Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Don't hate the player, hate the game."

This is the first in a series of posts, written in order to articulate some of my core values and beliefs. I'll start with the famous one by Ice T: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”


Pointing out flawed individuals is easy. Designing remedies to the systems that allows bad behavior to flourish is more difficult.

Hating players is easy. Hating the game, and trying to fix it, is much harder.

Let me list some rules of the game that don’t get front-page headlines in the Wisconsin and New Jersey teacher wars.

- The almost-complete lack of monitoring in the teaching profession.
- Lack of constructive feedback. (My roommate, a third-year teacher, showed me his evaluation form – he was evaluated once a year, for 15 minutes on five vague categories)
- No commonly, frequently used metrics for comparison.
- No effect on pay based on performance.
- No ability to dismiss poor performers.
- Little ability to innovate due to low competition (public schools have huge advantage unless a voucher system is allowed).
- Structural rigidity – workers are attached to particular employer for long amounts of time, which generally discourages innovation.
- Lack of exit option for dissatisfied parents.
- Resulting parental lack of voice and influence in the system. Dissatisfied parents have to raise a lot of noise in the right way to achieve anything. Cost of change is high, so less change happens.

People say that “the schools need more money and [Governor X] won’t give any.” They say that “my daughter isn’t learning math.” They say "Randi Weingartener wouldprotect a dead body in the classroom .” They say that “the school board is heartlessly cutting all the extracurricular programs.”

Key mistake: they are hating the players.

Public schools’ near-monopoly in educational institutions reduces effectiveness and stifles innovation. Teachers’ unions’ near-monopoly on education personnel reduces effectiveness and stifles innovation.

This is the game. If you want to hate something, please hate the game. And then, even more, try to fix it.

(A side note. You can often play this up several levels.

Don’t hate the guy on the SWAT team that pulled the trigger and killed an innocent guy, don’t even hate the detective that led the case, hate the criminalization of gambling.

Don’t hate the guy that’s too scared to testify in a murder case, hate “Stop Snitchin.’” But don’t stop there. Hate the lack of trust between police and minority communities that spawned “Stop Snitchin’”. Hate the incentive system that lets corrupt cops run rackets, hate the war on drugs that gives gangs power in the first place, hate the cultural acceptance of bad behavior.)

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