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Accountability in Action - Cartoons

More than any other word, “accountability” has become the keyword defining the past quarter-century in private and public sectors of life in America.  Presidents, governors, and mayors say that they answer to voters. CEOs and top managers proudly display their accountability to their boards of trustees. Small and mid-size owners of companies know that they are accountable to their customers. Appointed leaders and bureaucrats point to the outcomes they must meet in their evaluations. Or pay the consequences. So let’s call these political, market, and bureaucratic forms of accountability.

Anyone in K-12 or higher education knows that accountability is (and has been for decades) the magic word that opens doors for aspiring leaders and shows the exit to low-performing employees. For these institutions, “accountability imposes six demands” on educators at all levels that overlap these different versions of the accountability pervasive in the U.S.

“First, they must demonstrate that they have used their powers properly. Second, they must show that they are working to achieve the mission or priorities set for their office or organization. Third, they must report on their performance, for ‘power is opaque, accountability is public’ … Fourth, the two “E” words of public stewardship—efficiency and effectiveness—require accounting ‘for the resources they use and the outcomes they create….’ Fifth, they must ensure the quality of the programs and services produced. Last, but far from least, they must show that they serve public needs.”

There are, then, political, market, and bureaucratic forms of  accountability across private and public sectors in the U.S. including  K-12 education.  Schools are political inventions approved by voters and taxpayers charged to carry out national and individual goals; with parental choice readily available a version of customers buying in a market economy has developed in U.S. schooling, and, well, for bureaucratic accountability, K-12 schools in urban, suburban, and rural districts are hierarchical, rule driven, and constantly reporting to superiors as well as being evaluated.

I found a sampling of cartoons that illustrate humorously and, at times, harshly, various features of accountability across public and private institutions.




If readers come across other cartoons that cause chuckles or pinch (or both) on the different forms of accountability, please send them along.

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Larry Cuban

Larry Cuban is a former high school social studies teacher (14 years), district superintendent (7 years) and university professor (20 years). He has published op-...