There Must Be Accountability

When I was a child, my mother would tell me every so often “You get what you deserve.”

It was her way of keeping me in line, a kind of “what comes around, goes around lesson” that helped me learn about discipline and preparation. For example, when it came to school, I knew that if I didn’t study for a test, I’d get a poor grade. In that case, I’d get what I deserved.

I think the main thing that taught me was accountability. I am responsible for my actions and the consequences of them. If I did poorly on a test, it was my fault. Not the test’s fault. Not the teacher’s fault. Not my parents’ fault.

I think holding yourself accountable is a key to success in life. Apparently, however, accountability is not always held as high in regard by others.

I recently read about a school district in Edmonton, Alberta, that has a “no-zero” policy in its classrooms. In fact, the article was about two teachers receiving disciplinary action from the district for giving students zeros when doing their grading. Students missed quizzes or assignments completely, but it was against the rules to give them a score of zero for that.

I just don’t see the lesson here.

I know we live in an age that seems more complicated for school kids than we might have had it. I understand about encouragement and building self-esteem and all that, but if you don’t do an assignment, you don’t get a zero? Ok, that might be gentle on one’s self-esteem, but does it teach any lesson? If it does, it’s a poor lesson?

When you fail to show up for work, you don’t get paid that day. If you have a bill due and you don’t pay it, you are penalized. If you have an appointment and you don’t show up, you don’t get complete amnesty. There are plenty of real-life examples in which if you don’t do what’s expected of you, you get a big, fat zero. You do nothing, you receive nothing. That’s how life works.

You get what you deserve.

I think it’s a disservice to remove accountability from kids’ lives, and I’m certainly not just talking about this Edmonton school district. I’m sure plenty of adults, on purpose or not, remove accountability from children’s lives quite frequently. I don’t mean to sound like a “kids these days!” old fogey, but there seem to be fewer and fewer consequences that result from poor behavior.

And I’m not simply talking about the age of political correctness we live in, a time when we don’t keep scores in youth sports because no one deserves to lose. I don’t think that teaches the right lesson, either, exactly, but there’s a difference between consequences on a playing field and, say, at school. And we’ve all seen outbursts by children in public places that go unpunished by parents.

In a lot of ways, it seems as though we’ve “political-corrected” ourselves out of accountability.

What happens when those kids grow up into young adults? Are they going to be able to flourish in the real world, where plenty of people are plenty willing to give you a zero? If they don’t ever suffer consequences for their failures as youngsters, what will happen when they’re adults?

Will they blow off college classes? Default on their student loans? Miss job interviews? Eat a pizza a day and not expect to get fat? If they’ve grown up with never being held accountable for anything, then those things seem possible.

It might seem as though I’m up on a soapbox here, but I do believe accountability is one of the best lessons that can be taught to developing minds. Think of your own life and the successful people in it. Are the successful ones those who constantly blame others when things don’t get done or don’t go their way? Or are the successful ones the people who take responsibility for their actions and the consequences? It’s been my experience that the people who hold themselves accountable are the most successful, and in the realm of leading others, those who hold people accountable are the best leaders.

Accountability to oneself is accepting responsibility for your actions. It’s taking matters into your own hands, rather than relying on others. It’s knowing that, basically – as Mom would say – you get what you deserve.

Sometimes, I fear that, as a society, we’re getting away from accountability as being necessary or even desirable. We’re buck-passers, apologists and hand-holders. As a society, we’re probably have to going to change this. Because if we don’t, the future generations we put in charge of this planet won’t be doing us any good.

If we’re not careful, we’ll get what we deserve.