I’m amazed by educators. On one hand, they’ll hold students accountable and hand out disproportionate penalties for insignificant offenses. Don’t believe me? Try taking a matchbook, 1″ pocket knife or non-perscription medication to school these days. On the other hand, educators are unable to take responsibility for fraud on a scale that only Bernie Madoff and Tim Durham would appreciate.
Take the standardized test cheating scandals that are unfolding in Georgia, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. In each case, it seems that teachers are correcting student standardized tests before they are graded in an effort to make sure their failing school makes the cut and does not get taken over by the state. At stake is billions of dollars in school funding and thousands of jobs.
When caught, many teachers, teacher’s advocacy groups and school administrators try to justify committing fraud with:
“The stakes are too high. They will close my school and I will lose my job if we do not cheat. On top of that, my boss told me I had to or else.”
The excuses are reminiscent of Edward Pierce’s explanation of why he stole a shipment of gold in The Great Train Robbery: “I wanted the money.” Sorry, but the excuses just don’t hold water.
Can you imagine a financial planner saying, “Well, I doctored your statements to hide your losses and get more commission.” Or a doctor performing unneeded surgeries because, “The director said we would lose funding and I would be fired if I did not do enough mastectomies. ” Or a mailman justifying dumping your mail in the trash, “My boss will write me up if I don’t get all the mail delivered before 2pm.” In each case, the situation stinks, but it does not justify breaking the law.
“Think of the children. This whole standardized testing thing is unfair.”
Every day, school administrators hold children accountable for cheating with policies ranging from an F on the test, to an F for the course to instant expulsion. Suddenly it is okay for teachers to cheat, but not ok for the students just because the “stakes are too high”? Please. Double standard anyone? This kind of double standard will be toxic to the academic system where admissions are granted, scholarships awarded and student after graduation careers are largely determined by, get this, grades and test scores.
Reality is that we are all expected to do what is right, not what is easy (I think I learned that from my sixth grade teacher). If the education establishment really cares about what is right, they will treat erasure scandals and those who take part in foisting them like the Madoffesque frauds they are.