet pitiful disregard for the well being of the entire nation. In education, when schools “fail,” they are shut down or/and staff reassigned. With AIG, failure came with financial bonuses. Well, that was before the wind of accountability blew to their corner. The wind, carrying with it some determined lawmakers, now says, “Not so fast! All legal and legislative measures will be pursued to hold AIG accountable and recoup the stolen bonuses!” What’s applicable to public education is also applicable to Wall Street. To the full extent possible, I say. Who wants to listen to tired excuses about death threats and binding contracts?
The wind just made a change in course. It’s blowing towards some African nations. Much accountability is called for in this region. For the tyrant of Darfur, Sudan, time has to run out. For the greedy despots in power in Nigeria, the tight fists with which they have held onto the coffers of a blessed nation to the detriment of the helpless citizens, the countdown to true liberation has started. How long can they hold up with their tired excuses and grandiose plans, the sheer bankruptcy of their promises to build and sustain a nation? Senator Russ Feingold recently called this beloved nation of mine “a failed state.” Words are not enough. Accountability spells change and consequences. Nigerians and friends must hold these leaders accountable. Enough said.
The accountability wind blows wide, near, and surely. When Eric Holder called us a “nation of cowards,” he was merely calling for some accountability on all our parts on race issues. When Pres. Barack Obama addressed the expected immigration reform, he included measures to ensure accountability for those who already broke the law even as measures are taken to legalize their status: pay fines, learn English, get in the back of the line, and get legalized.
There’s more: While systems, markets, nations are being held to accountability standards, individual behaviors, beliefs, and practices equally need to be spotlighted and examined. The mortgage crisis has already exposed the lack of personal responsibility on the part of citizens. Individual incomes were not matched to the sizes of people’s homes and accompanying mortgages. Enough said. Visit Nigeria and witness the brazen display of ill-gotten wealth by the few in power or recently out it, and you wonder what drives supposedly normal human beings to that level of opulent stupor and crass irresponsibility! Nobody’s held them accountable . . . at least, not yet.
The wind returns home: When will we in the African American communities begin to be responsive to the academic success of our children? The achievement gap is not just a function of the schools; it’s as much a derivative of our actions, values, and beliefs. The wind of accountability demands we own up to this singular fact and begin to do something. Who wants to hear only of the tired excuses of racism, underfunded schools, poor teachers, and inefficient school systems?
The era of mere excuses, half-truths, and misguided actions needs to come to a halt. The dawn of a new era of accountability is here. Let’s all embrace it. If every citizen would hold themselves to this standard and then hold their communities of belonging, work, or business to the same, we will make much progress. Of course, there are still many challenging areas to deal with – health care, security, race, faith, immigration, civility, media . . . . . These are listed in no order of priority. We start somewhere; we plug on with all the resources necessary to achieve accountability in each unique area, not limited to legislation, financial resources, dialogue, honesty, truth-telling, courage, transparency, and civility (not an exhaustive list either).