Fran Tarkenton (Former NY Giants and Minnesota Vikings quaRterback) makes an observation in today's Wall Street Journal that I’ve translated into New Zealandese for you:
Imagine NZ Rugby in an alternate reality. Each player's salary is based on how long he's been playing in the Super 15 or the All Blacks. It's about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he's a three-time winner of the IRB’s Rugby Player of the Year or the man who regularly never makes it off the bench until the seventieth minute. But for every year a player's been in the Super 15 or ABs, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Dan Carter and Stephen Donald is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.
Because if Dan Carter were injured, you’d always be able to select his equivalent off the bench, wouldn’t you. And you’d always want Stephen Donald around to fall back on.
Let's face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?
No matter how much money was poured into the NPC, the Super 15 or the All Blacks, it wouldn't get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.
Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: "They hate rugby. They hate the players. They hate the fans." The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn't help.
If you haven't figured it out yet, NZ Rugby in this alternate reality is the real-life public education system. Teachers' salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn't rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they've been teaching. That's it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you're demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation's children.
As Tarkenton says, “Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn't working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities” rather than the dictates of the Ministry and of central government.
Robert Wenzel observes that the blame is not all with the teacher unions; “the problem is really government involvement in the education system.”
The answer is to get government out of the education business so it can grow and thrive, just like the All Blacks …
UPDATE: Legendary quarterback Fran Tarkenton was interviewed on Fox News on this issue:
[Thanks to commenter “School Principal” for the link.]