Not Wanting It

Expanding on something Megan talks abouthere, with relation to merit pay for students and teachers:

And here’s the biggest flaw with incentive systems: they assume that people know how to get better at their job.

I’ve quoted this study before when talking about anti-poverty incentive programs, but it’s worth citing again. School programs that paid students for doing wellonly work on things the kids can control.
Paying kids for their grades assumes that the kids know how to do
better, and that’s simply not the case.
When you incentivize something
they can control – like their behavior or attendance – then you see a
marked improvement.

This program assumes that teachers know how to do better and are
just lazy slobs who don’t care. The article doesn’t mention coaching or
training or education. It just leaves teachers to decide how to do

Emphasis mine. Of course kids know how to do better! They’re just not doing better because the liberal nanny state coddles them! Their parents don’t have old-fashioned values! Right. Bootstraps! Just get better! Just get smarter! Just study harder! Just don’t be so dumb! Hurf durf durf, why is this so hard for you peons to understand? This ties into one of the more pernicious ideas about poverty and disadvantage in this country, which is that people who are poor or disadvantaged simply want to be that way.

And it’s really awesome, in a way, if you’re a total asshole, because if it’s all about someone else’s mere desire, about someone’s ambition, about some ephemeral thing in someone’s immortal soul, why, then you don’t have to do anything! You don’t have to think about the systems that create and sustain poverty, you don’t have to look at what you could be doing differently to alleviate it, you don’t have to give a damn all that much at all about your own privilege and/or luck. You can just credit your superior character and move on. It’s nice. Gives you so much more free time for important things.

The poor are, after all, always with us, Jesus said, and he probably meant that as an excuse just for you.



4 thoughts on “Not Wanting It

  1. Communist.
    If we think about systems and luck of birth circumstances, how are our glibertarians going to feel smugly superior?
    I mean, you just know that Megan McArdle has earned every little thing she’s ever gotten, with no help from anyone else. Ever.

  2. in grade school one of my teavhes gave hershey bars for certain # of assignment work done. i usually did everything by tues so i could slack off and end up with 2 or 3 hershey bars. i didn’t even like them much.

  3. Don’t get me started on the troubles of measuring NCLB.
    The teachers doing the best job, if done with children who are behind academically, will be penalized as the children end the year not as stellar as those children who started out the year ahead of the game and didn’t learn as much.
    The study design is flawed from the get-go.

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