Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hall Effect

No, not THAT Hall Effect. We're talking about the now infamous test cheating scandal whirling about the now deceased Beverly Hall. That Hall Effect.

Most pundits are pondering her legacy. Will it be "Cheater in Chief?" Or will hollow excuses about how she didn't conspire, perhaps didn't even know (willingly or not) paint a prettier picture? Or will this be countered with "if she didn't know she should have," implying she raised the Peter Principle to levels that cannot be explained even by the Black At All Costs policy metastasizing in our neo-Urban PC public schools?

But it isn't about her legacy. There are much more important things going on here.

First there is the "perception of" culture that permeates government at all levels but is most odious in public education where one would expect facts, and knowledge thereof, to be highly prized. These days when it comes to public service (which is EXACTLY what public schools are alleged to be) reality no longer plays a part as it has been deliberately displaced by the "perception of" some reality. How many times have you heard a teacher or principal tout the wonderful education your child is receiving at their hands even when every objective fact tells you exactly the opposite? Why do they do this? Because it is significantly easier to convince a parent of an easily outed falsehood than to actually deliver on an educational commitment. And they've become so adept at the former and incompetent at the latter that in today's schools there really is no other viable option. Hence Bev's pre-retirement predicament.

Then there is the bureaucratic pyramid where success is defined by outrageous compensation, self-serving awards from your "peers" and undeserved ovations from your bosses for doing little more that putting as much distance as possible between yourself and the service your organization is supposed to deliver. In this regard it isn't about Cheaters Hall at all. It is about the fact that society has constructed a system that can do little else but create the likes of a Beverly Hall and given the very existence, let alone actions of the Blue Ribbon Committee we have become a society that will accept nothing else.

Perhaps there is something to be learned from the so-called not-for-profit sector. Remember William Aramony? The former head of United Way convicted for all sorts of malfeasance--rumored to be only the tip of the iceberg? Sound familiar? The one positive that came of all the bad behaviour permeating the not-for-profit industry, and like education it IS an industry, is that the public took notice and established watchdog organizations tracking how much of the money taken in goes out to benefit of the stated cause and how much is doled out in "administration." When you examine the cozy relationship  not-for-profits have with business executives who earn gold stars for "employee participation" then the fact that schools (unlike not-for-profits) are taxing authorities becomes an irrelevant distinction. Do parents have the courage to look under the highly polished rock of their children's schooling? Do they dare stare down the harsh truths and actually do something about them? Or, are the Bev's of the world right that parents much prefer a warm, fuzzy "perception?"

You may not like it but so far the facts suggest that Beverly Hall knew us better than we knew her and much better than we know ourselves.