Teacher Appreciation’s Weak

A while back, Dr. Greenlaw asked us if it is fair for him to get paid less as a professor than for working in the private sector. Everyone in the class, including Dr. Greenlaw himself, seemed to be in agreement that this is fair because it’s his choice to be a professor instead of working in the private sector where he would get paid more money. While this makes sense to me because it’s his choice and he is aware of the opportunity cost, what doesn’t make sense to me is that teachers are valued at a lower rate than the majority of their peers who have completed the same level of education.

Is there a reason why teachers get compensated at low rates relative to professions requiring similar academic credentials? After all, teachers must earn at least a bachelor’s degree (with an increasing number of them being required earn a master’s degree). So why doesn’t their salary reflect the cost of time and money that goes into earning a college degree in comparison to other jobs that require equal levels of education? Ideally, most teachers enter the profession because it’s their calling and they want to make a positive impact in their students’ lives. However, burnout rates can be high with teachers asking themselves why they should put so much effort into a career that isn’t respected and can often instead be looked down upon. A disappointed mentality seems to have taken hold of many teachers throughout the U.S. The number of strikes that we’ve had and/or are ongoing reflects poorly on the American education system as politicians seem to have forgotten the importance of a good foundation for education (especially since the wealthy have the luxury of sending their children to private schools and their districts have better funded public schools).

I believe that this blatant and open disregard for teachers’ importance is a fundamental flaw in the U.S. education system. Other countries, like Singapore and Finland, value their teachers more highly which is reflected in how they compensate and respect them. Teachers in Singapore are often paid at least $100,000 a year and are recruited from the top percent of graduating classes. If our society treated teachers with more respect and compensated them better, teaching would become a more lucrative and appealing profession. This incentive could lead to education reform and place more emphasis on primary and secondary schooling. In turn, this may increase postsecondary enrollment and the number of college graduates ready to enter high-skilled jobs which could help close or reduce the gap in socioeconomic class.

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