15 September 2015

Why We Should be Glad that Teachers are Not Treated like NFL Players

This video is hilarious because it contrasts the way we treat NFL players with the way we treat teachers.

My wife is a teacher and she works as hard - puts in as many hours - as any corporate client employees I've worked with. And it is no mean trick keeping 28 7 year olds engaged all day, every day. They learn in various ways, they come in - and go out - at different levels, and unlike university students, their behavior is her responsibility. I have huge respect for teachers. And I also know that teachers should be glad that they are not treated like NFL players.

The median salary for elementary school teachers is $42,000. That is a pretty stark contrast to the $2 million average salary for NFL players. It does seem outrageous that we show so little respect for teachers in comparison to grown men who run around dressed like 10 year old Pop Warner kids. 

But there are between 3 to 4 million teachers nationwide. There are only 1,700 NFL players. It's true that the NFL pays its players a lot of money but collectively, they make only $3.4 billion. By contrast, this nation pays teachers about $150 billion each year. If we paid teachers the same average of $2 million a year, they would cost us $7 trillion a year. To give you an idea of how much that is, the US is the only country in the world - out of 200+ - with a GDP of more than $7 trillion a year.

It certainly is possible that teachers will eventually be treated with the same respect, held to the same difficult standards, made to compete for a few select slots the way that NFL players do. In 20 years, it may be that it is teachers who students pay to learn from and not universities. Some modern version of YouTube might give students an immersive learning experience that comes complete great lecture, personalized conversation tailored to your speed, background, and potential, and simulations of experiences as varied as touching a whale and sitting on the ground during a battle. Traditional teaching could be dead and the new means of teaching could depend on a talented personality who gets the pay and respect normally accorded to a professional athlete, a news anchor, or a popular singer or actor.  

At that point, teaching could become a career structured more like the music industry or professional sports. A very few will make quite a lot and many will make little or nothing. Popular teachers - like popular singer / songwriters - might make all the money previously paid in tuition to schools and universities. Less popular teachers might fret about how to get more "hits" to be able to earn enough to move out of their parent's basement.

For now, teaching is a good, even if not lucrative career. In a generation or two, it could be a lucrative but not good career, supporting so few families that career counselors will dissuade most kids who think about pursuing it as a career. Like acting or music, aspiring teachers will be advised to have a fallback plan that is more reasonable, advising them that maybe - just to be safe - they should consider a career like professional sports.

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