Dead on The Job, Part II

Just wanted to add something to my earlier post on how federal workers are more likely to die on the job than be fired. I’m currently reading Phillip Howard’s latest book — Life Without Lawyers. It’s just fantastic at dissecting how bad our government institutions have gotten. But what’s striking — and maybe it take a progressive like Howard to point this out — is how bad they’ve gotten for government workers.

Let’s take teachers as an example. He documents relentlessly how rules and regulations have made teaching hell in some districts. Because it’s so hard to fire anyone, morale is low anyway. A sense of camaraderie is critical to any endeavor and when you have people sticking around who aren’t pulling their weight, it drags everyone down. But what Howard points out is that if someone who doesn’t have the most critical skill needed to teach — temperament — they are wasting their life at job they’re not suited to. Districts try to correct for this by failure-proofing teaching, planning out every single lesson, slathering teacher in forms and evaluations. And it demonstrably does not work.

We often grip about the inability to fire public employees for the perspective of the taxpayer being screwed or the government service being ineffective. But it’s also bad for the people who can’t be fired. They are wasting their lives in professions to which they are not suited. Their human potential is dribbling away, day by day. Someone who can’t be an effective teacher could be an effective construction worker. Or an effective cop. Or something. But by insulating people from responsibility and firing, we trap them in jobs that waste them.

Creative destruction doesn’t just apply to industries and businesses; it applies to people.

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  1. richtaylor365

    Someone who can’t be an effective teacher could be an effective construction worker. Or an effective cop. Or something. But by insulating people from responsibility and firing, we trap them in jobs that waste them

    .

    Not to denigrate your point, I think it is valid, but somehow I find it hard to believe that a deadbeat teacher/federal worker would ever in his 30 year career have this conversation with himself ,”Gee, I really am lucky to have this job and maybe I should have set the bar a bit higher, made more of an effort to produce commiserate with my paycheck and not living by the yardstick of mediocrity/doing the bare minimum like everyone else. Upon reflection I now see that I could have been one great (fill in the blank) where my creativity, drive and industry would have flourished, releasing my true potential, but instead I settled for this dead end career where both my efforts and the state’s money was wasted. I really feel bad now and will jump off a bridge right after work”.

    The reality is that most of these “workers” will tell you straight faced that they are all under paid/over worked slaves who gave the best years of their lives to an ungrateful entity, who deserved better then they were treated and are entitled to a certain standard of living, now where is my raise?

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  2. AlexInCT

    But what Howard points out is that if someone who doesn’t have the most critical skill needed to teach — temperament — they are wasting their life at job they’re not suited to.

    The most common reason I hear from people these days for going into education is to get the summers off. Call me insane, but I am not surprised that people who choose a career so they can work the least amount of time possible during a year rather than the fact that they are passionate about the work, tend to be terrible teachers. I understand the want to work as little as possible, but I despise that the education system, which has been so rigged that we can’t get rid of the people that are actually causing harm, seems to attact so many of these kinds of people.

    Teaching used to be a noble profession. Now, I am sad to admit, I react negatively to anyone that tells me they are a teacher, instinctively, even if they do not deserve it, because of the fact that 99 out of a hundred times I will find out in the course of a discussion that I am dealing with some insane lefitst that wants summers off, thinks they are paid way too little, and doesn’t care about the snot nose kids in their class.

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  3. Hal_10000 *

    Rich, you’re right. That’s why it needs to be easier to fire people. Sometimes people aren’t very good at realizing they suck at their job. When I was a graduate student, I saw one guy kicked out of the program. He was bitter about it but he was just a bad student who didn’t realize it. In the end, he got job he was better suited to (and pays better than astro jobs).

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