One of the reasons I love teaching is that the job isn’t about making a fat, old, white guy a bit richer than he already is. Every other job I’ve had has been inherently limited by this focus; the only reason you’re there is to make a one percenter a little bit richer. That raison d’etre infects everything about working in a money focused business. That I hear people refer to this as ‘real work’ always makes me laugh; it’s real work in the same way that prostitution is real honest work – you lay yourself down for the money. The argument that working for money adds real vigor and toughness to a workplace is nonsense. What it actually does is create fearful, simpering employees who believe that sucking up to their boss is more important than the work they do.
Ideas like excellence, originality, creativity and even work ethic are pretty much irrelevant. If they can make more money by tossing out the hardest working, most creative, excellent employee, they will (and do – especially in the short term gains world we live in now). The only time businesses produce excellence is when small groups within the organization are protected from the pimps who are running it. That doesn’t happen often. What usually happens is that businesses take the excellence and research they need from publicly funded universities.
That infectious economic thinking has blighted Ontario education thanks to Laurel Broten’s story telling around fiscal responsibility. Listening to the tragic prostitutes in the private sector telling us to accept their shabby circumstances because of economic necessity is purely the result of Ontario Liberal Party spin, and it has demonized my profession as a result.
Teaching in Ontario has achieved real excellence in the past decade. We are truly world class, one of the very best. What made this happen? Bonuses? Financial incentives? No teacher ever got into teaching to make money. No teacher has ever gotten a cash payout for doing their job at a world class level (we’ll leave that for all those excellent bankers out there). If financial reward isn’t the point of performing at such an outstanding level, what is?
Public education is one of the most powerful social movements we’ve ever created. As Ray Kurzweil states his five reasons to be optimistic about the future, we are more educated than we’ve ever been before. We pay ten times what we used to into education as a society, but our post secondary graduation has increased by 280 times. We are making better use of the talent of our people; that is the crowning achievement of public education: social efficiency on a previously unheard of scale. The irony is that this very socialist mechanism, designed to realize the potential of all members of our society, also drives economic growth.
I’m back at school again tomorrow, dropped in to the political maelstrom of a forced contract, listening to blathering idiots whining about how much teachers get paid and how little they do. I’m tempted to get stingy about my work, but I don’t think I can. I didn’t get into this profession for the politics or the economics, I got into it because it’s one of the finest possible reasons anyone could have for going to work; to help human beings recognize their potential.
What I do is the opposite of the pyramid scheme most people find themselves working at each day; it’s a good in itself, economically, socially, personally. I can’t help but want to over achieve, no matter what the lowered expectations around me might suggest.