Sunday, July 15, 2018

Escaping Accountablity: selecting the "right" scapegoat.

It is ironic that the United States should have been founded by intellectuals, for throughout most of our political history, the intellectual has been for the most part either an outsider, a servant or a scapegoat. -- Richard Hofstadter Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963)
Not many years ago I heard an interview on National Public Radio during which the guest, to the apparent delight of the host, expressed the view that it was time to "hold colleges and universities responsible for the failure of their students to graduate on time."

"Public colleges," he explained, "have never been held accountable for, that is, given state appropriations in proportion to, the success of their students. The have received funds merely on the basis of the number admitted." Things had to change!

Excuse me! Is this a person who has ever worried about grade inflation? Or about "empty diplomas?" Should "party-school" graduates number among the most successful? Will medical schools, in the long run, also, be held to this notion of accountability?

The provost of a local college in Philadelphia, strapped for funds, recently informed the faculty that all their classes will begin to be "bimodal." What is this? Well, in the past, there were two groups of students identified by the admissions committee: those who met admissions standards; and, those who failed to meet them. The former group had, on the average, higher high school and SAT averages than the latter.

To increase university income, both groups will now be admitted. It is up to the professors to "individualize instruction according to the unique needs of the student" in order to that No Student (tuition payment?) be Left Behind.

Professorial reaction has been muted to the point of indiscernibility, much as that of many public school teachers was, when No Child Left Behind was vaunted as a "school reform."

I learned from my mentors many years ago when I was pursuing licensure as a school principal that the first, the Primary, Rule of Administration was CYA, Cover Your Asse(t)s. You practice the first rule by putting to use the Second Rule of Administration.

The Second Rule of Administration -- I have learned through experience -- is, Theorem: "Pick on the quiet, the long-suffering. Otherwise, "Never Scapegoat the Squeaky Wheel."

Lemma: "Dump on the Humble, the Self-sacrificing and the Patient, but not if they are protest-prone." (Also, available for bullying are those stupid enough to believe that it is "unprofessional" to protect their own interests.)

For references and to examine these issues further, see Buffering: Enhancing Moral Hazard in Decision-Making?"

Cordially, EGR