Merit pay implicitly blames, punishes teachers

To the Editor:

A hoary concept has bestirred itself from the underworld to shake its shaggy locks at our teachers, and to borrow from the Colbert Report, it's the subject of tonight's word: Merit Pay.

At first blush, this notion is distinguished by the sheer elegance of its simplicity.

If a student is not learning, it can only be the fault of the beleaguered classroom teacher. We discount at the outset any consideration of the student's motivation, attendance, respect for learning, parental involvement, or that ungrammatical texting frantically but dexterously thumbed underneath the desk.

Now that we have this notion on a leash, let's walk it down the street to ferret out other instances of ineptitude. Our first stop is the doctor's office, where our course is clear. The fact that our population is on an ever-rising treadmill toward obesity must be the fault of our mediocre medicos. We certainly can't be responsible for the fact that a burgeoning number of our citizens have to be scaled at 18-wheeler weigh stations. It's not our fault the local fast-food emporium doesn't feature a deep-fried salad.

Right next door is the dentist's office, another chamber of toothy incompetence. These molar-pluckers have done nothing to stem the tide of cavities and stained canines among our soft-drink sippers and tobacco dippers. Off with their crowns.

Around the corner is the auto repair shop, a likely den of iniquity. Haven't had your car serviced in a year or three? Not to fret; when that check-engine light flashes malevolently from the dash, remind them who's responsible for keeping your car roadworthy. It can't be you; you don't know the difference between a differential and a diffuser.

Now that you have the process, cast a baleful eye around your bailiwick. There must be scores of professional service people on tap to hold culpable. Someone stole from your garage when you left the door up all night? What are the police for? Your checking account overdrawn again? What do those bank tellers go to school for?

Finally, look sternly at your newspaper editors and column writers. Whenever they set out a smorgasbord of stale ideas to punish those trying to do an effective job despite long hours and little appreciation, call up to cancel your subscription.

It's the closest those people are ever going to come to the topic of merit pay.

And that's the word. It'll be right back.

Kevin Skehan