Friday, February 10, 2023

Everybody Wants to Talk About Accountability, But Nobody Wants to be Accountable

"Everybody wanna go up to heaven/but nobody wanna die/I don't know why." Peter Tosh

I'm going to tell a personal story from a few years ago. I will change the names to protect everyone's privacy and feelings. I have a school friend who we will call Cindy. Cindy is someone I've known for going on 40 years. 

A few years ago, one of her children was graduating from high school. He joined a group of kids on a senior prank. It was common for soon-to-be graduates to break into the school on the weekend before graduation and move furniture around and leave some goofy posters. For years it was the tradition and had never gone too far with the "damage." In fact, there had never been damage, just some stuff moved around and a few funny posters put up. No harm done. Unfortunately this time, things were a little different. A smaller group of kids from the larger group had decided to do cause some real trouble. Things got ugly. Real vandalism occurred: property was destroyed, walls were spray painted. Cindy's son wasn't actually involved with the real vandalism and wasn't actually in the area where it happened, but he was in the school. I believe her about her son not being in the wrong group, but again — he did break into the school.

The principal found out who some of the people involved were and slowly managed to get a decent list of people involved with the general shenanigans as well as the destructive ones. He pressed charges on those who did real damage to the school and then the principal decided that anyone who had broken into the school would not be able to walk at graduation. Cindy lost her mind. She, and some friends, took to social media and the editorial page of the local paper to air their grievances about the unjust nature of the punishment. Cindy is a parent I know personally. She told me on many occasions that people who commit crimes should be punished. But, when it came to her son, even though he was definitely and admittedly in the school when he should have been, she didn't want punishment.

And that is the real problem I see in society right now — everybody wants to talk about accountability, but nobody wants accountability when it comes to them. We want accountability in theory, but not in practice. Sadly that isn't how accountability works, gang. I can see it in schools all the time. The parent who wants "high standards," but then when his child doesn't make the grade, he wants the child's grade raised. The teacher who doesn't accept late work from students, but routinely fails to do lesson plans, provide feedback, or evaluate assessments in a timely manner. The administrator who has no empathy toward a teacher's personal matters outside of work, but then leaves work early to go to the doctor or the bank. It goes around and around and everyone screams out, "Where is the accountability?" However when put in a situation, they are quicker to say, "But there should be an exception for me!"

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