Speaking on Education
Albert Einstein once remarked, “A society that pays its teachers less than its plumbers will have neither good teachers nor good plumbers.” He then went on to explain himself. “We will not attract the brightest and best people into the teaching field until we treat this profession as the priority we believe it to be. We will not attract and keep our teachers until we pay them truly professional salaries so that they can have the standard of living they should be able to earn with their skills and their abilities.”
Nothing much has improved since he spoke these words. Still today, teachers compete with ministers in having the dubious distinction of earning the lowest pay for the amount of education achieved. Sadly, no change is in sight. Our society continues to spend less and less to support education and more and more to combat ever-increasing societal problems. This is shortsighted. It costs about $4,200 a year to send a child to school. This really is a worthy investment if you consider that it takes $4,300 a year to support a family on welfare. High school dropouts head more than half of those families. High school dropouts also are disproportionately represented in our prison system, where 62 percent of all prison inmates have not earned a high school degree. Each inmate costs taxpayers close to $14,000 a year. Not only are these individuals costing working citizens financially, they, too, are nonproductive citizens, giving nothing back to our society.
Education is the single highest predictor of well-being at age 50. With a good education, the opportunity for a high-quality life is greatly enhanced. Education increases the likelihood of financial stability, personal satisfaction with one’s work, and being a better parent. Beyond all of these practical outcomes, perhaps the best outcomes of a good education are that it increases awareness, enables higher-level thought processes, and enhances the critical thinking process. Like having a body in good physical condition, having the mind in good mental condition affords the individual the opportunity to make the very most out of the life experience.
Understanding this, our society ought to make education its first and highest priority. Instead, education continues to be one of our lowest. Even the politicians who give lip service to providing better quality education refuse to allocate adequate money. Without money, quality education will never be reality.
Instead, our present reality is that along with low pay, we are increasingly expecting teachers to be not only teachers, but social workers, counselors, and parents to an ever-growing number of students. And, we expect them to attend to these multiple roles in deteriorating environments while making do with inferior equipment. Amazingly, even under these conditions where teachers are stressed, distressed, and some even depressed, most are working hard, are actively concerned about the welfare of every child, and are attempting to support, care and to nurture. Many are giving money out of their own paychecks, seeking in every way possible to do a good job.
How can our society take advantage of those who give so much of their lives to such a high calling? Einstein was right. We will never be the brightest or the best we can be until we make the education of our youth our highest priority.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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