Monday, January 28, 2013

Teachers' Pay

Here is the problem.  Teachers have one of the most important jobs in society, teaching our children.  They must have a college degree, but their pay and benefits are comparable to those who work in unionized manufacturing jobs.  Professional football players and other entertainers provide a service that is totally unnecessary for our survival, yet they are paid ten to twenty times as much as teachers with top end athletes getting tens of millions of dollars.  It challenges our sense of fairness.  How could we let that happen?

Maybe the answer lies in behavior, specifically in the dimension of perspective.

If we decide to take our family to a college or professional football game, it could easily cost us around $500.  That includes 4 tickets, parking, food and drinks and a souvenir or two.  Of course this assumes that we can even get tickets for a single game, because in some places the demand is so high.  This is for a single one game and doesn’t even address the idea of season tickets.  On the other hand, if the city decided to raise our taxes by $500 per year to pay the teachers better, most people would join the mob storming city hall in protest.  (This link shows a non-scientific poll of Massachusetts voters when the governor suggested raising income taxes to support schools and highways.) 

But our willingness to support our favorite team doesn’t stop there.  We will set aside 3 or more hours each weekend to cheer them on.  We buy their clothing, intently watch, and critique the players, coaches and officials.  Players who miss blocks or tackles, players who drop passes and coaches who don’t make it to a bowl game or a playoff game are fired with our approval.  The stars have us hanging on their every word and buying the products they endorse.  On the other hand, ask us to commit an hour per month or less to attend a PTA meeting or a teacher’s conference, and we react negatively or indifferently.  It seems like an imposition.

Finally, teachers do not do one of the most important jobs in society alone.  They are part of a team that provides that service.  The team consists of teachers and parents.  Asking teachers to do it alone is like asking the offense to win games without a defense.  Do parents believe they are part of the educational team or are they too quick to side with their child against the teacher when problems arise?  Should parents be held accountable for daily assignments as well as for student preparation, both in terms of learning and of their attitude toward learning?  If there were more parental involvement, if children arrived at school expecting to learn rather than expecting to be entertained, would there be such a need for smaller class sizes?

Perhaps teachers aren’t paid what they should be based on their contribution to society.  Perhaps athletes and other entertainers are paid too much.  We are the ones making those decisions by what we choose to support and what we choose to ignore.  Again it’s about our behavior:  our values, our choices, our perspective.

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