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Mar-18-2011 13:08printcomments

Pay Teachers More

This update is to note that in nearly thirty years, nothing has changed!

Artwork from the film: Teachers

(CALGARY, Alberta) - Last month Jerry West wrote a piece titled (“US Extremism Not Surprising") As part of the comments, the relative efficacy of teachers came up.

When the subject of teachers and unions appeared I offered this analysis:

Jerry and Kevin: The two of you are now arguing about money going into education. I think money is, in a fundamental sense, the least important factor. I refer you to a Newsweek story (September 24, 1984) titled: 'Why Teachers Fail' (pp. 64-70)

"Kevin cites a report saying that teachers tend to be more conservative. The Newsweek article supports that thesis because those who go into education are the least intellectually capable of all post-secondary students.

"The article says: 'The combined Scholastic Aptitude Test score of college-bound high-school seniors intending to major in education is only 812 (1600 is a perfect score), compared with 987 for intended engineering majors and 893 for all students taking the test.' (p. 64)

"In a telling graph the decline is clear. From 1973 to 1983, Education SATS dropped from about 860 to 812. The National average fell from about 940 to about 900. Math, Engineering and English all ranged from about 950 to about 1,040 through the same years."

The conclusion I draw is that teachers are drawn from the least intellectually capable members of society. (There are outliers, of course. Some who have gone into education are brilliant, but they stick out like sore thumbs and I can't imagine them being much challenged by their more intellectually conservative workmates). When I first went to university in 1970, education students were widely derided as Arts and Science rejects. Another common saying was: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't teach, teach teachers. Pretty harsh assessment.

Putting it in the vernacular: It's like building a house; it doesn't matter how much you paid for the lumber, it's the quality of the lumber that makes the difference.

This article is nearly thirty years old but, in my observations, I think things have gotten worse rather than better, since then. If anyone has a more current analysis, I, for one, would love to see it.”

This update is to note that in nearly thirty years, nothing has changed!

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a piece March 13 titled, “Pay Teachers More”. The issue, he argues, is that “we need to pay teachers more so as to attract better people into the profession”—just like in 1984.

He gets right to it, pointing out that

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and retaining top third graduates to careers in teaching (italics added)

But, as long as people continue to believe that teachers are overpaid…

I’ll add one little bit of information that most people don’t know. Teachers get two months off every summer and non-teachers think it’s a paid vacation for them. It’s not. A teacher is paid a salary for ten months of teaching. That amount is then divided by twelve so the teachers still get salary cheques over July and August. At least, that’s the way it is here in Alberta.


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place

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Hank Ruark March 19, 2011 8:33 pm (Pacific time)

SL: Your tone, content, and personal attitude might well change if you were face-to-face with friend Dan... He happens to be correct in use with some caution of the bell curve and any other similar measures, all of which have some fundamental problems for which due ane careful correction must be made. IF you were to earn any degree, much less two advanced ones in education, you might have the inklings of insights and psychological understandings to comment here....but it is doubtful, in your particular case, asl demonstrated by this one. I suggest you find a Bell Curve (caps indicate differentiation you many not understand) and apply it to the proper part of your carcass...note careful selection of last word, which also you may not understand.

SL March 19, 2011 11:48 am (Pacific time)

This has to be the most absurd article I've seen at this site in weeks. Essentially what your logic ackowledges is that the Bell Curve is spot on regarding IQ and performance. So you and David Duke lunch together? Have you reviewed the Twin Studies...? So all those engineers, doctors and other high performance professionals out there, did they just wake up one day with that knowledge and ability, or did some "teachers" guide them towards the light? Hey writer, it's easy to draw info from other sources, but it also helps if you know what it means when you lay it out for others. My guess is that you are a perrennial bottom of the class placeholder, correct? Always chasing after those who left you years ago in their dust...

And your comment is one of the most absurd I've seen for a long time. No one (me, Kristof, McKinsey) has ever mentioned IQ. Some commenter did but it is not relevant to the argument. What McKinsey said in their executive summary was, in part, this:

"Research has shown that of all the controllable factors in an education system, the most important by far is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher." 

There it is. And if you don't accept the overall validity of SAT scores, then, what are you doing here? 

Natalie March 19, 2011 12:12 am (Pacific time)

I’m not sure if I would choose teaching over banking even if it was paid 5 times more. To be a good teacher you have to maintain a balance between your students, your employer, parents, and your own head. Teaching requires running in between the raindrops and not getting wet… Neah, I would prefer to die of natural causes with a smaller banker paycheck than of a heart attack, but with a nice check.

Teaching is a calling and not for everyone.

Apropos your comparison between teaching and banking, I'm reminded of an old joke.

A man needs a heart transplant and, as it happens, there are three hearts available to him. He can have the heart of a young athlete for $10000;  a middle aged factory worker for $5000 or a banker's heart for $100,000.

Amazed, the man wants to know why the banker's heart is so much more expensive.

Answer: It's never been used. 

Anonymous March 18, 2011 5:24 pm (Pacific time)

I have a current analysis for ya! :-) Our education system was taken over by bankers around 1900, then they took over out financial system 1913, and now, they have used us, lied to us, to build their world empire, and here we are. close to a third world country with dumbed downed Americans that they will now control with the police state they built. Same as Canada, Australia, and other countries.. There is your update Daniel. Make the kids just smart enough to be a slave, but not so smart they question. Its not about money. Its about who controls the education. The federal government, who is owned by the bankers, control our education. Question for ya..why is it, that I can ask 1000 people what the federal reserve bank is, which is the most powerful entity on the planet, and nobody knows? Think on that one for awhile. :-) Why is it, that I can take a one ounce gold coin, and ask people if they will give me 20 bucks for it, and no takers? (the coin is worth $1420 at any coin shop)..this goes much deeper than you know.. thanks to our education system, YOU dont even know what is going on.

Abraham Maslow, a co-founder of humanist psychology famously said: "If all you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail."

That's the fatal weakness in your analyses, Stephen. Your "hammer" is the banking system. Assertions are not enough.. You need to actually present documented evidence as part of a logical argument. Until now, all you've argued is that the bankers took over the financial system in 1913 (the Fed) and now you're going back and saying they took over the education system before. Given enough rope, I can see you going back and back until you can claim that the bankers actually wrote the Constitution. 

BTW: I agree with the kernel of your perception but you keep presenting it as a rant and come across as Chicken Little. 

TG March 18, 2011 1:49 pm (Pacific time)

What's intresting about this article and the writer is that he uses test scores, e.g. , SAT's, as a benchmark for future performance. Does the writer agree, that IQ is the significant determiner of future vocational perfomance? You wrote: "The conclusion I draw is that teachers are drawn from the least intellectually capable members of society." Not going for a set-up, just wondering? Have you any training and experiece in "Test Assessment Methodologies," say on a graduate level? Do you think those who wrote the articles you referened do?

I suggest that the McKinsey people do. 

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