The Worker Is Not the Problem

If the education system wasn’t designed to consistently produce the results that it is producing then we wouldn’t be getting the results we are getting!  Yet again and again the focus of the reformer is on the teacher, not the system itself.  Why?  Because it is far easier to turn attention away from what the system is doing—and the system is management’s responsibility—toward what the worker is doing.   Yet the worker can only do what the system allows!

For more than 30 years W. Edwards Deming relentlessly tried to teach executives of our business organizations, it’s not the worker it’s the system!  They refused to listen and learn and now like-minded business people, such as Bill Gates, are doing what is always done, placing blame for poor quality of the system on the worker. So now we know why the focus is on the teacher!

Just as the management of business organizations often point to the worker, Gates is pointing to teachers as the cause and solution to the quality problem.  Yes we have to elevate our view of the teaching profession because this will represent and reflect the importance of learning that our culture needs to embrace.  However paying teachers more or incentivizing them—using the 3-Rs of management—will not provide an improved learning experience no more than paying workers in business more will lead to improved quality of products and services.

Thinking that the teacher is the single most decisive factor—as if there is just one cause and correspondingly a silver bullet —is just pure and simple reductionism, signaling a lack of systems thinking on the part of those advancing such a solution. Yes teachers change student’s lives, but so too does everyone else and everything they interact with—like parents, society and community culture.

We have been spending and not investing money in the education system, as we throw money at a situation whose problem has yet to be understood.  So of course there is little value added for what is spent!  Furthermore, a focus on results, rewards and accountability is not the way to quality.  Let’s critically think our way out of this, rather than swallowing whole the stories told by those interested in keeping the attention away from things that are sacred to them or in shifting the burden and placing blame or in putting education in the hands of the market.

6 thoughts on “The Worker Is Not the Problem

    • I was just having this conversation with my sister about this exact subject. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I just wish the machine would quiet down so they could hear what you and many others who think we are one the wrong road say!

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