Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In Response To A Letter To The Editor, Vol. IV

To the Editor:

Re: "Higher earning?" (front page, Aug. 6) about how teachers fare better than many other professionals:

The plump salaries and benefits enjoyed by public school teachers are the one undeniable success of our public schools. In fact, the success is far greater than it might first appear, for school systems provide employment leading to a secure, middle-class lifestyle to many who might otherwise face daunting challenges. Let me illustrate: Applicants for graduate study in education administration, tested between 2001 and 2004, had a combined mean total GRE score of 950 (verbal, 427; math, 523). That is sixth from the bottom of 51 fields of graduate study tabulated by the Educational Testing Service. The mean total GRE score across all fields was 1066.

School systems are, in essence, employment programs for adults. They serve that purpose well. Now, as regards the education of children. . .that's a different problem. It will take a different solution.

--Tom, Lenoir, NC

To Tom:

I am one of those lucky public school teachers who might otherwise be flipping burgers if this whole teaching thing wasn't so damn easy and cushy.

Let me illustrate: Although my contract is based on the presumption of a 37.5 hour work-week, I typically work a minimum of 60 hours a week, as does every last one of the quality teachers I know. These hours are spent planning captivating lessons designed to invest students in their own learning; grading papers and providing meaningful feedback that students can use to grow; contacting parents, counselors, coaches, and colleagues to discuss students' progress; holding after-school tutoring sessions; coaching teams or advising clubs; counseling students about problems in their personal lives; and generally doing whatever is necessary to reach and teach kids effectively.

As for your insinuation that the low GRE scores of applicants to administrative graduate programs suggest that all public educators are morons, well, this is what people who are not morons call a red herring argument. Actually, you've got a double red herring thing going on here, which is a pretty impressive logical fallacy. First of all, the mean score of applicants to a certain program doesn't tell us much about those who were ultimately accepted to that program. Your real problem, though, is that you've given us the scores of applicants to administrative programs in the hopes of convincing us that teachers are dumb.

See, these are the kind of critical thinking skills you pick up in school.

I don't like to brag, especially about something as silly as test scores, but since you brought it up (and called me stupid!). . .I have never scored below the 90th percentile on a standardized test in my life. I can't tell you how I scored on the GRE because my graduate school required the MAT, but I scored in the 92nd percentile on that. I'm a pretty smart cookie. I hold a BA in History from a fairly prestigious East Coast liberal arts college. Trust me, my salary would be a lot plumper had I chosen a different career. Hell, my salary would be plumper if I waited tables, and you don't even need a degree for that.

The truth, Tom, is that I love my job and I would do it for less. The only time I complain about my salary is when idiots like you insist that I'm well-paid. Some public school teachers, the kind who put in only the required 7.5 hours a day, are well-paid. But I and many of my colleagues -- given the hours we put in, the emotion we invest, and the work we do -- are not well-paid.

To trot out some warmed-over version of the old "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" argument trivializes education itself and belittles those educators who continue to do their jobs well, despite the lousy pay, simply for the look of wonder that flashes across a student's face when he connects classroom learning to real life or for the light in a child's eyes when she realizes someone cares about what she thinks.

Moments like those, my friend, are the one undeniable sucess of public schools.

--Megan, Norfolk


Maritza said...

Teachers here in New Jersey and NYC are finally getting paid a somewhat reasonable salary. New teachers are starting at about $48K from what I've read for those who have a Master's Degree. My sister is a teacher so I know exactly what is meant by the 60 hours plus work week, not counting the hours her husband puts in helping grade test papers for her!

vikkitikkitavi said...

Not to suck up to you, but I'm having trouble thinking of another profession that should earn more than a teacher.

Megan said...

Awwwww. . .thanks. :)

Laura said...

Wow, I must be receiving the wrong paycheck every month!

Megan said...

Laura -- Don't forget about your kick-ass benefits! You know, like paying $150 for a little trip to the emergency room. Doesn't get much plumper than that.

noonan said...

submit it to the paper. please. please. please. this guy had better realize that his argument is flawed . . . or just show it to our students & they can point out the poor logic & its fallacious foundation. jerk.

Megan said...

I'll have to check. . .I've been published in the last 30 days. :)

Chris said...

That was a beautiful response. Thank god you are a teacher. Because of this letter, I am adding you to my links list.

Unclejbird said...

Another John Stossel fan bites the dust. Thanks for setting the record straight!

Megan said...

Chris: Thanks! I've returned the favor.

J: I actually tried to talk a lady out of buying that Stossel book earlier in the summer. No luck.

Phil said...

Thanks for your comment Megan. I really appreciate it.

I felt your post was, if not directly, a better worded counter arguement to a letter in a local paper that I linked to. The letter attacked teacher as pampered, spoiled, overindulged and out of touch with the real world. I'm not so good wit' words you see.

I wouldn't want to apply your words to an arguement you aren't involved in. Especially if you felt they were inappropriate.

Thanks again.