Equal Share of Misery

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Winston Churchill, part of a speech in the House of Commons on October 22, 1945

The Philosophy

In 2019, I was introduced to an idea coined long before my time. It is commonly known as “equal sharing of misery”. For short, let us call it “equal misery”.

On the day of my Briefing of Appointment to become an Education Officer, i.e. teacher, with the Ministry of Education, a late middle-aged man addressed to my batch of fellow teachers-to-be.

Standing tall on the stage, he explained how the Human Resource (HR) office deploy the new teachers to the various public schools.

In short, first by the need of the school, then by the distance between the school and the home of the newbie.

The Analogy

The analogy goes:

Suppose there are two teachers. One lives in the east, and one lives in the central area. Now there are demands for a new teacher in the west and the central area.

Ideally, the teacher who lives in the central area gets to teach in the school residing in the central area. But no… That is not how it works.

The teacher residing in the east will be deployed to the school in the central area, and the teacher residing in the central area will be deployed to the west.

Here is an example in the context of Singapore:

Teacher A living in Bedok will be deployed to a school in Katong, while Teacher B living in Katong will be deployed to a school in Jurong.

The Pros and Cons

After the briefing, I got to have lunch with a friend, who happened to be a dentist. Sharing my experience, he told me it is the same principle the medical industry applies when it comes down to the assigning doctors to the clinics by the larger medical organization.

Okay, it kind of make sense. The apparent advantage is the surety of the coverage of grounds. However, as with any matter, there are two sides to a coin.

While such a method of deployment focuses on resolving the quantitative demand-versus-supply, it totally ignores the qualitative considerations. What if the teacher assigned is not of a good match to the culture of the school? What another teacher who lives nearer can adapt better to that particular school?

A certain teacher might be skilled in managing a single gender cohort better than another teacher, who thrives better in a mixed gender cohort, and vice versa.

Sometimes, a new teacher already had a relationship with a certain school prior because of his relief teaching. And while the school and the teacher in question may request to be deployed in matching, would they be allowed still?

Then again, the deployment by demand-and-supply according to the equal-misery sharing the distance is probably a headache on its own already. To implement the consideration of match by the qualitative requests might not be a good time in the current state. Kudos to the human resource department, allocating the human capital to maximize the overall output of results. Putting the right people at the right places for the right tasks at the right time sure sound like a tall order.

The Good News

Policy-making never seem easy. In light of elevating the quality of life for everyone, meritocracy is what makes the playing field as fair as possible.

At the point of this writing, I recall the briefing gave us a glimpse of the hope of redeployment after two years into teaching, as a full-fledged teacher in the public office.

A teacher is allowed to request a change to another school of his desire, subject to the availability in that school. One common reason for the request is the change in home address and the hope to teach within the vicinity.

Of course, outliers exist. Who is to say there is no teacher who prefers to teach in a school far far away from his house? An advantage would be the lower possibility of being bumping into a student who lives nearby. You know, perhaps a student whom the teacher would rather not have more contact with. Imagine the awkwardness.

The Decision

So how equal is equal? Surely deep down within, we know there can never be a perfectly equal distribution of load when it comes down to the deployment of schools. What we can choose is to manage what we have been allotted for.

Rather than miserly calculative over every minute detail of distribution, how about making use of the unique opportunities to develop oneself in the school assigned? Oh, I pray that I stay humble and learn to learn as a teacher wherever I am deployed.

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