Bruno: DC Blame Game Distracts Us From Root Causes
Richard Whitmire came to Rhee's defense in the Washington Post last week, but in the process he got bogged down in an unhelpful game of finger pointing, going on at some length about how the right targets for "blame" are teachers rather than the administrators holding them accountable.
There's obviously some reasonable appeal to assigning blame for cheating, and it's intuitive enough to assign that blame to the individuals most directly involved. As satisfying as it is to assign blame, however, it's only tangentially related to the policy issue at hand: namely, the extent to which cheating is a problem under Rhee-style reforms and what we should do to mitigate it. The causes of cheating are therefore much more relevant than the assignment of guilt.
Whether that means Rhee is "to blame" for any resulting cheating is mostly a question of ethics rather than policy. The policy discussion we should be having is about what rules should be in place for teachers, administrators, and chancellors to minimize the extent to which cheating undermines schooling and learning.
Cheating teachers should probably be held legally and professionally accountable, but if we do so to satisfy our urge to distribute justice we've missed the point. If Rhee's reforms lead to an increase in cheating, that's a knock against them that needs to be weighed when we think about implementing them on a wider scale. Arguments about the appropriate allocation of blame are a distraction. - PB (@MrPABruno)
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