Why teachers should be paid more

Currently, in the US, but also many other countries, teachers are paid 30% - 50% less than people in engineering professions. I argue that, as a consequence of this, teachers are mostly mediocre people who are not very good at the job; and those who are good at it, tend to be self-sacrificial. Then there are people who argue that this is fine, that teaching is a reward in and of itself. They argue that teachers ought to be motivated by aspects of the job other than money.

For many people, including myself, money is not just about money, it's about status. Most people care about status. I don't necessarily care about being able to buy things I don't need, but I care about being perceived at approximately the rung of the totem pole where I see myself belonging. It makes me deeply uncomfortable to feel like I'm being valued less than I think I should be valued on a chronic basis. I believe that's true for most people.

Now, there are some people who are able to maintain a perception of being valued even if they aren't being paid much. I am not. I need society to show it values me through a real and meaningful gesture (e.g. granting me access to resources), not merely by paying lip service, and then denying me resources. That's why, in the current atmosphere, I can't be a teacher, even though I'd otherwise like to teach.

One might think that people who need to be paid well in order to perceive that they're being valued might be people we don't need teaching children. One would be wrong. I want people like me teaching my kids. I do not want only self-sacrificing people teaching my kids, because I don't want my children to be exposed to only those values.

Given what we're paying teachers, the only kind of decent teacher we can have is the self-sacrificing kind. I find this gives children a lopsided idea of the value spectrum actually available to them, and gives them no exposure to strong, capable and virtuous people who aren't self-sacrificial. I find that limiting and harmful. At the very least, it means a large proportion of children who aren't that way are growing up without teachers they can relate to.


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