Educating Educators: The Price of Doing Nothing

by March 15th, 2011 - Politics » Society »

A lot has been said recently regarding the costs of public education and society’s respect or lack thereof for teachers. And as usual, the foaming sea of all that is said misses most of the points and devolves into the normal tried-and-true political battle of unexamined, preexisting emotions that are the core of Red vs. Blue howler monkey logic.

Both sides of the squabble are equally guilty, but here I will join in on the fun by dumbly addressing an issue by responding to arguments similar to the bumper-sticker-rationale of the following:

“But it’s for the children. The children! We should be funding twice as much as we are now!”

A somewhat more tempered variation of this sentiment was recently represented in a NY Times opinion piece, Pay Teachers More, in which Nicholas D. Kristof argues that public teacher’s salaries, which were once within shouting distance of starting salaries for lawyers, should now be raised to once more compete with  such more financially more attractive occupations, the gap having widened greatly since 1970.

The theory is that we are only able to attract the bottom tier of graduates into the public teaching profession, therefore insuring poorer quality education than if students were taught by those graduates with stellar grades who instead chose to go on to legal, medical, and other more lucrative professions.

Of course, this disparity in starting salary might have something to do with the much higher skill set and additional education required for legal and medical professions.

The comparison may be further criticized as the salaries of one set of professions are set by the whims/demands of the market and the other by union and government central planners. It is not as though government officials chose to pay doctors more than teachers. Although, if we were to examine the nuances of government involvement in these other industries, there are likely to be found both direct and indirect acts that have influenced costs in one direction or the other over time.

However, back to the subject at hand, in respect to the supposed axiom put forth that better salaries beget better teachers, it is interesting to consider numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics that point out that when the market also decides the salaries of teachers, the income of private school teachers are significantly less ($39,690) than public school teachers ($53,230).

Surely the quality of education between private and public sectors is a matter of opinion, but it is at least interesting when considering the prevailing opinion that a private education trumps a public education.

Personally? I have not particularly appreciated any external education upon the process of my learning, preferring the natural course that comes with being and seeking while working alone and with others. I did not enjoy, nor did I thrive due to any system of education whether it was public or private. But that is simply my own experience and perspective.

You may now begin using that very statement to discredit the quality of all my uneducated thoughts.

Having now dispensed with my honest concerns on the matter of teacher salaries, I can now finally, comically share in the barking madness of blunt, placard-waving discourse:

Certainly, children and their education are our greatest concerns. And it surely seems that the more money we throw at it, the better product we come away with. So let us not be modest in our efforts to have the salaries of public educators compete with higher paid professions. Let us instead mandate that they be the highest paid entry-level salaries in the world by annually adjusting the starting wage to be twice that of the second highest paid profession from the previous year. This will secure for society the best and brightest educators, soon creating student-teacher ratio of 1:20, helping students grow up to be whatever they want to be as long as it’s a teacher, and leaving only C students and High School dropouts – if anyone at all – to practice medicine and handle legal matters.

And if you’re not totally convinced, might I just add, foaming at the mouth, “BUT THE CHILDREN! THE CHILDREN!

Isn’t central planning fun?

Remember…the super-intelligent alien Teddy Bears are watching, collecting data for their final judgement on the human race, so it is important to try something, anything, before it’s too late.

The Sporadical skeptically promotes the following:
SKEPTIC Reason Penn and Teller Frank Zappa