As pointed out in The American’s series on teacher salaries, state law will soon set a minimum salary for starting teachers of $40,000. For poorer districts this may create some hardship; for richer districts less so. We should think about how to address this. More immediately, this discussion of minimum salaries places in full relief the value society really has in education. We ask people in whom we entrust our most important asset, our children, to educate them, intellectually and morally. We expect teachers to take our children from ages 5 to 18, from early in the morning to afternoon, teaching them U.S. history, math, science, English, technology; all the subjects that create educated, good citizens. But we pay them a starting salary of $40,000 per year. On the other hand, a Major League Baseball player’s minimum starting salary is $550,000 per year; an NBA player $800,000-plus; Jamie Dimon of Chase, who regularly pontificates about the quality of education, has a yearly compensation package of $28 million, and the CEO of Kraft-Heinz, the stock of which has gone in one year from about $60 a share to around $24, is paid $27 million a year, while the five top executives of Kraft combined receive about $75 million. Imagine if a teacher were to produce similar results from students. All of these “salaries” are, in some way paid for by us through fees, tickets, television revenue, banking charges, or ketchup. It is a world in which down is up and up is down.
As an additional note, Roger Bowen’s Aug. 22 op-ed [“Johnson, Trump and Twain”] was one of the best I’ve read in any publication in a long time. It should be read as instructive by all. As to Bowen’s reference to Samuel Johnson’s definition of patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels, I prefer the Ambrose Bierce definition from The Devil’s Dictionary of a “patriot” as “[o]ne to whom the interest of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.”
Jeffrey E. Hartnett