We all know, or should know, about Campbell’s Law. That is a social science axiom that says:
“The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”
The short translation: the more you measure people and tie high-stakes to the measurement, the more likely they are to make the measurement the point of their activity, which distorts the activity. Campbell’s Law explains why teachers teach to the test or even cheat, because so much is riding on achieving high test scores. So teachers forget about everything other than test scores, such as citizenship, character, ethics, and so on.
Arthur Goldstein, who teaches high school ESL in New York City, here explains how Campbell’s Law has been replaced by Campbell Brown’s Law. Campbell Brown is the media figure who is leading a lawsuit to eliminate tenure in New York State.
Here is Campbell Brown’s Law:
“Campbell Brown’s Law says whatever goes wrong in school is the fault of the tenured teachers. If you fail, it’s because the teacher had tenure and therefore failed you. Absolutely everyone is a great parent, so that has nothing to do with how children behave. Campbell Brown’s Law says parents have no influence whatsoever on their children. If parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, that will have no effect. If they provide no supervision because they aren’t around, that won’t affect kids either.
“Campbell Brown’s Law says kids themselves are not responsible either. If they don’t study, that isn’t their fault. The teacher should have made them study. If they fail tests because they didn’t study, it’s a crime and the teacher should be fired. Under Campbell Brown’s Law the only obstacle to studying is if the teacher has tenure. This is unacceptable and it is therefore the reason that the parents work 200 hours a week. It’s also the reason the kids didn’t study. The kids figured they didn’t have to study because their teachers had tenure.
“Campbell Brown’s Law is demonstrated in charter schools, where teachers don’t have tenure. All kids excel in charter schools, except for those who don’t. That explains why, in some charter schools, that all the students who graduate are accepted to four-year colleges. It’s neither here nor there if two-thirds of the students who began ended up getting insufficient standardized test scores and getting dumped back into public schools. That’s not the fault of the charter teachers, because they don’t have tenure and are therefore blameless. Campbell Brown’s Law says so.”
It is an excellent post, and how brilliant to connect Campbell’s Law to Campbell Brown ‘s Law.
“In short, if you’re a tenured teacher, you are an impediment to Excellence. The only way you can help children is by getting rid of your tenure, standing up straight and walking to Arne Duncan in Washington DC and saying, “Please sir, I want to be fired for any reason. Or for no reason. I want to take personal responsibility for all the ills of society. Neither you, society, poverty, parents, nor children themselves are responsible. I’m ready to be dismissed at the whim of Bill Gates or the Walmart family and I agree with you that Katrina was the bestest thing to happen to the New Orleans education system.”
“Me, I’m still a tenured teacher. And as terrible as that may be, I’m still relieved to never have had students so hopelessly stupid as Arne Duncan or Campbell Brown.”
As for me, I took a lot of hostile comments on Twitter for saying to a Washington Post reporter recently that Campbell Brown was pretty but didn’t know much about teaching. Outraged people, many of whom seemed to work for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst or similar organizations, called me sexist for saying she was pretty but didn’t object when I said she was clueless about education. Anyone who wants to call me pretty (at the ripe old age of 76), you have my permission. Have at it. I wonder what the enraged Brownians will think about Campbell Brown’s Law.