A thought experiment for you today. Imagine that our state’s General Assembly decided that Obamacare didn’t do enough to address rising health care costs, and that they were going to do something about it.
Here’s what the General Assembly does. Even though precious few of them have medical expertise, and despite the warnings of medical professionals to the contrary, the General Assembly adopts a new set of uniform practices for doctors. And just as doctors are preparing to dutifully implement these new standards, the General Assembly changes the standards to something more politically fashionable.
Doctors are now paid for their services completely by the State, at a dramatically reduced rate. They are added to the state retirement system to compensate for pay reduction. And a doctor’s success (and thus pay) is tied to the positive outcomes of his patients, even though they are continually expected to “do more with less.”
Doctors, now being paid solely by the State, easily become political pawns whose role is often caricatured.
In this kind of system, where the medical profession is so thoroughly treated as nonprofessional, what kind of doctors do you think would practice in North Carolina? It almost certainly wouldn’t be the best and brightest medical minds in our country. And a poorer crop of doctors would increases the likelihood of less successful patient outcomes. What would this portend for our state’s collective health and well-being?
A system with these incentives would clearly be insane. Yet this is precisely the kind of system that teachers find themselves a part of. Whether the subject is teacher pay or Common Core standards, teachers are regularly treated as if they are unprofessional by others who do not believe that education is a universal right or a public good.
Despite treatment to the contrary, teaching is a true profession, just as is medicine or the law, and it should be treated as such. If we treated teachers like the professionals they are, paying them as professionals, giving them the resources to do their job, and valuing their input on education policy, we’d no doubt see an increase in the quality of individuals entering teaching.
A doctor can help improve the quantity and quality of our lives; a lawyer or accountant can help your assets last your lifetime before being passed safely to your heirs. All these professionals improve our society in the present.
But the teacher is the greatest professional of all. It is the teacher that trains the future doctors and plumbers and police officers, laying the foundation for the future success of our entire society. It is time we recognized and respected that power, and we should enact policies that take full advantage of it. For our State’s long term health.