Teachers and Stardom
By Arnold Kling
A reader sends in this question:
CBS Sunday Morning knocked multi-million dollar baseball salaries this morning and lamented that teachers are much more poorly paid. Then I wondered, why do teachers not market themselves? How come there are no teaching entrepreneurs who try new methods — Web, TV to bring scale to teaching. Why the dearth of teaching celebrities or stars? Like anything built around human talent, there must be a wide disparity in the capabilities of teachers. There must be some who are exceptional. But, we never hear of them.
Can you explain why there are no ads where teachers tout their track records? (“I taught Arnold Kling all he knows, and can teach your child too!”). Is it a lack of demand? A lack of creativity? A conspiracy by administrators? Why do teachers shun celebrity?
I don’t think that A-Rod gets paid a lot because of his marketing prowess. He gets paid a lot because he hits a ton of home runs.
I think that the reason that Britney Spears markets herself and teachers do not is that marketing pays off for the former and not for the latter. In the world of pop music, personal brands matter more than corporate brands.
In the world of mainstream education, institutional brands matter more than personal brands. Think of Harvard. Out of the mainstream, there are portions of the education world where personal branding does matter. Think of Stephen Covey.
Why do teachers not market themselves on the basis of track records? Probably because they can’t. Good students are autodidacts, and bad students are darned hard to teach. So value added is elusive to obtain, much less to demonstrate.