Outsourcing Teaching


James D. Miller, an economist, proposes the thought provoking outsourcing of teaching.

Outsourcing jobs to India has saved Americans billions while actually increasing the quality and competitiveness of many of our industries. We should now apply outsourcing to education, the American industry most in need of improvement.

Among other suggestions, he argues: Because U.S. teachers find grading so mind-numbingly boring, outsourcing grading would make teaching a far more attractive profession, thereby allowing high schools to recruit better teachers without necessarily having to increase salaries.

His premise has merit in so far as teaching involves many duties besides talking directly in person to a learner.

I found grading papers instructive for me. I used a teach-test-teach-… formula that tested my teaching by reading problems students solved related to my teaching. Grading papers allowed me a way to find out what aspects of a lesson I did not clarify earlier for which student. I could then use that information in a future lesson to clarify those points.

For adult learners, mostly soon-to-be-teachers or professors, I directed them to sources for them to review. On some papers, I found myself writing more red ink edits on their papers than their printer produced black ink, literally. I don’t want someone else to have that pleasure; it’s part of my reimbursement for offering the class. 🙂

I’d have to rethink how I could individualize my lessons if the school district or universities outsourced grading all papers to an off-shore company.

Anyway, it still makes more sense to let students grade their own or their neighbor’s papers. Something about a rising tide lifts all boats (and flotsom).

I’ll have to think more about outsourcing teaching. It’s a technically possible way for districts that think they’re strapped for money in this era of demands for school reform.

The possibility of outsourcing teaching reminds me of the history of negotiations between firemen on railroads when diesel engines replaced their jobs. The firemens’ union argued they should keep their jobs, because it wasn’t their fault that they could not do their jobs. And, thus the idea of feather-bedding emerged in industry. I wonder if it’s a stretch to consider outsourcing grading papers a step toward feather-bedding in education.

Alfonso Trujillo and his readers offer additional thoughtful comments about Miller’s proposition.