"The writer has great sympathy with those who are overworked, but on the whole a greater sympathy for those who are under paid. For every individual, however, who is overworked, there are a hundred who intentionally underwork---greatly underwork---every day of their lives, and who for this reason deliberately aid in establishing those conditions which in the end, inevitably result in low wages." Frederick Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management
Could it be that at the heart of the reluctance by North Carolina political leaders to provide raises to teachers is the Taylorist belief that “most teachers are lazy, therefore, none of them deserve a raise?" In his Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Taylor made it clear that he believed that workers are inherently lazy and will seek to do least amount of work they can. There can be no doubt that Taylor’s Principles have been and consistently are applied to education, but this stubborn reluctance on the part of our state political leaders seems to defy logic at times, unless your logic happens to be based on Taylorist principles. That logic goes: “Because most teachers are lazy, we only want to reward the few who aren’t."
Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, though written a little over a hundred years ago are still bedrock thinking in business and I would contend much of our schools and their operations. Since our legislative leaders see the application of the business and corporate model to everything as the ultimate answer, it only stands to reason is that the last thing they want to do is give those “lazy teachers a raise.” Instead of finding ways to improve North Carolina teacher pay , they continually look for ways to reward “good” teachers.
The problem becomes though how do you define “good” teachers? If you follow Taylorist principles to the maximum, you must rely on science to identify those “good teachers.” In our American Taylorist education system, the only measure of a “good teacher” often perceived to be “scientific” is a test score. A merit pay system where pay is based on test scores is usually the option explored, because, after all, the job of teachers is to produce student achievement, and test scores are an accetable proxy for student achievement. But most psychometricians and educators who know education, know this to be incorrect. Tests just are incapable of capturing all worthwhile learning, and they are impossible instruments to measure achievement in the arts and performance-based disciplines. If you make the product for which teachers are rewarded test scores, then anything that can’t be tested or is not tested automatically becomes irrelevant.
So then how do you reward “good teachers?” Some of our politicians talk about rewarding teachers who work in science and math, and other hard to fill areas with more pay. Additionally, they want to pay more to teachers who take on additional responsibilities. Certainly, it is understandable to try to find ways to fill those math and science positions, as it is also understandable to try to find ways to reward teachers who take on additional responsibilities. But by focusing only those in hard-to-fill areas, aren't they saying that only teachers in math and science are “good teachers?” “Good teachers” are not just those who teach in areas deemed “highly-valued” by the current regime. To reward only those teachers immediately subjugates English teachers, foreign language teachers, kindergarten teachers, and guidance counselors. They are not seen as valuable. Our cultural richness exists because the arts are valued, literature is valued, film is valued. Like a good Taylorist though, our political leaders and even education leaders want to subjugate every aspect of education in the pursuit of economic dominance anyway.
As far as rewarding teachers for taking on additional responsibilities, what about the hard and difficult job that these teachers already do? The idea of rewarding additional responsibilities is so wrought with the stench of Taylorist thinking, that it should be discarded immediately. It communicates to all teachers that they do not deserve a raise. It tells them they are not working hard enough. It tells them that they currently do not earn the salaries they currently receive.
In the end, our state political leaders don’t really think our educators in this state work hard. There are certainly lazy educators, just like there are lazy legislators, governors, and business men, even CEOs. Lazy leadership is relying on belief without going out and gathering the facts before making decisions, and that’s what these merit pay ideas demonstrate. Our political leaders need to perhaps spend some time in the shoes of a kindergarten teacher or of a urban school principal. They perhaps they can make the correct decisions about educator pay.