FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

And Then God Said…

by DAVID MACARAY

No matter how disillusioned we are with Barack Obama—no matter how disgruntled or disappointed we are with the job he’s done as president—none of us would be silly enough to suggest that if only we had paid the man, say, $1,000,000 a year instead of that measly $400,000, he would have done a better job, because, as everyone knows, the more you pay a person, the harder they work.

As absurd as that suggestion would be, a version of it is being used by anti-union propagandists and free-market fanatics to attack our public school teachers. They’re not only pretending that a bonus system rewarding teachers for raising standardized test scores is the way to fix what ails our education system, but conversely, they’re arguing that if the carrot doesn’t work, you revert to the stick. You fire teachers whose students don’t improve their test scores.

But a recent study by Vanderbilt University more or less put the kibosh to those simplistic theories. In the Vanderbilt study teachers were offered bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 if they succeeded in raising significantly the test scores of their students. The results? None of these highly motivated teachers qualified for the bonus. Why? Because, by and large, they were already teaching to the best of their ability.

Consider this analogy. A baseball manager says to a player coming up to bat, “Fred, if you get a hit, I’ll give you $10,000.” Fred responds, “Wow, an extra ten grand for getting a hit? In that case I’ll try really hard.” Or conversely, the manager shouts to the player, “If you don’t get a hit, Fred, I’m going to send you down to the minors.” A stunned Fred responds, “Sent down to the minors!? No way, Skip. I’m going to try really hard.”

Or this analogy: After experiencing a 10-percent rise in crime two years in a row, a city council decides to fire all the police. Or a hospital fires all the staff nutritionists because of an alarming increase in patient obesity. While these analogies (like all analogies) are flawed, they nonetheless serve to drive home the central point that hasty, tough-minded, and seemingly resolute solutions aren’t the way to solve problems.

At the risk of another analogy, think of a football coach who isn’t allowed to choose his own team. Random players are assigned to him. Not only has he no say as to who plays on his team, he isn’t even given the chance to mold them into a cohesive unit because he’s assigned brand new players every year. He’s given only one season to show what he can do. Yet his bosses warn him that if he doesn’t start winning, he’ll be fired.

If all this sounds like teachers are trying to weasel out of responsibility by making excuses, that’s not the case. Teachers aren’t suggesting they not be held accountable. What they’re saying is that we acknowledge the realities of the classroom, that we not gloss over the real problems, formidable as they may be, and pretend that the flaws in our education system are the fault of the teachers (or, as free-market fundamentalists would have us believe, the teachers’ union).

A teacher in the LAUSD told me the following. It was a bit startling to hear, but it made perverse sense. He said that if we ever reached the point where the emphasis of public education were placed entirely on standardized test performance—and if hard-working teachers could be summarily fired for not producing high enough scores—what we would soon encounter is widespread cheating.

And here’s the beauty of that widespread cheating. Nobody would object to it.

Students would be amenable to “tutoring,” parents would be pleased to see improved scores, politicians would gladly take credit for the results, school administrators would rejoice in any solution that got the Board of Education off their backs, and the companies that provide the tests would continue to rake in the cash. This being America, the Land of the Short-Term Solution, it would be your classic win-win outcome.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail