The Electric Commentary

Monday, May 23, 2005

Copying the Dodo

Who is the Teacher of the Year? Everyone! That's the way it is in the Lucia Mar Unified School District:

All 575 instructors in San Luis Obispo County's largest school district are winners, he said. "We all help children in our own special way."

The name of the winner was to have been announced at tonight's school board meeting. Instead, Leach will read a statement explaining why the union has decided not to pick a single winner this year.

Leach said Monday that the council of teachers from every campus in the district was in the process of selecting a winner in January.

That coincided with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first pitch for merit pay for public-school teachers. His proposal has met with strong opposition from some teachers around California and from a key state education official.

"We decided that choosing one among us as the best is similar to merit pay," Leach said.

Without getting into the teacher-merit pay debate, is this really the best way to draw attention to your cause? They are correct in that recognizing excellence with this award would be acknowledging merit, but is this really the best way to illustrate that merit pay is a bad thing? There is a longstanding tradition of recognizing good teachers. It provides an incentive to be the best and gives others an example of how to be a good teacher. Does equating merit pay with a "Teacher of the Year" award really advance the cause of these teachers? Does it not make them look foolish?

Let's go to Lewis Carroll:

Why,' said the Dodo, `the best way to explain it is to do it.' (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?'

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'

`But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices asked.

Who indeed?


  • Every political scientist's favorite passage from Lewis Carroll (who did some interesting work on the mathematics of voting under his real name, Charles Dodgson).

    By Blogger PRB, at 1:13 PM  

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