Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

Monday Medley

What we read while deleting our emails from David Petraeus…

  • In case you still felt good about ESPN’s, ahem, journalism

Teaching, Parenting, Happiness, and Dogma

What popular activity leads to a statistically significant drop in personal happiness, drastically reduces leisure time, and decreases romantic satisfaction? Parenting, of course. We engage in other activities that are, in general, displeasing, but they are often a means to a greater end: We endure traffic or crowded public transportation to live in a neighborhood that better suits our lifestyle, or we work to earn money to sustain that lifestyle. That’s not to say that driving home or working universally reduce people’s happiness—but, when it does, it’s generally for a clearly more desirable end. Not so with raising children. Child-rearing or creation is supposed to, in itself, generate the sort of transcendental happiness that makes it all worth it. New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior questions the dogma of parenting as a universal good.

Why is there such a dogma? Surely the reverence most religions accord to raising and bearing—well, sometimes just bearing—children plays some role. Maybe parents are aware of the negative effect of children on their happiness level, but merely follow the broader trend of embracing altruistic acts as the ultimate good—the epitome of which is committing most of your life to another human or two. But, perhaps something else not unique to parenting is at work.

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Handwriting Symposium Part I: The Demise of Handwriting

When the Aughts commenced, the demise of handwriting had already begun. Nonetheless, schoolchildren still handwrote most of their papers, typing was unheard of during college lectures (let alone exams), and emailing thank you notes was generally deemed rude. Now, nearly every student in all of my law school classes types their notes and emailing thank you notes is generally an acceptable practice. Think of the last time that you handwrote more than a paragraph—I actually cannot recall the last time I handwrote so much: It quite possibly was over a year ago, when the end of the Aughts seemed as if it were in the distant future.

For sloppy handwriters like John S and I,* this is a boon. Those “N”s** that mired the penmanship section of my elementary school report card have become completely irrelevant. Young children need not be patronizingly told that they ought to become doctors by adults that, frankly, have no sense of their medical knowledge. For those like Tim and presumably Pierre (whom I suspect is a masterful calligrapher) who pen beautiful characters, handwriting’s demise presents an unfortunate situation.
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Monday Medley

What we read while looking for work as an offensive coordinator:

  • And this might be why. Come on, emotional infidelity? Way to make marriage sound even worse.

An Experiment Worth Watching

The New York Times reports on the start of The Equity Project (TEP), a charter school in New York City that pays teachers $125,000 per year, with a potential for a $25,000 bonus. There is no tenure and only a limited retirement benefits program. There are no assistant principals, and the principal earns just $90,000. This experiment fascinates me for three reasons:

  1. There is no tenure! Even when I was in secondary school, the concept of tenure perplexed me, as I had my handful of subpar teachers each year. There may be an argument for tenure in universities, but the way tenure works in primary and secondary education is a monstrosity. There are generally a few observations (for which teachers prepare beforehand), some administrative recommendations, and a presentation before teachers get hired for life after a couple of years as an untenured teacher. At the point of tenure, the incentive to be a creative and effective teacher decreases drastically since little short of harassment of students will result in the teacher’s dismissal. Besides providing an incentive for teachers to consistently work harder, TEP’s No Tenure policy is attracting more creative (and probably better) teachers. This makes sense since not having tenure is riskier, and you need to be a better teacher to survive review on a year-to-year basis.
  2. Administration is devalued. The most important people in a school are the teachers. They are the ones working with children day in and day out and should be the most talented and intelligent members of the school. Most public schools currently have an incentive structure that encourages teachers to go into administrative jobs, of which there are far too many. What the heck does an assistant principal do anyway? My best math teacher in high school left the school to work as a Math Director in another district. This seems counterintuitive: Shouldn’t the best teachers remain as teachers? TEP encourages this.
  3. Teachers are paid for teaching. Teachers should be compensated most while they are working, not while they are retired. $125,000 sounds like a lot of money, but the amount most public schools pay teachers for not working is a lot as well. Cutting those retirement benefits not only saves costs but also contributes to an incentive structure that attracts talented teachers.

Thus far, several of my posts have pointed out bad equilibria but have been cautious in offering potential solutions. TEP excites me because it is a response—a very wise one, I think—to create that rare good equilibrium.