Merit Pay Vs Seniority Pay System in New Jersey

Merit- based pay is defined as “linking some portion of teacher’s pay to the academic achievement of their students” (Levin, 2011). Students’ academic success is partially attributed to the dedication of an educator; the educator might stay at school past regular school hours to help students in need to ensure their achievement. However, in a seniority-based pay system, salary is determined by an employee’s tenure with an organization not by student performance (Shaw, J. D., & Gupta, N., 2007). In the former pay system, a dedicated educator will get paid more than a non-dedicated educator because the students of the dedicated educator scored better on standardized tests. In the latter pay system, a deplorable veteran educator will get paid more than a dedicated educator because s/he has been with the organization longer and is on a tenure track. In the current system, 95 percent of public school educators in the United States are paid on the basis of seniority (Barnett and Ritter, 2008). However, as a sociologist interested in education, I wondered if seniority based pay is fair to teachers, especially the dedicated?

Many proponents of the merit pay system contend that the system will be used, “as a tool to recruit and hold on to effective teachers” (Barnett and Ritter, 2008). Barnett and Ritter explains that the system will (1) motivate current teachers to find novel ways to both efficiently and effectively increase student achievement on standardized tests, (2) draw more talented and confident candidates into the field because they believe they are capable to raise student achievement on standardized tests. Lastly, (3) with bonuses given to effective teachers the ineffective teachers are demotivated and leave the industry.

The opponents of Merit based pay (including the njea) believe that merit pay system is an, “unproven step in the wrong direction…” (njea.org, 2011); they argue that most (two thirds) of the factors contributing to student’s achievement on tests are “outside of the classroom” (njea.org, 2011), and therefore are not in the teachers control. Furthermore, the NJEA argues that if merit pay were to be implemented across the board, teachers will be more focused on test preparation than actual teaching; their quality of instruction and their relationship with students will greatly diminish. Merit based pay system would prove to be pernicious to the students because in order to succeed in school both students and teachers need to work together to find a solution to a problem (Levin, 2011).

I believe there is no right or wrong answer to this issue because the issue of pay in the public education system depends solely on each districts needs. For example, merit based pay would work in inner city school districts, like Newark, because students in inner city schools tend not to perform as well as those in well to do neighborhoods. According to Economix, a blog featured on the New York Times, those in inner city schools tend to earn less that of their counterparts and thus do less well on standardized tests. Let’s take Newark, for example, the median income per household from 2008-2012 is $34,387 (quickfacts.census.gov), based on the data gathered from the College Board [the people who create tests, such as SAT], the Economix believes that Newark students will earn roughly a 462 on Critical Reading and a 475 on Math (economix.blogs.nytimes.com).Compare this with a well to do neighborhood, like short hills where the median income range from 2008-2012 is $235,799 (quickfacts.census.gov). Based on the same data, Short Hills Students will score a 563 on Critical Reading and a 579 on Math. In that case merit pay or seniority pay makes no difference because scores on tests are already high.

Now, how does inner cities benefit from merit pay, you might wonder? Merit based pay will motivate current teachers to find novel ways to increase student achievement on standardized tests, draw more talented and confident candidates into the field because they believe they are capable to raise student achievement on standardized tests, and bonuses are given to effective teachers. If implemented in inner city schools effective, talented, and motivated by incentive, will do their best to raise students scores up. A previous study done in Little Rock proves this to be true. An evaluation after the first two years of the study showed that schools implementing merit based pay in ethnic minority schools (some students qualified for free and price- reduced lunches) “achieved average gains of approximately seven percentile points for students in mathematics and reading” (Barnett and Ritter, 2008) . Scores of students in the schools with merit pay improved, whereas those of students in other schools did not.

Does Mainstream Media Dictate How We Should Look?

For better or for worse, we are so focused on our identity and how we fit into society; we value beauty over ugliness. Because the media imposes social norms and dictates how we ought to look our sense of identity is heightened. In other words, we compare our bodies to how the media wants us to look. The media believes men should look muscular and intrudes that image into our daily lives (Vartanian, 2009). Sometimes the internalization and belief of these social norms makes those who do not look like how the media wants them to look will inferior to society. No one wants to feel inferior to society’s standards or to others who are the media’s poster people.

For example when we are bombarded with advertisements of Calvin Klein or Polo Ralph Lauren, we see fit and muscular men appear on magazines and television modeling for the brand, not fat ugly looking men. Again, we compare these images with our own bodies and fall into a cycle of despair because we look fat and ugly compared to men. Once we don’t appreciate and respect our bodies for what they are worth then we find ways to make our bodies look fit, exercise being one of them (Hormann and Tylka, 2013). In fact, it has been proven that “males appear to be dissatisfied with their stomach, chest and arms and would like to increase the size (e.g., muscular appearance) of these body parts” and they exercise to solve this dissatisfaction (McCabe and Ricciardelli, 2004 and Ridgeway and Tylka, 2005).

Case in point, gay men tend to be dissatisfied with their body and thus have low self- esteem compared to heterosexual men (Rad and McLaren, 2013). In fact, gay men score higher on self report measures for weight and shape concerns (Hospers and Jansen, 2005). This is because gay men define physical attractiveness as physical strength, upper- body muscularity, and leanness (Yelland and Tiggemann, 2003). Placing a keen sense of this definition of attractiveness makes gay men prone to compare their body stature with other men. If they feel that they don’t match up to other men who are ‘poster- children’ of the definition of attractiveness,  peer pressure kicks in and they will feel inferior and go into a cycle of depression. In order to ‘fit’ in to the stereotypical definition (social normals) of attractiveness they will do things such as exercise.

Interestingly enough, the definition of attractiveness that is widely used in the gay community is conjured up, not by the community itself, but by ” the social environment in which gay men are raised” (psychology today.com). More simply, the media is dictating them on how men in general should look. The media is telling men that looking physically strong, muscular, and lean means being a true man. Then why do men, especially gay men, drink the media’s ‘Cool-Aid’ and exercise? I have one explanation, since gay men are ostracized by main stream society as feminine girly people and they have the notion that big and buff means masculine and by looking this way they will fit into the mainstream society. Thus, gay men exercise “stave off detection of one’s sexual orientation” (psychology today.com) or to compensate for the society’s stereotypes of them as girly creatures.

Compare and Despair: Social Perceptions

Compare and despair is where we compare ourselves to others, mainly to our peers; then find out we have some kind of fault and that we are some how less than our peers. We go into a cycle of depression (matthewjdempsey.com). This can happen any day, at school, work, or even at a social gathering. I wanted to find out why we, as individuals compare ourselves with our peers, knowing that it may lead to our own destruction. I believe that there are several reasons why this phenomena happens. I will explain each of them later. First, we live in a world of materialism and consumerism fueled by advertisements telling us to consume the latest things on the market. Second, we value the Darwinistic idea of ‘survival of the fittest’. The social food chain is very much on my mind. Lastly, we are in love with fame and fortune; the thought of money means everything to us. All of these reasons are interrelated.

We live in a world of material goods and the more new things we have implies we have status. We want status because we want fame and fortune. That means that we want to compete with others to see who comes on top of the social food chain. Who ever has the most expensive things make us feel on top of the world.  How many times have we seen the phrase ‘NEW and Improved car’ and descriptions such as, ‘a class leading fuel economy and more room than before’ in stock? In order to understand compare and despair, we must understand people’s love for dichotomies- new vs. old, beauty vs. ugly. The companies who made the products we buy capitalized on this knowledge to engineer phrases to exploit our feelings because they know people prefer new things versus old things and beauty vs. ugliness. Those who have old, obsolete or near obsolete goods are inferior.

This is even furthered by our own sense of identity; we are so aware of our social status in society. Anne Norton, a researcher on consumerism explained it best, we want to know “what the garment means” (Norton 105). Because we become aware of what our clothes we wear, and what society thinks of us, we tend to feel inferior to society if we don’t match up. For example, we have a preconceived notion that Polo Ralph Lauren is associated with the upper class ($$$) and status. If our friends have R. Lauren shirts and we don’t then we would feel inferior and depressed because we prize our image very much. In other words we are becoming more of a materialistic society and thus we experience enormous social pressure to come out on top, making us feeling less than others if we don’t.

 

Body Image

This is a really personal topic for me, not because I am overly obsessed with my body image, but as I grow older I felt the need strive for a good, toned masculine stature. A body that that matches the likes of Davey Wavey, Colby Melvin, and Brandon Robert Brown, as well as some of my friends. I felt the need to be built, I felt I was too thin and not as muscular as I should be. I didn’t change because some imbecile decided to make fun of me for my used- to- be thin stature, rather, I chose to change on my own terms. I wondered why I started to have the idea to go to the gym and get a toned body, and why for that matter men choose to go to the gym. In fact according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though men and women do different exercises that women, “Men were slightly more likely than women to participate in sports and exercise activities on an average day…” (bls.gov). Similarly, a recent Gallup Poll also confirms that,”men are much more likely than women to say they exercise or engage in vigorous sports or activities on a regular basis” (gallup.com). Furthermore, the Gallup poll stresses that 33 percent of men exercise intensively, compared to 26 percent of women (gallup.com).

As I mentioned prior, I wondered why this was the case. Why do men exercise more than women? I started to ask a few people. A person asked told me, “It helps me unwind and …feels good overall in my opinion.” Another informant added that he wanted “to live a healthy lifestyle…” Another feels exercise is a way to stay “healthy and in shape!”

I saw some recurring themes such as: living a healthy lifestyle and feeling good. I felt that these are superb reasons to exercise; in fact I exercise partly for those reasons. I knew from my opinion, my personal desire to exercise extended farther than living healthy and feeling good. There was an emotional, more psychological reason to my desire to exercise. I really wanted to find the  true reason that men want to exercise because I believe that there is a deeper meaning to exercise than lifestyle and feeling good. I believe it had something to do with body image, the mood, and the mind; all of these reasons are interrelated. Informant number four shares my opinion. He explains:

“1) You tend to feel good if you look good, so looking good makes me happy. 2) It’s healthy to exercise, not only for keeping your body active but also for your mind. It’s been shown that exercise improves your mood…”

I believe that men are portrayed by society as a masculine, the big and buff. Any man being non- masculine men, or in other words, a male being or acting feminine is the odd ball in society and often are ostracized by society. This phenomena is known as the study of gender roles specifically, “masculine ideology” (psychologyofmen.org).

In fact the organization called Psychology of Men agrees with me that, “These include prescriptions for ways to act (be tough, stay in control, etc), attitudes to hold (work is very important, women should be be (sic) primary caregivers to children, etc), and ways to look (wear pants and suits, wear hair short, etc). It also includes proscriptions for ways not to act (don’t cry, don’t be a wimp, etc)… and ways not to present oneself (don’t wear a dress, don’t have long hair, etc)” (psychologyofmen.org). By exercising, and by looking good, you feel good, partly because you fit into the portrayal of men in society. A society that men are supposed to be big, buff, and tough. Once you feel good and are satisfied that you fit in, your mind will be healthy because is absent of negative thoughts on body image.

For example, I believe the reason why homosexual men exercise is because of body image and how it is ported in society. Despite efforts to reverse society’s outlook on homosexuals, society still views homosexuals as feminine, as outlandish girly figures dressed in rainbow colors at pride parades. In fact, things are not getting better (gvsu.edu and wmich.edu). In order to break that stereotype, they become manly, by becoming big and buff they overcome the body image issue.

In conclusion, I believe that there is a deeper meaning to exercise than lifestyle and feeling good; it had something to do with body image, the mood, and the mind. Men are portrayed by society as a masculine, the big and buff. Any men being non- masculine men, or in other words, a male being or acting feminine is the odd ball in society and often are ostracized by society. However, as we progress through the twenty first century where the United States, and some parts of the world have slowly started to be inclusive and accepting of non- confirmative ways of living, gender roles are ideas of the past and should be abandoned. For example, we have seen some gender flopping in the United States. That is there are more and more stay at home dads and the mother is the bread winner. In fact, the Pew Research Center finds that almost 2 million fathers are at home, up from 1.1 million in 1989 (npr.org). So what does all this have to do with exercise? Well, it is sad that exercise, a wonderful thing to do, has become more of a means to break the stereotype that men are supposed to be masculine, big and buff, and men that don’t fit in are outsiders. Granted, we are slowly moving forward to becoming a more inclusive society in certain areas, but how were we supposed to move to be an more inclusive society in all areas of living if we still hold the that stereotype?

Do Emphatic Listeners Prevent Crime?

I was reading an article posted by fellow blogger and author Mark Manson, who is also a psychologist and culturalist, titled “How Did We Miss the Point on School Shootings” (markmanson.net). In this article he discusses the real reason that murderers commit crimes; he believes that all people want to feel important and feel a sense of purpose living on this planet (markmanson.net). However, too often these to- be criminals are marginalized and ostracized by society as outcasts, and thus they feel left out. By committing crimes, they will feel important and famous because they and their crimes will be in the headlines forever, as Mark says in his article, the crimes will be “a household name” (markmanson.net). He mentions the Columbine High School Shootings as an example of this phenomena. He then came up with a solution. If we listened to the to- be criminals and let them vent, somehow these mass killings would stop.

In an ideal world, that claim may be true, but would having open ears and listening to these killers prevent their act? Think about it. Would listening to Dylan Klebold, Elliott Rodgers, among others share their hate, by letting them vent be a feasible solution? Would the criminals even vent? I don’t think so. First, psychopaths have two different personalities. Meaning that they learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to feel them (psychologytoday.com). For example, Elliott Rodgers seemed calm and not a threat to society when interviewed by police. That is why the police let him go him. Because criminals of this kind are so good a mimicking good emotions (by staying calm and civilized) in front of others they most likely wouldn’t vent to other people. They would, however, keep a private journal of their hatred of society. Second, if they did vent to other people, would the other people listen or would they prejudge after hearing disturbing things said by the criminal to- be and call the police?