I previously wrote an article detailing the potentially disastrous consequences for Special Education students using a merit pay system. I wanted to post a short followup to that article, since it is again being discussed in the media.
I want to address something that is rarely discussed and is probably a social taboo: the welfare system and single parenthood, which both create problems for a viable educational system. Politicians talk as if throwing more money at education will fix the educational system, but that philosophy fails to address the underlying societal ills that are causing the disintegration of system in the first place. My wife has told me of many students whose greatest ambition is to get to reach 16, have babies and go on welfare “like my mother.” They say, “I don’t need to study, because I won’t need to.” I don’t know how many of you think that this is a very disturbing situation, but I certainly do. And it reveals an underlying breakdown of the society as a whole. The encouragement to single parenthood, through the welfare system without a work-fare requirement, is creating an entire class of dependents in society. It encourages a complete abandonment of personal responsibility, and it destroys the incentive for education and achievement. Why work when everything you need is provided for you?
The main reason merit pay for teachers is a bad idea is that it provides absolutely zero consideration for parental irresponsibility. Thirty years ago, parents were expected to help children with homework, add discipline to correct misbehavior, and they generally supported teachers and the school system with just punishments and consequences for misbehaviors like lying, cheating, stealing, talking back and disrespecting authority. Today, as I stated before, parents have said to my wife, a teacher, that they shouldn’t have to do homework with their children because “that’s your job,” meaning “the teacher’s.” With no reinforcement at home, no practice, no discipline, how can you even hope to measure a teacher’s performance?
This situation brings me to the broader consideration of the divorce culture, where up to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Many studies show that divorce and pervasive single parenthood increase poverty and other attendant social ills. Fatherless children produce a society of children raising children. Having never had parental guidance, they do not know how to guide their own children. Teen pregnancy, with its lack of proper guidance and direction, becomes endemic… or should I say, pandemic. Yet no one considers that the moral and social breakdown of the society as a whole will put stresses upon the educational system of the United States, leading to lower and lower performance no matter how much money is thrown at the system. Using merit pay as a means of pacifying the faltering conscience of the American public is merely putting a band-aid on a 6″ knife wound to the gut of American culture. What we are witnessing is a social disintegration brought about by a rejection of traditional family and moral values, encouraged by a welfare system that has no accountability, and the abandonment of personal responsibility made possible by political pandering; all leading to the desire to blame or burden, in this case, teachers for our social ills and make them responsible for our betterment. The problem is that they cannot do it alone, even if they are the best teachers on earth. Teachers cannot fix what is wrong with us as a people. They do not have the resources or the power to make adults behave like responsible adults.
As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Related Article: Principals revolt against merit pay based upon abstract standards