Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Why Should It Be Easy to Fire Someone?

I should have sworn off this stuff for the summer, but I was reading the eight gazillionth article on why it's just.so.hard to fire teachers and I got steamed even without a rolling blackout coming through my 'hood and annihilating my a/c. And I got to thinking: Why, really, should it be easy to fire someone? Anyone? Outside immediate threats to people's lives and/or mental and physical health, why should anyone, in any job, be able to be fired instantly? Stop fantasizing about doing it to Joel Klein and think about this for a second.

I've wished, fleetingly, to see a few people fired in my lifetime (I'm looking at you, MTA token booth clerk who yelled at me when a MetroCard machine was defective! And you, JetBlue gate agent who lost THREE separate reservations! but never mind), but I guess I was too much of a softie to really demand it. Oh, maybe those people still "deserve" to be fired; I'll never know because if I ever see that gate agent again I'll run screaming, but NEVER MIND. My POINT (and I do have one!) is that I'm wondering why so many people seem to love the idea of firing "bad" teachers so fast it would make their heads spin.

Again, I'm not talking about teachers who grossly misconduct themselves. No one here is saying that the teacher who poses a threat to their students' well-being ought not to be promptly removed. But teachers can make well-intentioned mistakes; even worse, teachers can do everything right and still end up with unfavorable results (i.e. test scores).

Although the tone of this piece is a little dramatic, the author makes a good point in his introduction: With the introduction of evaluation based heavily on test scores, all the good a teacher might have done can be overlooked. And, as I stated above, a teacher who "does everything right" can still end up with not-so-great scores. And because political leaders are giving into the firing blood lust, it's going to start happening.

So why should it be easy to fire anyone, from a grocery store clerk to a rocket scientist or anyone in between? Why is this country so in love with the idea of at-will employment when it's clearly a good deal for those in power and not so good for most everyone else? Do we fantasize that one day we'll be filling out the pink slips? Or is it good old schadenfreude popping up again? Don't most people deserve time to grow and learn? Are most mistakes so life- or business-threatening that they can't be used as teachable moments? Is there always someone better out there ready to take the place of the washed-up screwup? Or is today's bright young thing just tomorrow's washed-up screwup?

I know this isn't my usual thing. The heat is probably getting to me. Or maybe I'm just sick and tired of people who have never done my job saying that I ought to be able to be fired from it in one fell swoop.

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