Monday, October 3, 2011

What if the NFL Played by Teachers' Rules?

Fran Tarkenton (Former NY Giants and Minnesota Vikings quaterback)writes in today's WSJ:
Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player's salary is based on how long he's been in the league. It's about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he's an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player's been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

Let's face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn't get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.

Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: "They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans." The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn't help.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system. Teachers' salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn't rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they've been teaching. That's it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you're demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation's children.

Tarkenton gets the above right, but then blames the problem on teacher unions, when the problem is really government involvement in the education system. He writes:
Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn't working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards.
A union systen such as we have with governmnet involved in education wouldn't be able to survive in the private sector, any more so than such a government involved NFL would.

The answer is to get government out of the education business so it can grow and thrive, just like the NFL. In other words, Are you ready for some education?


  1. "Teaching our children cannot be left to free market forces!"

    This reminds me of a 2009 Capitalism Magazine article by Richard Ralston, Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. This must-read gem applies the logic of "we can't allow the free market to run the health care industry" to grocery stores:

    "It's Time to Nationalize Grocery Stores ;)"

  2. So what you're arguing for is, in effect, the privatization of education. I fail to see how this addresses the issue of the QUALITY of that education. A corporation's mantra is to maximize profits while minimizing cost. What do they care if the kids are being taught the right things, as long as they're creating shareholder value?

    Maybe I'm just a pinko socialist commie, but when I hear people advocating for corporate control of education, I can't help but picture dollar signs popping up over their heads. Sure, big government can suck, but so can big business. Given the choice, I'd take government. At least they (ostensibly) care about more than just the bottom line.

    By the way, I'm fully prepared for the onslaught of comment flaming my remark is bound to create. Let's hear what you free-marketeers have to say. And please spare me the ad hominem.

  3. A corporation has to please its customers or they will leave and patronize another corporation. Apply that to education and you get students leaving under-performing schools and attending better performing ones.

    How is that a bad thing?

  4. Anon@3:51PM,

    The real issue here is the freedom for a parent/guardian to choose. Quite frankly, it's nobody's business where I choose to send my child(ren) to be educated, what they are educated in, for what length of time, at what price, etc., etc., etc.

    The matter of education is just like any other a free moral agent is authorized to make, especially for those entrusted to them.

    I have absolutely no problem allowing a parent/guardian to make the decision to send their child(ren) to a "corporate" school (nor any other type) so long as this decision contains the caveat that they willingly assume and bear the risks of their decision without imposing on me involuntarily and I shall do likewise.

    It's not really all that difficult until one attempts to introduce a collective mentality and/or smug morality into the equation.

  5. The current system was designed to make learning anything, not just the 'right' things a boring chore. And with the privatisation of schools you mightn't see millions of tax dollars locked up in land and building with a federal flag out front the way it is now.

  6. "The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases." Similar thinking applies to doctors accepting medicare. No matter if you graduated number 1 from Harvard or last from Guadalajara, reimbursement rates are the same.

  7. Anon@351pm, if you read the comments section here, you will find very few "ad hominem" attacks by the regular commenters- most of the spurious invective is written by "commie pinko socialists".

    Yes, corporatism is evil, but it is NOT a product of the free-market. Corporatism, like mercantilism (its statist ancestor), is the result of a regulatory system that rewards politically powerful companies to the detriment of competitors.

    In a truly free-market system of education parents would have numerous options for education, ranging from computer assisted homeschooling to international boarding schools. The "fat middle" would be a diverse mix of small local mixed-age neighborhood schools and rigorous IQ and sex-segregated (and yes, some may even be racially segregated, although I doubt many parents, no matter their personal beliefs, would be foolish enough to actually send their child to a school that would brand them for life as a racial separatist or black supremacist) regional schools that focused on some area where the child showed talent and personal interest.

    The central point is that the vast and unknowable diversity of school options that would arise in such a system is fatally stifled by the current regime- every taxpayer in the country spends thousands of dollars each year supporting an educational(sic) system that is failing at every level, whether they have children or not, and competition is heavily discouraged by the tax and regulatory system.

    As for children of low income families, and their access to education (an argument often made against deconstruction and decentralization of the education behemoth) you must realize that most of these schools would be far cheaper than state-run schools, because "the evil profit motive" would result in a competitive environment where the best product at the lowest price would be the norm. Just as almost all universities have low-income scholarships paid for by donors that seek to give less fortunate students a chance, without the billions of wasted tax dollars currently funneled into the system today there would be great incentive for people to endow scholarships that allowed poor, innocent children access to the best education they can have.

    Now, if you would like to point out flaws in this analysis, please do.

    I think that a lot of "commie pinko socialists" have conflated the corporatist norm that characterizes big business today with the true free-market, and if they would study the economics and moral core of liberty, they would embrace the free-market as the cure for the numerous ills that affect our society.

    I look forward to your response.

  8. "I fail to see how this addresses the issue of the QUALITY of that education. A corporation's mantra is to maximize profits while minimizing cost. What do they care if the kids are being taught the right things, as long as they're creating shareholder value?"

    Who says you have to send your kid to a corporation? Who said corporate schools will dominate? How do you know homeschooling and groups of parents hiring tutors wont be your or many parents choice?

    Please stop it with your banal anti-corporate BS. The last time I checked, Verizon has brought much more value and advancement to civilization to this world than you have. Whole Foods, driven by profit, oh man what a terrible service they provide.