Accountability and authority
The issue of accountability presents all the difficulties discussed in the last chapter. Since the major explicit consideration of the concept has taken place in the United States it again raises the problems of comparison. The concept has roots in educational practice and policy on the one hand, and in economic and political pressures on the other. It is therefore amenable to discussion in terms of pure educational theory or of politico-social ideals. It lends itself to possibilities of pragmatic description and of ideological gestures. It can be approached with and without theory, with and without history. If we limit the discussion to teacher accountability, we are faced with the question above all of whether the teacher and the school are adequately responsive to social demands – conflicting though they are, and can become more so. This gives rise, obviously, to a galaxy of related questions, for example as to the nature and direction of the pressures, the extent of teacher autonomy and accountability, the forms in which accountability may be discussed, and the utility of the whole discussion. Since there are features of the social and economic condition in Britain and the United States which have provoked increased interest in the effectiveness of schools, the concept has crept closer to the centre of socio-educational concerns. It is a short step from a concern about standards and the pivots of public control to that about accountability. It is a further dimension of our previous discussions to see to what extent an historical analysis helps to locate and portray a contemporary issue.