Why Does Education Get No Respect?


P_Rodney_Dangerfield_1 In the compromised version of the economic stimulus package, it was reported by the Los Angeles Times, education spending was "one of the main sticking points" in securing the necessary votes. While protecting funds for other needs such as healthcare, housing, transportation, green energy, infrastructure, the auto industry, and even banking, why cut education? Why are teaching and learning so routinely deemed expendable when everyone agrees they shouldn’t be?

(From a movie review of a film titled “The Class,”  written by Alexandra Marshall for the Boston Globe)

I once had a very brief conversation with a man – I think we were waiting for a play to begin – but it really opened my eyes to many things. this was a long time ago, but we were discussing the relative pay scales of various American, and to a degree, world-wide professions.

I began buy offering that it was professions which were largely the domain of women that suffered in this respect: K-12 educators, nurses, a wide variety of care-givers. I pointed to bank tellers as an example: back when men stood behind the counter, it was was seen as a position of respect, and a teller made a decent enough salary that he could provide form himself and maybe a small family. (Years, ago, yes.)

My companion responded by saying gender had nothing to do with. “Salaries,” he offered, “Are based on how much money you can make for someone else.”

And if you think through this, you see he was spot on: it’s the reason that lawyers, entertainers and real estate developers (until recently) make a lot of money. University professors make a large salary when they bring money into the university; as do coaches.  No one would argue that the football coach brings more value to society than the physics professor – but they do bring in more money.

The problem is, we haven’t yet developed a system to reward value.

Now you can also reasonably assert that education will bring the most money into the system, long term. The problem again, is that it is a) long-term and b0 it doesn’t bring the investor money.

And in a capitalist society, education and educators will not get the funding and salaries it needs unless it pays off for the investor. Schools which show an immediate payoff, usually by providing entry to another school or high salaried profession, get funded.

We either change the pay-off, or we change the system.

Guess which one I vote for?

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