Selling your own resources: a mug’s game, or cultural?
To begin with I want to make it explicitly clear that the conscious selling of other people’s resources is abominable. I can’t understand the thought process of someone who engages in such an activity, and sincerely sympathise with James Theobald, and in what seems to be coming to light as endemic, the many others who have had their freely distributed resources bastardised and/or pillaged by the unscrupulous. But I don’t think the issue is as clear-cut as suggesting that the selling of all resources is a corrupt practice.
Some things to think about
- Creating resources in your own time should not automatically render those resources as belonging to the school in which you work. As people we are not indebted to our workplace 24/7. We work hard enough in the allocated time in our contracts. If a teacher is entrepreneurial enough to want to create extra income to, quite frankly, subsidise their poor pay level, surely s/he should not be made to feel like they are somehow cheating others? @positivteacha helps elucidate this more here.
- Some argue that it’s not right to sell resources because everything has essentially come from the same place, and are merely adaptations of original ideas. But if someone spends a lot of time and effort and initiative to develop a resource it’s probably because what’s out there presently is not sufficient, and they can see the gap in the market. Of course there are distinctions to be made here: is collation enough to constitute a ‘new’ resource, or must it follow copyright laws and be an appropriation of information that must suit a new context for it to be legal? Maybe the new resource constitutes a particular insight into the subject, and if so, what’s the difference between that and somebody who moves up the hierarchy in education because they are perceptive in their workplace and have insight into better practice; a hierarchical move that results in a substantial pay increase, whether it be within a school or in consultancy or in speaking or publication ranks. Besides, if we apply this rationale across the board, there could never be any enterprise at all in any field, and in fact capitalism could not exist. And before you rush into this as being your very argument, that education should be devoid of enterprise at all, I alert you again to point no. 1, and that money is not and never will be distributed evenly across schools.
- What’s the difference between selling resources you’ve created and those selling books on education? Is there some sort of threshold in terms of the amount of time spent on developing the resources, whether they be individual lessons or units of work or books? Does the moral argument about sharing of education to improve the lot of all stakeholders apply to those selling books? And does the issue of point 1 come back into the equation: does the publication become the intellectual property of the school, and if it’s in the school’s domain, is it justifiable to demand it be free?
The above arguments seem to only raise more questions than provide answers. To prove that take a look at this ultimate conundrum in the sharing of resources: if you share quality, then others will use them and improve their classes, which in turn improves performance in those classes, which in turn improves performance in examinations, which in turn means the grade boundaries need to be adjusted to accommodate the norm referenced allocations, which means teachers need to work harder in the next year to ensure they don’t fall on the wrong side of the boundary. Having said that though, selling resources certainly doesn’t fix this situation, as those with the capacity to afford the quality resources will then succeed more than those who can’t: inequity in education caused by finance ensues, with the rich getting richer. Arrggghhh!!!!
It goes to show you that in education, complexity rules.