Sure, I have dreamed, out loud, of a day when teachers were valued half as much as professional athletes. I’ve imagined ways deserving teachers could get what’s coming to them. Teachers are some of the most passionate, hardest working people you will ever encounter, but do we really want them to make the big bucks?
You might have seen these musings played out in fun videos like the one from Buzz Feed Yellow called If Teachers Were Football Players. Fun stuff, right? It would be great if teachers got some respect. I totally support the idea that teachers should be more highly valued in our culture, but if we think a little more deeply about the things that would come along with that big paycheck (in the absence of other dramatic cultural shifts), it’s kind of frightening.
A December 31st article in the Washington Post gives a glimpse of one reality that could lead to big paychecks, but even the title of the article gives us enough to take pause: “In education-crazy South Korea, top teachers become multimillionaires.” Maybe some of us who are education crazy ourselves don’t see the problem right away. I mean, would it be so bad if our country was a little more “education-crazy”? The answer might be, Yes.
The Washington Post article begins to illustrate a sobering reality. Higher income for teachers comes with other costs. We must consider these before we start glorifying an imagined reality where excellent teachers are offered multimillion dollar contracts. Any of you who have been a loyal fan of a losing football team — any Redskins fans out there? — have probably experienced that head-shaking feeling at the end of another unsuccessful season. Coaches are fired, and players futures are thrown into question. Is that what we want for our teachers?
- Do we want instructional decisions to take on the high stakes of big-money industry?
- Do we really want a system where getting into the right kindergarten is perceived as a major factor in future success?
- Do we really want the SAT [to be] the most important event in a young person’s life?
- Are we willing to wager that South Korea’s highest suicide rate in the developed world might not be related to a high-stress focus on education, or do we want our students to be happy at school?
- Are we willing to trade high stakes education in favor of other skills like character, creativity and critical thinking?
- How do you feel about teachers doing television ads and product endorsements?
- Do we believe in providing a quality education for all students, or are we willing to promote competition of a no-doubt-private education system that would reward the most talented teachers, but at a higher cost to the students and families?