Merit Pay, Race,
Culture, & Public Schooling
[This genesis of this three-part article was a recent blog
on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Get Schooled blog. It started with Governor Perdue’s thought
that teachers salaries should be tied to the performance of the students whom they teach. It evolved with
some on the blog who were suggesting that some students, or more particularly, some races, were simply superior than other
students or races. The three articles are Dr. Trotter’s response to such virulent racism.]
Pay The Physician Only
If The Patient Is Well!
Pay The Lawyer Only If The Client Is
By Dr. John Trotter
I see that Sonny, like Roy, just doesn't get it. Now, with the budget crunch going on, Sonny's
decided not to pay the Nationally Certified teachers the money that was promised to them; rather, Sonny wants to tie extra
pay to the performance of the students, but who chooses the students? This is the issue: The
children are never randomly selected and scattered around evenly. The teacher who is teaching at Atlanta's
King Middle School is confronted with a much more difficult job than a teacher who is assigned to Gwinnett's Trickum Middle
School. Or, let's stay in the same county...Fulton. The teacher at Fulton's Haynes Bridge
Middle School in Alpharetta has an easier time getting students to perform at a certain academic level than students at Fulton's
McNair Middle School. I don't know what the answer is for the very significant achievement gap between
white students and black students. But, the Fulton County School System is certainly a microcosm for the
whole state on this issue.
In the Fulton County School
System, the system is divided by north and south, with the Atlanta Public Schools sitting between the two distinctly different
geographical areas of the Fulton County Schools, and the academic performance of the children in these two areas are vastly
different. This school system stretches from north of Alpharetta to south of Palmetto -- about 75 to 80
miles long. Very diverse, considering that North Fulton is overwhelmingly white and South Fulton is overwhelmingly
black. In my job, I deal with teachers in both the north and the south. I have a fairly
accurate, I think, perspective. Besides the income disparity being very great, I am sure that if anyone
checked the formal educational levels of the parents of the children in both areas, the parents in the north would have higher
educational levels to a statistically significant level. This is where the motivation of the students comes
in play. If a student perceives that he or she comes from educated culture, from a family which values
formal education, then this student has more motivation to learn. The motivation to learn is the key.
The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon. I did not say "a racial phenomenon,"
but "a cultural phenomenon." The African American children, for example, who vacation at Martha's
Vineyard (as pointed in the book Our Kind of People, a revealing book about the "elite class"
among African Americans in this country) do not struggle with motivation to learn. In fact, their motivation
is to determine into which Ivy League school they will matriculate.
is very little motivation to learn, there automatically is a concomitant amount of disciplinary problems associated with this
lack of motivation. If teachers are not freed up to be creative instead of being forced to teach in a straight-jacket
(so to speak), then this children will continue to disrupt the learning environments of the students who actually are motivated
to learn. Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue and other people who were and are in positions to dole out monies
to teachers based on "performance of the students" never take into their calculations that children are not inanimate
objects which were randomly (and thus uniformly) selected to float down some educational conveyor belt. What
if we paid physicians based on how their patients performed. One doctor is sent to the ghetto where health
and nutrition takes a back seat to daily survival. But, this physician’s pay is tied to his patients’
blood pressure readings. His patients love ham-hock and fried chicken in their daily diets. But, his counter
part physician (both graduating from Johns Hopkins Medical School) has his practice in Athens, Georgia where most of his patients
refuse to eat fried foods, much less fried chicken with all of that ugly chicken skin. They cook with extra
virgin olive oil rather than pork lard. This Athenian physician's patients have low counts of blood pressure.
Should this physician make more than the physician whose practice is in an area where the patients cannot afford to
cook with extra virgin olive oil and are very lucky to be able to occasionally buy Wesson Corn Oil? You
get the point, but guess what? Ole Roy and Ole Sonny don't get the point...probably because they don't
want to get the point. It is so much easier, from a political standpoint, to just blame the teachers.
"We are only going to reward those teachers where the students perform." Balderdash!
We're only going to pay the physicians if their patients have low blood pressure! We're only going
to pay the court-appointed lawyers if their get their clients acquitted!
The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon, and if the motivation to learn is not there, all of the new curricula
fads and gadgets will not mean anything. The best thing that the educrats can do is (1) free up the teacher
so that the teacher can be creative in his or her attempts to reach these unmotivated students and (2) support the teacher
when he or she is attempting to establish a structured and orderly classroom environment. © MACE, September 27, 2009.
Students Have The Same Type DNA But Different Cultural
I don't think that anyone in Georgia
decries the sorry state of student discipline in our public schools more than me. (This is really not an issue in private
schools.) Our representatives went to two high schools in Clayton County this past week and both schools,
according to our reps, look more formidable than a prison fortress -- halls near the front office blocked off by iron fences/gates
or whatever and one school had a metal detector at the main door. (For the record, the schools were Mundy's
Mill High and Jonesboro High.) And, while we are speaking of metal detectors, remember that most of the
serial killings at the schools throughout the country in the last decade -- be they at Columbine or Jonesboro, Arkansas --
were carried out by white students. This is also a cultural issue...white kids materially coddled by their
parents, spoiled-rotten and bored. But, I am not going to jump to a conclusion that there is something
in the DNA of white students that makes them more prone to carry out stupid, devastating, serial killings than children of
Asian, African, or Latin descent. It is indeed a cultural issue. No
inherent DNA differences. Your analogy about animals isn't logical because there are no different species
of humans. It would be more analogous if you had compared chocolate labs with black labs and/or yellow
labs. Your Darwinian view is simply flawed. But, I must admit that taking a Darwinian
view of humans would logically have you believing that one race might be genetically superior to another race -- the Nazis,
as you know, had this view. But, DNA is always the weakness in Darwin's theory.
I will grant you this...When a school starts on a racial transition and the population of the African American students
grows, the white administrators tend to be afraid of the African American students and their parents. (I
have seen this over and over again.) Tension builds and builds. Finally, the white administrators
get so afraid that they are reluctant to administer discipline to African American children. (Initially,
when the African American students arrive at a previously all white school, a lot of institutional racism exists, and the
African American students are personally stung by this. For example, the football team needs to have almost
75% African American players before more than two or three African American cheerleaders are selected for the Varsity Football
Cheerleading Squad. I am just telling you what I have observed for years.) Before you
know it, the discipline gets out of control, and very seldom can an administrator -- be he or she black or white -- get "tooth
paste back into the tube." An administrator must be determined from the beginning that he or she is
going to treat all students fairly, equitably, and firmly when it comes to discipline. If the administrator
is fair, then the word will get out. The administrator might not be liked initially but he or she will
be respected -- and usually eventually liked as well.
Asian-American children score so well? Why were all four perfect scores on the SAT in Georgia from Asian-Americans?
Very simple. It is cultural phenomenon again. These students take the standardized
exams very seriously and study for them for years. One of the girls who made a perfect score this year
said that she had been taking sample SAT exams since her middle school years. Again, the motivation to
learn is a cultural phenomenon. Do the Asian American students have a stronger work ethic at school than
do the white, black, and/or Latino children? Yes, usually they do. Usually, they also
behave better in school. © MACE, September 27, 2009.
The Key To Learning Is Motivation
Believing that there are inherent differences in races is the foundation of the
inherent evils of the fascist philosophy. Some on this blog obviously believe that the races are inherently
different. I do not. I believe that cultures are different as well as different peoples'
histories. There are also sub-cultures within cultures. The human race is a kaleidoscope,
but we are all children of God, created in the image of God. Children from different cultures bring different
levels of motivation to learn to school each day. The key to learning is motivation, a thought which seems
to totally escape our educrats. The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon. The
motivation to learn, not the ability to learn. I believe that 90% of the learning content which is offered
up by the public schools can be mastered by 90% of the students, if the students are motivated to learn as they are motivated
to learn many things outside of the public school walls. © MACE, September 27, 2009.