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Tarkenton: If The NFL Had Teachers’ Rules

From the always quick on his feet, Fran Tarkenton, via the Wall Street Journal:

What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules?

Imagine a league where players who make it through three seasons could never be cut from the roster.

OCTOBER 3, 2011

Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

Let’s face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn’t get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.

Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: "They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans." The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn’t help.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system. Teachers’ salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn’t rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they’ve been teaching. That’s it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you’re demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation’s children.

Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the United States has nearly tripled since 1970. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we spend more per student than any nation except Switzerland, with only middling results to show for it.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve been told that a big part of the problem is crumbling schools—that with new buildings and computers in every classroom, everything would improve. But even though spending on facilities and equipment has more than doubled since 1989 (again adjusted for inflation), we’re still not seeing results, and officials assume the answer is that we haven’t spent enough.

Which, it would seem, is the Democrats knee jerk response to all of their failed programs.

These same misguided beliefs are front and center in President Obama’s jobs plan, which includes billions for "public school modernization." The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. We’ve been spending billions of dollars on school modernization for decades, and I suspect we could keep on doing it until the end of the world, without much in the way of academic results. The only beneficiaries are the teachers unions.

And they are the intended results. The students are just the offensive line. They are only used to protect the unions, and to allow them to get more and more of the taxpayers’ dollars.

Some reformers, including Bill Gates, are finally catching on that our federally centralized, union-created system provides no incentive for better performance. If anything, it penalizes those who work hard because they spend time, energy and their own money to help students, only to get the same check each month as the worst teacher in the district (or an even smaller one, if that teacher has been there longer). Is it any surprise, then, that so many good teachers burn out or become disenchanted?

Perhaps no other sector of American society so demonstrates the failure of government spending and interference.

Well, healthcare is a close second. And with the implementation of Obama-Care, it will probably take a clear lead. After all, unlike education, healthcare is a matter of life or death.

We’ve destroyed individual initiative, individual innovation and personal achievement, and marginalized anyone willing to point it out. As one of my coaches used to say, "You don’t get vast results with half-vast efforts!"

The results we’re looking for are students learning, so we need to reward great teachers who show they can make that happen—and get rid of bad teachers who don’t get the job done. It’s what we do in every other profession: If you’re good, you get rewarded, and if you’re not, then you look for other work. It’s fine to look for ways to improve the measuring tools, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn’t working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards.

Mr. Tarkenton, an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants from 1961 to 1978, is an entrepreneur who runs two websites devoted to small business education.

Of course, as with most things, the Obama administration is pushing as hard as it can in the opposite direction.

By the way, why aren’t people demanding that Fran Tarkenton get into politics? Just imagine if he would run against Al Franken.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, October 3rd, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

8 Responses to “Tarkenton: If The NFL Had Teachers’ Rules”

  1. Mithrandir says:

    “When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” -Albert Shanker former President of the Teachers Union (actually, all public unions could make this snide remark about the people they are supposedly serving)


    1. GPA is no indication of a good teacher. I’ve had plenty of teachers in my life that got good GPAs, and they were boring, tedious, mean, and disinterested in explaining what they already know. How about students with 2 jobs in college, or had children, or had to pay everything out of pocket? Certainly they couldn’t sit in the dorm and study all day to get a 4.0.

    2. Interviews do not result in good hires. Does the NFL draft only on interviews, or do they put the candidate through their paces first?

    3. Hiring women does not make better results. It’s a woman dominated field, especially K-6. Kids are feminized, and a lot of kids don’t have fathers, but schools stereotype against men teaching in the elementary grades, even though the social impact of role models would drastically improve the nasty hen-house it is now.

    4. Pay doesn’t equal good teachers. Look what we pay our politicians, do we get better politicians? http://www.myshortpencil.com/newyorkteachersalaries.htm

    5. Nepotism doesn’t = good teachers. My goodness, ever notice how many people in education ALSO have a daughter teaching somewhere? How do you think that happens? –often times it is “hire swapping” in which a principal’s daughter is hired in a district based on “courtesy” knowing that if your daughter needs a job, there is an open door at the other school…….wink-wink. Also, legacy hiring. A teacher retires from a district, and their daughter lands a job there as well. (students that join the union in college are also on the short list of hirees)

    6. Testing results doesn’t necessarily indicate good teachers. Would you accept a job at a crummy inner-city school knowing full well your pay and employment will be based on test scores from students / parents / community that don’t care about education? –good luck finding quality teachers to join that mess!

    7. Top-heavy bureaucracy absolutely doesn’t help. Screaming parents, power-hungry administrators all the way up to POTUS are crushing teachers’ will to teach. Everyone wants credit for improving schools so bad, they are smothering the teachers.

    Define what a good teacher is. Look at the college programs and see what they are doing. Get college student input, retrain the college professors to make better graduates. Allow competition to decide which schools have the best teachers. Protect the good ones with all your might, and retrain or fire the bad ones. Limit the little Hitlers involvement at every level.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      In short, teachers require passion. Those who graduate from college and pay their student-teaching fees to the school system they are chosen to, can quickly lose that passion when the heavy hand of bureaucracy comes down. And, given that they spent every dime they had, and some they didn’t (loans) they need the job to remain solvent, and teaching is what they chose to do…but found it to be a haven for something very unlike teaching.

      Thus, the passion is gone, or has been systematically removed, replaced by institutionalism and loyalty to the school-board.

      Then, of course, in my substitute-teaching days, I met a curiously large number of teachers who not only didn’t like kids, but pretty much stated they hated them. Not the right career-choice then. In fact, in the 70’s I had an English teacher who was completely antisocial. She hated us with seething passion and never hesitated to deliver sarcasm, cruel punishment and/or humiliate to the extreme. She’s still there. Tenured…and still hated by the student body. She came around just about the time the Department of Education got rolling.

      They say, “Those who can’t do, teach.” And of course, as Jack Black repeated, “Those who can’t teach, teach gym”. But in reality, finding a teacher who is passionate about their work is rare these days. I had several teachers who found great reward in teaching and were very adept at the craft of getting kids to listen, pay attention and learn. You could see when they were troubled that a student wasn’t “getting it” and they tried harder.

      The other side though, is in order for teaching to be successful, the student has to want to learn. In many (most?) inner-city schools, “being cool” has replaced the desire to learn and if you’re a good student in a minority, you stand a very good chance of being beat up a lot or worse.

      Simply put, the whole mechanism has had the bar repeatedly set lower and lower and the requirements for kids likewise. But they continue to figure out ways to gerrymander the test results so they continue to get funding. Which reminds me of something I heard more than once while a grade school and high school student: Said the teacher, “Gee, if you spent this much time and effort trying to cheat your way to a better grade, imagine how it would’ve worked out if you had spent one tenth the time and effort and just studied for the test.” No, not directed at me, but the words still meant something.

      If the teachers/administrators in school systems actually focused on their jobs and the goal of being good resources for the kids, instead of figuring out ways to lie and get more money….imagine the kind of students that would be graduating.

  2. proreason says:

    Fran must have decided that he doesn’t want to do any more broadcasting gigs.

  3. Reality Bytes says:

    From RB’s daughter – rookie school teacher.

    1. After being forced to join the union, she shows me her union card, which we burned if effegy. She was told that she didn’t have to join the union but would have to pay all of its mandates anyway, which to me doesn’t sound constitutional.

    2. At $55,000 per year just starting out, she thinks she’s over paid; in spite having to be at school from 7:30 to 5 or 6:00.

    3. In spite of two years worth of art supplies ordered by the out going teacher last May, she’s being asked to order the same this year.

    4. While teachers are required to write their own cirriculum, the administration hires “professionals” to do the same thing for 150K annual each.

    5. At nearly $18,000 per pupil, educating grammer school kids by the millions is almost as much as her college tuition at a private school.

    6. If Public Education was ever analyzed for waste & corruption, I’m confident the numbers across the country would rival medicaid fraud.


    Remember this state, NJ, passed a NINE BILLION DOLLAR BOND for “bettering” its public schools under McGreevy (aka Truck Stop Tina). That’s on top of the nearly 8 billion it gets annually from the state not to mention the revenue they get from property taxes.

    When the funds started flowing, the schools couldn’t spend it fast enough. It was a general contractors fanstasy come true!

    Like I said, someone in Congress needs to look at this. Or We’ll Do It For Them!

  4. Not so fast says:

    Only one answer of education. Vouchers. This is from a former educator. No beaurecrat or Government agency is smart enought to fix this mess. Only the market could come close.

  5. Not so fast says:

    Only one answer on education. Vouchers. This is from a former educator. No beaurecrat or Government agency is smart enought to fix this mess. Only the market could come close.

  6. Chase says:

    Fran wouldn’t even have to scramble to roust Franken from his seat…. That would be a delightful campaign to watch Al eviscerated.

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