More thoughts on Meritocracies

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Yesterday’s post on The Merits of a Meritorious Meritocratic Society was inspired by a piece written by MacLean’s Robyn Urback, titled “Merit pay is a good idea–in theory”. Starting off with “When all teachers are paid the same, hard work isn’t worth it”, the following section in particular that got me thinking: “British Columbia Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon proposed the idea of merit pay for educators, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation—predictably—was not in favour. But there is support for the proposition, and it’s easy to see why. The remarkable security enjoyed by teachers across the board and rewards based on amount of time served (not quality of time served) in no way motivates improved performance. Of course, there are teachers who take it upon themselves to seek new challenges and improve their methods of teaching, but those who don’t are rewarded just the same. The logic is backwards for a society that is supposedly meritocratic. When those who strive for excellence and those who just coast along are rewarded just the same, it sends the message that hard work really isn’t worth the effort. That is, unless we find some new form of trade involving intrinsic worth.”

This is a fascinating discussion to have. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem fair that a teacher putting in 5 times more effort than another teacher get paid the same amount (or less) than a teacher “coasting along”. But on the other hand, is money as an incentive to perform better really the best sort of incentive you’d want the person educating your child to have? Won’t it encourage some teachers to, in a way, fake it, i.e. to pretend to be putting in the effort in creating new tools, when in fact said tools are doing absolutely nothing for the students it is meant to serve?

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