Sunday, May 27, 2012

Harder Faster Longer (For Less Pay)

Today's Must Read is from the New York Times. It invites us to be less productive. This sounds like a slacker motto––unhelpful, uncooperative, lacking in the team spirit which is so fashionable these days in workplaces––but consider this: the way we measure productivity requires workers to work longer and harder and better for less pay each year. That's how managers meet their benchmarks. That's why 40 years of productivity gains have been paid upward, not to the workers achieving them. How is that fair?

The same harder/faster/longer ethos has crept into our schools. Each year schools and teachers and students are expected to achieve higher marks, the way a business is expected to. But it's fundamentally stupid and impractical. Teachers start over every year with new kids, at roughly the same level as the kids who came before. Yet the gains of the past year are used to compound the expectations.

I am not adept at figuring compound interest, but I figure that with a yearly rise in student achievement of say 2%, compounded annually, measured over the past 40 years since I was in school, that kids today have to be ten times or a hundred times smarter, quicker and more knowledgeable than they were in 1972. Are their brains larger? I've not noticed it. But the work load is much larger. The kids burn out quicker too. The teachers are teaching 45 in a class on the same pay and lower school funding measured against inflation.

This is what happens when you invite businessmen to run your society. They turn up the speed on the machine and pocket the profits or bank them in the Caribbean. That is the model being sold this year by the Republican Party. It's the package they been selling us for four decades. It burned our economy out in 2007 and 2008, but they're still driving the car.

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