Integrity: Our Most Important Product

Here’s an item I like: Three teachers in Oakland have been forced to resign over “clarifying” a question for a student taking California’s high school exit exam. For now, let’s not get into the subject of the testing mania that has taken root in public education as a method of leaving no child behind and holding teachers and schools accountable for making sure kids are learning what they need to learn. Instead, just consider the nature of the incident: A school administrator witnessed the “clarification” and ratted the three teachers out. No details are forthcoming yet about what the student asked that prompted the “clarification” or what help the teachers offered in response; all that’s known is that the teachers will lose their jobs and the test results for the students involved may be invalidated.

Crikey. We’ve got an attorney general who won’t accept responsibility for anything happening on his watch and who would probably tell you he can’t remember if you ask whether he’s wearing underwear or not. He’s just the latest line in a long series of lying, bumbling Bush higher-ups who have disgraced their offices, screwed up the jobs they were given, and won the undying gratitude of their boss. On occasion, they have blundered so badly that the president has had to send them out the door with a handshake and a Medal of Freedom. Not to worry — they all come back with books telling us what great jobs they did, what a refined sense of duty they share, how clear their consciences are, and how everyone else let them and us down.

Somehow that’s all tolerable, judging by the fact the rascals are conducting business pretty much as usual and the torch-carrying mobs you’d expect on the streets have yet to appear.

But teachers who might have helped out a kid on a state test? They’ve got to go. We can’t let anything interfere with the integrity of a system set up to provide a fig leaf for the criminal lack of concern for what happens to kids in the worst schools or for why those schools are so bad in the first place.


Kate, the other person who lives in this house, teaches second grade in Oakland. She likes her school and principal and teaching colleagues and loves the kids. And working for the Oakland Unified School District, which is often mistaken for an ongoing experiment in dysfunction and waste, does provide its lighter moments — usually when someone in the bureaucracy is left alone with a word processor. This evening’s exhibit comes at the end of a letter informing Kate her renewed teaching credential is ready to be picked up. For teachers’ convenience, the district will mail the credential; all a teacher needs to do is supply a mailing address and read and sign the following waiver, reproduced here verbatim:

“I understand that so long as the District address my credential to the location listed above, I will not hold it responsible for lost or mis-delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.”