The APS Cheating Scandal and American Culture

As those who read me often will know, I have been a teacher in numerous contexts as well as being a person who has taken many standardized tests. I have also advised people I cared about who take standardized tests. Let me assure you that people provide skinnies and acquire early copies of master forms and provide for special conditions for pretty girls who can use their favors to influence the right people, for stellar athletes who cannot make the grade after extensive tutorials and for the relations of rich donors to universities and prep schools. Teacher’s pets can sometimes be rewarded with hints that are unfair to others. That kind of impurity which is not so shocking but offends a sense of the sportsmanship that goes with standardized testing regimes is rampant enough to offend but not pervasive or normal in most testing regimes around the world. Beyond all of this in our own country margins are attached to scores to provide affirmative action for racial minorities, for women, for veterans and for the disabled before making decisions that will apply the scores. In addition to all of this intimidation, cheating lies and abuse occur in all sort of places around the world. If that is the case then does the APS scandal matter? Does it matter that Beverly Hall and others in the Atlanta Public School System presided over wholesale distortions in public school testing? Yes I think it matters. I think also that this kind of wholesale lying and cheating is occurring in many school districts around the country.
I myself have mixed feelings and a mix of things to say about standardized testing itself. I also believe high schools should have more diverse educational outcomes leading to apprenticeships, tech schools and work programs for a good portion of seniors who will still graduate and take some classes in the main school. Likewise they should offer advanced college prep and individual classes. I also think a military track should exist in each school. In other words I think the public school system is broken. I think it must change or we will pay an ever higher price. Given all this dysfunction does wholesale cheating such as erasure parties, broken seals, coaching during tests and false reporting matter? Yes, it assuredly matters. We currently see the worst element combining in the worst ways. This is a result our society demands. Ms. Hall and other are fulfilling an American fantasy about our society. I will not have time to fully explore that fantasy in this note – but I have done so elsewhere to a greater degree.
This little essay of the type I often write will be about Beverly Hall and the thirty or so other school officials indicted in the investigation of cheating in the Atlanta Public School System. This is especially important because Ms. Hall has been honored as National School System Superintendent of the Year and has been a symbol for many of the direction in which our American educational culture ought to be moving. I am going to look at this scandal in order to see a few other things in American life and culture more clearly as well. Like many of my Notes and Posts this one has a central theme and also some other themes woven into the writing about the topic. Also like many of my other notes and posts this topic comes from the current news. The most important news story may be the escalation in tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the new strain of bird flu or for some it may have to do with college basketball. However, for this note’s own purposes we will suppose that this school scandal is as important and may be more important than any other story.
This Facebook Note which is also a Blog Post comes at a very difficult time in my own life. Despite the memories of many times of far more visible trauma and crisis than this is in some ways I am writing this note at a time when it would be easy to think that all of my energy ought to be going to my own senses of loss and sadness. Perhaps this is the darkest time I have ever experienced in some ways. However, It is not about my personal life but about larger social issues. However, the school scandal story is dear and near to my heart… What is striking about this wholesale and institutional fraud which is both alleged and supported by evidence is that it shows the totality of failure in regards to the matching of the machinery of calculating the standing of our citizens with the realities of our society. This failure will play out in very broad implications beyond the serious corruptions of the system of public education in this country. The implications are that we do not currently have a correct view of our society as we face a large number of crises in our nation and in the world. We must consider the significance of this scandal in the context of those challenges.
Later on below these words I will return to the issue of race and the significance of these events being first uncovered beneath the Georgia flag. In this struggle by the State of Georgia and other authorities to deal with these issues the colors which were the confederate battle flag has waved above this instance of endless and widespread nonviolent black supremacy. The flag has often been attacked in Georgia but the falsification of all standards to promote the relative position of the Black race in our society has been fostered by all our learned and moral opinions. I have elsewhere proposed a new model constitution and I feel that the recent events have justified my sense of where the United States of America truly stand as regards its knowledge of its own status in the world.
My proposals in the constitution are moderate in nature and my convictions continue to be the same although there are some great struggles to be had in our future I would not use the horror of our situation as an excuse to fight for the kinds of racial extremism which such corruption as we have seen here can often encourage. The wholesale war on the survival of what was best in Southern culture has been ongoing as a political operation of the Federal Power of the United States for all of the last 150 years. It has simply changed in its distortions over the last few decades. However, there is still some vestige of an American sense of sportsmanship which can somewhere be offended by the total degradation of all standards which is normal in so much of our society. Let us not also doubt that Madoff was a cheater, Nixon was a cheater and people of many races, tongues and ethnicities throughout the world are today and always have been cheaters. We face the reality that if anything is to be determined by something other than cheating then real provisions must be made to assure that cheating will not occur. Where this serious effort is not made to prevent cheating then cheaters are exalted and extolled at the real expense of those who do try to do the right thing.
I have long been weary and discouraged in many ways myself and see the great weaknesses of our society stacking up and growing ever more numerous. I wonder what chance there really is for us to find our way to a better future. Cheating is not a simple matter. I do not think a purely passive or hidebound populace is to be desired. Given the assumptions, laws and rhetoric of our times the actions of Beverly Hall and others seem reasonable enough. Efforts to correct these abuses cannot really succeed without greater changes accompanying them. I have in my model constitution laid out one possible path for such change.
We have not as a society correctly calculated the consequences of rhetoric and policy extolling equality, demonizing racial distinction and white supremacy of any kind, simplifying the mechanisms of stopping fraud at many points. We do not understand the exigencies of any kind of meritocratic institutions on which we must rely. Today as we think back on the Independence Day anniversaries of 150 years since the greatest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere was drawn out at Gettysburg and the horror of the Vicksburg siege ended in the failed Confederacy we must recognize the change which Gettysburg assured has been a complicated kind of change bringing both good and evil to Georgia and the South. We must also consider that process launched in and for our nation. The occupation of the South and the repression of its state institutions by the federal government has never ended and has not abated. The morals of it have never been fairly examined. But before focusing on race let me examine some other implications of all this horrific mess.
The creation of a destructive class of vicious and entitled black abusers has been empowered and supported against the society and culture of these states and all of the union. There are many African Americans who would participate in a more positive system drawing on a diverse set of roots of progress. But these people are overwhelmed in the stream of a fantasized racial exact equality in our land. The Black Republicanism which many in the South and the Northern Opposition sought to stop in the War Between the States has reached its fruit and full flower in many places across our society. This racial element is very significant in all of this although one must applaud the black officers of the court who are involved in the prosecution and the black teachers and administrators who lost their jobs in droves opposing the total adulteration of scholastic integrity. There story is not much being told yet and may not be told. It is a story which ought to inspire us to give to the United Negro College Fund and to see in institutions like Grambling and Southern University in my own state. There is in such racially conscious institutions a different ethic than the wholesale cultural terrorism that the US Supreme Court has imposed upon the Union of the States. We are not likely to see such an outpouring of generosity to the UNCF by “Southron” whites of the old school. It is more probable we will see hopeless resentment or racially charged righteous anger. However, many things must be done to make a society or a heritage and the Georgia flag is witness to a complex situation in so very many ways. This is truly a time for a broad and well informed effort.

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7 responses to “The APS Cheating Scandal and American Culture

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