The “X”odus Files: Accountability is the Problem.


It’s time to stop trying to rescue “accountability.” It’s a horrendous word and its application only results in blame based authoritarianism.

I have seen the attempts to “reclaim” accountability and I have taken my fair share of criticism for my critique of accountability. But why reclaim something that has nothing to do with empowering the human spirit? And why use language to appease? We gain nothing by reclaiming a toxic narrative and appeasing critics.

Accountability is forced compliance. It’s an out of date factory term and actually defines the moment we are all living quite well.

Teachers and public schools are crappy and can’t be trusted so forced compliance—accountability—will bring the system back in line.

The harsh reality is that forced compliance through accountability creates a system that forces teachers and public schools to be crappy. Accountability is the overseer in this upside down world where teachers are forced to enact harmful pedagogies that maintains our current socio-economic and political reality.

This has never been about test scores and failing schools and bad teachers. No. The last 35 years of accountability has always been about maintaining a reality that serves the few in power. Total control of the public education system is the best way to make sure that the vast majority of the population learn to comply.

If we want change then the language we use matters. Accountability always means forced compliance. Those of us in the vocation of education cannot exist in this world. We must be responsible!

What’s the difference? According to Seth Godin,

Accountability is done to you. It’s done by the industrial system, by those that want to create blame.

Responsibility is done by you. It’s voluntary. You can take as much of it as you want.

Anybody sick of having stuff “done to you?”

Our world needs teachers who can take on the awesome responsibility of engaging our students in an education that digs into the complexities and difficulties we all face. Climate change, racism, poverty, sexism, food insecurity, violence are purposely not on the script of compliance. And accountability will never give up compliance.