Letting students set teacher pay is NOT conservative
The market is a fabuous thing, the best mechanism for raising standards of living and allocating capital. But it's hardly perfect, and it doesn't work in all situations and for every product. Too often zealots push the free-market concept over the edge of the cliff. Example 1: Electricity deregulation. Example 2: Subprime mortgages. Example 3: Executive pay.
Example 4 comes from Texas, where the Texas Public Policy Foundation is promoting the idea of rewarding college professors with "up to $10,000 based on anonymous student evaluations, called 'customer satisfaction,'" according to The Eagle. Texas A&M is already doing it.
It's the "customer" model gone berserk. College kids and their parents pay thousands for an educational "product," the reformers are thinking. Why, they're no different than somebody buying bread at Safeway. They should be able to make their preferences known! Let those 19-year-old customers rule!
Writing for the NYT, Stanley Fish has the appropriate response:
If a waiter asks me, “Was everything to your taste, sir?”, I am in a position to answer him authoritatively (if I choose to). When I pick up my shirt from the dry cleaner, I immediately know whether the offending spot has been removed. But when, as a student, I exit from a class or even from an entire course, it may be years before I know whether I got my money’s worth, and that goes both ways.
What's surprising is that people who think of themselves as conservative are associated with the idea of paying teachers based on student preferences. Conservatism used to be about having youth defer to authority figures such as teachers. Conservatism is about responding to challenges with discipline and hard work, even if the taskmaster meting out assignments isn't your best friend. Conservatism is about having schools, churches and other institutions mold sometimes recalcitrant youths, building character to turn out productive members of society.
But the Texas Public Policy Foundation wants to put students in the driver's seat. SDS and the other lefty student radicals who tried to hijack college administrations in the 1960s would surely approve. Coming next from the TPPF: Letting U.S. Marine recruits -- the "customers" at Parris Island boot camp -- rate their drill instructors?
[S]tudents appear to reward higher grades in the introductory course but punish professors who increase deep learning (introductory course professor value‐added in follow‐on courses). Since many U.S. colleges and universities use student evaluations as a measurement of teaching quality for academic promotion and tenure decisions, this latter finding draws into question the value and accuracy of this practice.