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Income or outcome?

By Tim Middleton
Cricket is a strange game, as explained in a wonderful piece (author unknown): “You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out”. It goes on but we get the drift! All this ‘in’ and ‘out’ is confusing!

In a school House cricket match, the bowler came in and delivered a ball which slipped out of his hand and hit the batter full toss on the head, causing the batter to fall over and hit the stumps, at which point one of the fielding team came running in shouting, “You’re out! You’re out!” Out he was, in cricket terms as well as physically — out for the count and out of the innings!

In cricket, ‘in’ is the place to be! In fact, in society and all areas of life, ‘in’ is what we want. ‘In’ implies something is fashionable, acceptable, desirable, included; it says we have made it. We speak of the ‘in’ crowd, of being ‘in’ control. When we say we are ‘in’, we mean we are at work or at home, in other words, somewhere safe, comfortable, sure, known, secure. In contrast, ‘out’ tends always to have negative connotations and consequences. We speak of someone being out of favour, out of bounds, out of pocket, out on a limb, out of order, out of our mind. You’re out! You’re out!

It may, therefore, be no surprise that we also talk in positive terms about in-come. In fact, it is a common trait that society determines a person’s value by their income. One batter who tends to be in more than he is out, Virat Kohli, is reported to have a salary of $640,000 pm, not to mention the numerous sponsorship deals he has. In soccer, Kylian Mbappe is reported to earn over $2,5 million pm. Johnny Depp, is said to have received $35 million for starring in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. With such salaries, they are surely ‘in’! The obvious fact about such incomes is that they are in-come – the money comes in – so they are actually me-come, the money comes to me. It becomes all about me, me, me. But what about the outcome?

We may well question the connection between income and outcome. For what they receive, what do they give out? What is their output for all that input? Such sports stars or film stars may give some pleasure (though probably only if the team wins). Some people might gain financially by those stars; others may just be entertained. Some ‘successful’ people might give large sums of money to charities, and there is value in that, for sure. But what is the real outcome of their work?

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell examines the various factors that contribute to high levels of success (though the measurement of ‘success’ seems only to be determined by the income). He recognises that ‘success’ is the outcome of input provided from various quarters. These outliers are those who are exceptional, those who “do not fit into our normal understanding of achievement… those who operate at the extreme outer edge of what is statistically plausible”. What though is the relation between income and outcome?

There is a well-rehearsed line said of teachers that “I don’t teach for the income; I teach for the outcome.” That is a noble line of thinking and certainly no-one goes into teaching for the money. The outcomes are indeed what are considered more fully, though the outcomes should not be seen as qualifications, Colours awards, Prefect positions or prizes. The real outcomes we should be looking for are well-balanced, all-round, responsible, caring, innovative, respectful, ethical individuals who have a positive impact on others for good. That is what the world needs and should value, not rich people. We must not determine an individual’s value by income but by outcome.

In that regard, teachers are not just outliers but ‘outlayers’ and ‘outcomers’. They give out to others, all the time. They are without question “exceptional people who operate on the edge”, people who do not fit into society’s usual understanding of achievement. Yet teachers’ salaries are totally disproportionate to the outcomes they produce. It is time that changed. Gladwell notes that success “is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky” — lucky to have a great teacher!

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 
  • email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw
  • website: www.atschisz

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