There is a lot of talk these days about the so-called “business” of education. Politicians speak of it as they would saleable items like petroleum or feed corn. The language around college campuses refers to students as customers, as if their studies were akin to a trip to the mall, and their professors cashiers of learning.
I like gubernatorial candidate Barbara Merrill’s idea of giving merit pay to successful teachers, but I don’t think she goes nearly far enough. Sure, good teachers should get paid more. But bad ones whose students fail not because they’re unmotivated or aren’t working hard enough, but thanks to poor customer service, should be required to give students their money back at the end of the school year.
As for the students, give ones with good grades gift certificates to the mall, and send failures to the workhouse, where they can pay off their debt to knowledge and the common good.
When students graduate, we’ll have something wonderful. Not an educated, humane population that can think, read, and write clearly. Not one that can understand the complicated global issues affecting their lives every day. And certainly not one that can appreciate good writing, art or philosophy. We’ll have a bunch of folks who know how to make money, and lots of it. And that, of course, is the greatest good, and the one to which all Mainers, and all people everywhere, should aspire.