Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Brief

Megan McArdle "thinks" the most important problem in schools today is all those lousy teachers who need to be fired. Note that she does not work from data, she makes a supposition and then goes out and finds anything she can to justify her position. It would be too tedious to examine her arguments and they all come down to the same thing anyway: turn over teaching to corporations because teachers are too lazy to do a good job.

It is a bit stomach-turning to see someone lay out her prejudices and snobbery so lovingly and in such minute detail, so we will avert our eyes and leave McArdle to her frenzied scratchings and resentful glee, as she gets her revenge on all those meanies who criticized her half-ass work over the years.


Unknown said...

The only 'lousy' teachers in her history are the ones that awarded her an MBA in business from the University of Chicago.

Tommykey said...

all those teachers lousy

You mean "all those lousy teachers"?

Emily said...

This morning, McArdle is back to talking about medical bankruptcy again.

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks, Tommykey.

E.D. Kain did a pretty good response to McArdle's post.

Both the bankruptcy post and the teacher post depend on already debunked material. It seems that no matter how many times she is proved wrong or biased, she just keeps churning out the same material and collecting her paycheck. And she links to past notoriously dishonest posts without the slightest bit of shame.

It's kind of incredible.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It seems that no matter how many times she is proved wrong or biased, she just keeps churning out the same material and collecting her paycheck.

She's following in the footsteps of George F. Will, David Brooks, and the daddy of them all, David Broder.

Type up corporate propaganda for the people to read pays, no matter how much you stink. (See Jonah Goldberg, for that matter. Heck, even Richie Cohen figured out how to keep collecting a paycheck from Stanley Kaplan Prep/The War Criminal Post.)

Downpuppy said...

It was really funny watching ED arrive at Balloon Juice as a Libertarian and get slapped around until he turned into Bob LaFollette. Along the way, he also became a much better writer.

Way too late for Megan to get educated, alas.

danps said...

I think her entire career is a grand prank the scale of which even Andy Kaufman would not have dared dream.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't this mean that anyone who works to be a 'teacher' is automatically a loser? Does this mean we should educate our children via monkeys or robots or perhaps skinner boxes?

the fenian said...

Data would have been nice.
The stuff, not the android.
I still think it was a bad idea to have The Atlantic merge with Chuck E Cheese. The writing is dumber and the clowns are less interesting.

Lurking Canadian said...

She makes no effort to establish that bad teachers are in fact a fundamental problem with the school system. She makes no effort to show how to determine who the bad teachers are. She makes no effort to determine how much more you'd have to pay teachers if you took away tenure but still wanted competent people to take the job.

She makes no effort.

Brad said...

Ugh, I could only bring myself to skim this, but Kain's concise summary of the McArgument seems fair:

[T]eacher credentials are useless; everything a teacher learns about teaching they have pretty much mastered by year five; keeping more new teachers and fewer veteran teachers can help avoid teacher burn-out; high turnover is okay because of all these factors. We need to change compensation to lure in good new teachers who won’t stick around long enough to want pensions in the first place. Most importantly, we need to find ways to get rid of bad teachers and find great teachers.

Clearly, Meg wants to make teachers' work environments very different. This will, as she says, attract a different sort of person. The ideal McSchool reminded me of a description by Mike Konczal of the effects of the financial sector serving as advisors to the real economy:

Think of the work experience of a Wall Street analyst. (Here the ethnography work of Karen Ho, particularly her book Liquidated, is useful.) It’s a form of labor with a strictly quantitatively graded measurement system, “rank-and-yank” style of rapid promotions, and massive turnover and layoffs. This rampant job insecurity is made coherent through strict market identification, with a special emphasis on working for power, prestige and most of all, cash. It’s a job where being “smart” and “working hard” are the primary values that override any other concerns. It is fiercely hierarchical, centered around a pernicious form of meritocratic elitism. The “superstar” contract generates inequality, uncertainty and anxiety but also ruthless internal competition and an adversarial relationship with clients and co-workers.

And it is a labor experience that is being propagated into the real economy. Ho’s point is that this employment habitus structures how these analysts both study, but also then create, expectations of the corporate and real economy. So as the financial sector advises the real economy through a network of consultancy and analysts, it projects its own labor experiences onto its subjects. This experience of labor colonization brings a superstar work ethic to places it did not formerly exist, and emphasizes cash as the primary goal of work instead of the myriad of dense virtues that come with a job well done.

Batocchio said...

It's so cute the way she pretends she cares about poor kids and teachers. It's also cute that each and every one of the glibertarians arguing that teachers and librarians are overpaid will insist that the rich are horribly overtaxed and won't let their Magic Galt Dust trickle down unless they're paid extravagantly, praised incessantly, and fellated regularly.

Notice she simultaneously argues that 1) teachers are essential, and 2) teachers should not be well paid. Actually, her argument is pretty damn muddled, but that's standard McBargle. She throws up enough straw men along the way a casual reader might get bamboozled. She is basically arguing that teachers should be treated as indentured servants, or slaves, or anyway completely dependent on the good will of their Galtian Overlord Betters, isn't she? To a glibertarian, freedom means nothing should interfere with management's ability to fuck the little people over.

Anyone who says the magic solution to improving our schools is firing teachers is full of shit.

(And yup, pretty good response by Kain – who has gotten much better after he stopped getting defensive at BJ and starting actually reading the research people were using to refute his Kool-Aid bullshit.)

Batocchio said...

Oh, and Susan? You know those scary movies where you just know something's lurking behind the door? Ahem.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Congratulations on a well-deserved first place finish. ...
However, any list that includes Megan McArdle as no. 22 or wherever she was, has to be flawed. After a big splash in the beginning, she has been floundering and flailing, foundering and failing, for years. There's just no there there.

Recommended by 20 Readers

Well said, mickeyrad.

E.D. Kain said...

Downpuppy -

Balloon Juice in no way 'converted' me. It did get me to pick sides rather than play the political philosophy game indefinitely, but I'd been steadily moving leftward for a long, long time before blogging at Balloon Juice.

Kathy said...

It's always the teachers who are blamed for school problems (Now they're being blamed for our country's "debt crisis"!) I rarely hear comments about top-heavy school Administration & bureaucracy, and I don't mean janitors & secretaries!

When I registered my niece for school, I had to go to the county Admin offices... Huge, surrounded by spacious green lawns and big trees. Shiny, luxurious building with marble-floored lobby...walking down the halls I peeked into spacious carpeted offices with big wooden desks. (The woman I finally worked with in registering niece was a [very nice] clerk sitting at a tiny metal desk in a stuffy room filled with dingy cubicles. But the Administrators weren't suffering). That was in Fremont CA during the Tech Bubble/Boom. A rich town, if not as snooty as Los Altos or Cupertino. Along with the tech stuff we had a Toyota car plant.
But the school my niece attended was shabby, dirty, overcrowded, and had gangs. In order for her to take a school bus I'd have had to pay $300 a semester! Needless to say, there were horrible traffic jams outside the school morning & afternoon, with the occasional 13-14 year old getting hit by an SUV.

This was not the fault of the Teachers. Just like the rest of our country, a very small percentage of people "at the top" of the school system are raking in big bucks, mismanaging the buisness, while everyone else is suffering and being blamed.

Downpuppy said...

Hi, E.D!

Nice to see you here.