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Levels of Responsibility

October 7th, 2008

Right now, my college is undergoing an accreditation review. For those who don’t know what that is, it is essentially the licensing for the school. You can’t offer a degree worth more than the paper it’s printed on if you don’t continuously win and re-win accreditation from one of the major agencies.

Today we met with the consultant evaluators, and they asked some pointed questions. These are professionals, they’ve been in the business a long time, they’ve done this before and they know their stuff. And of course, it’s their job to know what you should be able to show them, namely that your institution is doing what it is supposed to be doing, that the students you teach are getting what they should be getting.

And it occurred to me in this process that if we did something like ignore a question and address something else we wanted to point out instead, it wouldn’t fly. We might get a long stare that asks us to change our minds and answer the question asked. That if they asked us what the institution could offer students, and we replied that we were real close to a city library, so we had access to lots of information we could give the students, we would probably have to sit there in silence while the evaluators worried about what fate our students would suffer at our inexperienced hands. Or that if we hired someone for a vital position who had no qualifications worth mentioning for the job, they would rightly question our ability to staff the school. And if we knew in advance that our answers would be inadequate and simply denied the evaluators access, it would be even worse.

In short, we could lose our accreditation, our jobs, our school.

Now, we’re just a small school which runs a basic general education program, small potatoes in the bigger world of higher education. It’s not like we want to become leaders of the most powerful nation on Earth.

And yet, it occurred to me in this process, that we are being held to a far higher level of accountability than is the McCain campaign. And it’s not like McCain and Palin are being evaluated by chimps; it’s not as if the entire field of journalists don’t know their jobs, their responsibilities, their duties. It’s not as if they don’t know how to ask the tough questions, how to report on what’s really happening. It’s not like they can’t tell that proximity to Russia has zero value, that McCain and Palin are lying through their teeth, that Sarah Palin is not qualified or appropriate for her position, or that denial of access is equal to an admission of fear and incompetence.

But if you want accountability, head down to your local community college. I can speak from experience that in order to stay in business, they have to answer to a far higher level of scrutiny, and live up to their promises, with no lies, evasions, or bull.

Don’t try to get that from the McCain campaign, though; they don’t even come close to living up to those lofty standards. In fact, they don’t even try.

They could not succeed in running a small junior college; how can they claim to be qualified to run the entire country?

Categories: Election 2008, McCain Hall of Shame Tags: by
  1. ykw
    October 8th, 2008 at 04:27 | #1

    I would think one is given many chances to correct “issues” before they shut down a school ?

  2. Luis
    October 8th, 2008 at 11:56 | #2


    If we simply denied access? You bet they could deny accreditation. Alternately, if they observe problems (especially ones not initially identified by the school itself), tells the school to fix them, and the school doesn’t, that would do it also–but that could be a longer process. My point is, Palin and McCain hold themselves to a far lower standard to this.

    It would actually be great if we had an accreditation process for politicians; a truly non-partisan group develops global standards of knowledge, transparency, behavior, etc. and either issues accreditation or even levels of accreditation to politicians. This differs from special interest groups issuing “grades” for politicians in that it would be non-partisan and non-interested. If enough politicians embraced this to make people notice, then it would give cachet to those who qualify, and could be used by these politicians to show from an objective source that they stand out.

  3. Tim Kane
    October 8th, 2008 at 18:06 | #3

    I think that community colleges, in the United States are the great un-sung miracle workers of American education.

    Side by side comparisons show that basic education in the United States is amongst the worst in the world. American’s graduate from high school knowing less than the rest of the world (on average).

    However, American higher education is rated among the highest in the world. All the deficiencies of American lower education are made up, and then some, in American higher education.

    The linchpin is the first two years of higher education where fundamental skills are taught. Community colleges provide these skills at a very low cost across a wide spectrum of society and American geography. There is literally one near everybody, and they can and do educate the 18 year old or the 80 year old – in almost every conceivable subject. Generally speaking they are clean, well furnished and have good physical plants.

    In my mind, community colleges are the most marvelous institutions in America. A person can go into them junk, and if they are willing, can find help and transform themselves. They do truly miraculous work from an educational point of view. When they leave they can then go on to just about any institution and survive, if not thrive. When an under served student steps into one for the first time they generally are stepping into an impressive first class institution. When such an institution, in turn invest in them, that students mentality is often transformed with it.

    So, I’m not surprised to hear what you have to say about Community Colleges, and what they have to go through. They are truly marvelous institutions. Maybe I should be marveling at the accreditation institutions. Maybe they are driving the Community Colleges to their high levels. In my mind the Community College is one of the remaining saving graces of America. If we could just have a health care system on this par level, well then America would be great.

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