Wednesday, December 31, 2014

If Teachers Were Paid Like Football Players

When I was a senior in high school, I won a New York State Regents’ award for achievement in a State-wide Latin contest.  I did so well because I loved Latin. I still do.
Why did/do I love Latin? Because I had teachers who excited me about Latin and who taught me well. They loved Latin, too, and they showed their love in their excellent teaching.
All my Latin teachers — in the 7 years of Latin I had — were Franciscan priests. Back then, all Catholic liturgies and our Franciscan house prayers were in Latin, but not every priest was good at it. And not every priest, regardless of the subject taught was a good teacher, although most of the priests who taught me anything were really good teachers.
The point of this reminiscence is that good teachers make a huge difference in the accomplishments of their students.
The article linked above, from this morning’s Washington Post, talks about teachers in South Korea, specifically, the salaries of good teachers. One teacher of math earns $8,000,000 a year. That’s 8 million U.S. dollars!!! A year!!!
Some professional athletes, specifically football and baseball players, earn that much and more a year, while teachers are lucky if they break $100,000 a year. My daughter, who teaches students with autism and other emotional/learning conditions, earns less than $50K a year and she has a Master’s degree in special ed. Her salary is probably above the median in Virginia where she teaches.
What is wrong here?
The Washington Post article says, "It’ hard to exaggerate the premium South Korea places on education." That’s obvious from the salaries teachers there earn. A similar article about the U.S.A. would have to say, "It’s hard to exaggerate the premium the United States places on professional sports."
Why are we willing to pay millions to sports players and pittances to teachers? Why do plumbers make more than teachers? Why, for that matter, do most people make more than child–care providers? Our social priorities are obvious, and, to me, they stink to high Heaven.
If teachers had the potential to earn millions, I’m pretty sure, given the depth of talent in our country, that we would soon have the best–educated population in the world. I have no doubt of that.
With a well–educated populace in the inner cities and rural peripheries as well as in the suburbs, I doubt that we would have many elections like the last one in which people vote against their own self–interest because of insecurities based on misinformation and prejudice about race, sexual orientation, and immigration. An educated electorate sees bullshit for what it is.
Maybe that’s why teachers earn less than almost any other professional group. As with immigration, Republicans don’t want an educated electorate because they don’t want another group that they fear.

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