A New Abolitionist Accountability—Freedom
In a different imagination—what does it look like in a new approach to be accountable to a set of rhythms, or ideals, versus being accountable to an individual, or a particular title? To the extent that teaching and learning communities hold on to and continue to organize accountability around a set of positional powers, similar accountability might be pursued if those in positional powers were held accountable to the rhythms of an abolitionist approach to education. Moreover, by centering the rhythms over individuals, humans become accountable to other humans, with less focus on performing responsibilities and more focus on actualizing freedom. In this sense, freedom is often the absent presence at the accountability table. Its exclusion is utterly problematic from an abolitionist perspective, particularly since the challenge of individuals being at table inherently brings biases and prejudices. The operative principle in the abolishment of accountability as we conventionally structure it is that humans, irrespective of their titles and access to power, would be accountable for fulfillment of their contributions to freedom within the community, and freedom in due regard to the rhythms guiding our abolitionist approach to communal consciousness. Much the same, community leaders, elected officials, individual donors, school board members, and institutional funders should be accountable for fulfilling their contributions to freedom, which is a contribution that transcends their financial contributions. Instead, the highest contributions of community leaders, effected officials, donors, and board members is the intrapersonal task of holding themselves accountable to the abolitionist rhythms of communal consciousness, and wrestling with the question—how does my participation with, and contributions to, this teaching and learning community advance those rhythms? Of course, pedagogical and cultural accountability (for school-based folx), plus financial and operational accountability (for governance folx), are dimensions of accountability, but they are neither exhaustive nor responsive to the inherent dignity of the humans at the table; thus they are less critical to the human task of accountability.
A natural consequence of a more human, freedom-focused accountability approach is a move from individualism and isolationism in accountability to inclusion and communalism. This freedom comes in the form of freeing previously oppressed, excluded, disengaged voices to take part in the accountability process, concerns that traditionally have avoided the positional power politics. Imagine students and families participating in the accountability of Board members by engaging the knowledge and complicity of the board members in pursuing freedom. Envision community stakeholders participating in the accountability of principals by probing the school leader's embodiment, communication, and development of abolitionist rhythms. Consider the possibility of students participating in the accountability of a charter network Superintendent or CEO by engaging that leader in questions about how they are pursuing a freedom framework, analyzing their communication, and challenging their presence and participation in classrooms. Visualize the communal impact of teachers participating in the accountability of colleagues through freedom observations whereby teachers use the abolitionist rhythms to mutually determine the impact of teaching in the lives of students. In effect, a human, freedom-focused accountability approach allows teaching and learning communities to be more influenced by the diverse ideas, perspectives, contributions, and sacrifices of a wider community of thinkers that, because of historically systemic oppression and structural binaries, fall outside of the purview of an individual or small-group process. One of the effects of allowing for more, broader voices in accountability is an increased awareness that the limited folx we engage in accountability of other folx within our communities often lack a broad, human experience of knowledge to effectively account for all the rhythms of an abolitionist approach. As such, abolitionist teaching and learning communities must increasingly listen to multiple voices to help actualize accountability for teachers, staff, and leaders.