I read a blog about the problems with our education system earlier today titled “Arts and Sciences are Vital to Education” on The Course of Reason. While I agree with the author that the arts and sciences are important, as is teaching students how to think instead of just forcing them to memorize facts, I don’t think the author presented much, if anything, worth reading. I take issue with many of the author’s points, from the idea that teachers do not earn enough money to the lack of policy recommendations provided.

First of all, something that many people do not realize is that teacher’s make a decent and fair amount of money for the job they do in the majority of cases.

Now there can be as many as 40 in a classroom, which means teachers are now doing the work of two teachers, yet only getting paid for the work of three-quarters of a teacher (or in professional athlete salaries, 1.5% of a football player.

This quote shows a decided misunderstanding of the economics of labor. The athletic occupation has a number of characteristics that indicate that athletes should, in fact, earn higher salaries than teachers. To begin with, the career of an athlete is a limited one. While teachers can often work for 40 or more years, an athlete’s professional career rarely lasts half that long. Another important factor is risk. In the majority of situations, a teacher faces very little risk in the workplace. Certainly there is some, including in many cases increased exposure to pathogens. Nevertheless, athletes routinely face the chance of a career-ending (and salary-ending) injury and in some cases even death. Finally, teachers are usually only working 9 months out of the year (taking into account summer vacation as well as student vacations, although I concede that they are not always without work at these times). Athletes, on the other hand, may have a short season, but still must stay in good physical condition, something that requires work year round (that again could result in career-ending injuries). Finally, teachers generally get good health benefits and pensions. I am not saying that teachers always make enough money, but the comparison to athletes is tired and inaccurate.

The author cites annual budget cuts as a terrible problem. I realize and agree that educational budget cuts can be troubling, but it is important to realize that money is not all important. What I mean to say is that throwing money at our educational system without good policy or a good manager will do very little to increase the quality of public education.

As for conducting “standardized testing so that the students can be rated on an arbitrary scale of skill in various areas,” the author’s analysis is over-simplified. Without a measure like standardized testing, it is nearly impossible to know how schools fare, especially in relation to one another. Certainly standardized tests have issues, but they are statistically useful and, when used with supporting data, are very informative. For example, overall trends can usually be seen by examining the results of these tests. One can tell if students in a given group (geographic, race, etc.) are lost early or later in their education and if a particular school or district (or even state) is under-performing. As for teachers being forced to administer these tests, the administration of such tests has never been particularly difficult to their jobs and can only detract from the argument that teachers should have higher salaries.

As I said before, I agree that the arts and sciences are important (although the term “arts” as it is used here is far too vague and specifying what “arts and sciences” includes would strengthen the article – biological and physical sciences, math, social sciences, and language). The blog post falls very short of being a convincing argument about anything. Not only are several assumptions incorrect, there is no clear policy suggestion and no clear thesis of the entire blog.

Education is important, but that doesn’t mean teachers’s salaries are too small.

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