Sunday, May 22, 2011

Re: Education and Appreciation

The challenge has been issued:

This isn't exactly meeting it though. I lack the resources at the moment to do a video response, so a blog post will have to suffice. So prepare for a long-winded/rambling/overly political rant, Emma:

I don't think it's fair to begrudge professional athletes for making millions while a more important profession goes underpaid. First, athletes, actors, T.V. personalities, etc may not be as important as teachers, but their value to society is clearly high. People are willing to pay to see them and sports definitely serves a significant function in society. Second, their pay isn't taking money out of teachers pockets. Professional athletes may be extremely wealthy relative to us normals, but their wealth is little compared to those who pay them.

Those who flaunt their wealth, athletes and actors, aren't the reason that wealth is so concentrated in the United States. They make for an easy target to show the messed up priorities of society. They make loads, but they generate loads more. The super-wealthy get the massive amounts of revenue, but none of the hatred.

*This will come around eventually... I think*

Public education lacks any real influence. It is something politicians love talking about, but rarely is anything ever actually done to improve the situation. It is a popular idea to reform the schools and improve teacher salaries. The problem is that there isn't really an effective lobby for public education. Those who actually have influence* don't really care about the schools though. Their children don't need public education and they surely don't want to foot the tax bill of an improved education system.

Education can not and should not be made profitable. Even the most conservative, laissez-faire economist agrees with that. Therefore it must be funded and there is no monetary return**. Society greatly benefits from public education, but to those with enough wealth to improve it public education is a wasteful investment.

It'll take a brave and powerful politician to get meaningful education reform through. It's not that I think that all politicians are bad/corrupt/arrogant/*insert negative term here*. I actually think quite the opposite. Most are well-meaning, but one can't keep his or her seat without playing the game, at least somewhat. Otherwise he or she is bought out of his or her seat and end up not being able to do anything at all. So many ills could be solved with 100% public financing of political campaigns and that's certainly not exclusive to education.

So, improving the schools is popular, but nothing is being done about it. It is easy enough to pass it around. The Federal Government likes to leave education and it's funding to the states. The States like to plead poverty and leave it to the districts. The Districts have varying resources and need better funding from the State and Federal governments to actually make improvements.

I think at the very root of teachers being undervalued is the stereotype of the profession. Namely that teachers were traditionally women. Society didn't and in reality still doesn't value 'women's professions' nearly as highly as those that were traditionally dominated by men.

I don't really have a brilliant idea for how to fix the problem. It's the system and as much as I advocate revolution, it's not likely to happen anytime soon. I think a big step would be a dramatic increase in Federal funding of schools. I know ideologues spew nonsense about the big, bad Federal Government being too involved in the schools and all the little Nazis that would produce. I'd like to see a sizable chunk of the Federal budget given to education with some string attached with the main control remaining local.

Thanks for reading and please comment.

*Thinly veiled way of saying super rich.
**There is if you take a very long view about it, but that more for idealistic college kids than it is for business men.

The video I was responding to:


  1. WOOHOO this was awesome to read! You made some really excellent points, particularly a) that education reform is easy to talk about but difficult to execute and b) your defense of what we'll call the entertainment industry (athletes, actors, etc.). That was the best example I had because while entertainers definitely deserve to be paid well for their work, many athletes' paychecks are CRAZY excessive regardless of how early they have to retire. I think sports inspire unity in a HUGE way (and rivalry too, but we can pretend that's generally in good spirits) and that's wonderful; I just hate to think people are doing it for the money and if athletes were given healthy but reasonable salaries, more would be playing for the love of the game and that would only make it better. I said more in my original comment but can't think of it at the moment...if it comes back to me, I shall return with more ramblings. Thanks again for such an in-depth response! =]

  2. I totally agree with you when you say that athletes are an "easy target to show the messed up priorities of society". But I think maybe you could solve this problem without as much government involvement, if people valued education more. Of course, how you make society value education...I have no idea.
    Great post!