Is Damon right on teachers’ ‘shitty’ salary?

Teachers make a “shitty” salary,  actor Matt Damon told a Reason.tv interviewer at last week’s Save Our Schools march. Damon attended with his mother, a teacher. Teachers earn a middle-class salary, argues Nick Gillespie on Reason’s Hit & Run.

According to Department of Education statistics for 2007-2008 (the most recent year listed), the average public school teacher brought in a bit over $53,000 in “total school-year and summer earned income.” That figure, which is about $13,000 more than what the average private-school teacher gets in straight salary, does not include health and retirement benefits, places where teachers almost always get better deals and bigger employer contributions than the typical private-sector worker. For more on teacher compensation, go here.

The median household income in 2008 was $52,000, according to the Census.  The median income for a man with a B.A. was $82,000; for a woman, it was $54,000. About three-quarters of teachers are women, notes Gillespie.

On a per-hour basis — using reported hours worked in a year — teachers do well compared to other college-educated professionals, even when fringe benefits are excluded, he argues.

Teacher salaries have kept pace with inflation since 1991, while inflation-adjusted per-pupil funding has gone up by more than 25 percent, Gillespie writes. In part, the extra money has been used to hire more staff.

Schools apparently aren’t paying enough to math, physics, chemistry and special education teachers, all of which are chronically in short supply. Teachers rarely get extra pay for dealing with exceptionally challenging students. (Note that private school teachers, who rarely face the same classroom challenges, are willing to work for much less.)

And, of course, teachers who put in extra hours to plan better lessons, provide more student feedback or communicate with parents, can expect their reward in heaven but not on earth.

Save Our Schools was billed as a million-teacher march, but drew only 8,000, according to Park Service estimates and only 3,000, according to Ed Week. Why so few?

The rally was “incoherent,” writes Kevin Carey, who really hated the rap by the old SDS guy, who thinks the achievement gap is a “hustle” perpetrated by corporate criminals.

 

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Comments

  1. I don’t agree with Damon. I make a decent salary and I’m a full time teacher. I like my job and can have summers to be with my child. It’s a good living.

  2. Why so few at the rally? That’s a pretty direct link to salary; it costs a bundle to go to Washington. When I was a reporter, I could’ve afforded it. But as a teacher? After 9 years, not yet….

  3. The reporter asked a very good question.

    Perhaps if Mr. Daemon had more time to think, he could have offered a better, more thoughtful answer.

    Instead, he responded with a stock liberal answer and he clouded his weak answer with hostility.

    The reporter asked a question. It’s worth discussion.

  4. median is described as the numerical value separating the higher half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution, from the lower half

    Oh Boy! Let’s bash teacher pay! Yippee! 1/2 of the teachers quoted above are below the median salary, just as 1/2 are above. Also consider that some states (all pay differently) skewer the number since their pay is higher than the next state’s. And in those very high salary states, the cost of living is probably higher, or maybe just the same.
    I moved from Oklahoma to Ohio to teach and the very act of moving gave me a pay raise. I moved from a district in the country to an urban one and increased my pay. I am “topped” out compared to the previous schools. Neither one of those are even near that median salary. (topped out is the highest salary paid, after 25 years you do not earn any more)
    Finally, many teachers that I know (especially the ones that are the “bread winner) all have summer jobs. Why is that? Or both spouses work.
    So much for median salary numbers.

  5. I think I may a pretty good living, but people seem to think we have Cadillac insurance plans. Here in Texas I could get a decent Blue Cross plan for about $1300, or about 41% of my net monthly income.

    I’m also nearly at the top of the Texas payscale. This year I will not get a raise due to budget cuts, but I was scheduled to get about a $400 raise. In 3 years I will top out , at 21 years experience, and get no yearly pay raises.

    BTW, my pay is what the state claims is the average teacher salary in Texas, after 18 years of teaching and a Master’s Degree.

  6. Whether all teachers deserve more pay is not a can of worms I’m interested in opening; I’m personally happy with my starting salary for my first year in a new private school. This is just an opinion, but seems to me that someone like Matt Damon who makes many millions of dollars for being good at playing pretend will be astounded by the idea that people can live on 50K or more a year and not feel like the world is unfair.

  7. I don’t think we should worry about the combination of test scores and increased spending. I saw an image earlier that summed it up perfectly. It was an image of a child holding a sign that said, “teach me so that I can learn, not so that I can pass tests.”

  8. Well, his mother is a teacher so he has some first hand experience with living on a teacher’s budget. If I had to rely solely on my salary my family would be in a heap of trouble; no new car, no college tuition for the kids.

  9. The question “How much should teachers receive?” highlights the benefits of federalism and markets. If a policy dispute turns on a matter of taste, numerous local policy regimes or a competitive market in goods and services allows for the expression of varied tastes while the contest for control of a State-wide monopoly provider must inevitably create unhappy losers. If a policy dispute turns on a matter of fact, where “What works?” is an empirical question, numerous local policy regimes or a competitive market in goods and services will generate more information will generate more information than will a State-wide or natonwide monopoly. A monopoly provider is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls; a retarded expeimental design.

  10. Matt Damon’s mom has written 5 books about how kids watch too much violence on TV. She wants laws to change this.

    “Efforts to limit violence in children’s media never get past the violation of free speech argument. But whose free speech are we talking about? Corporate America profits by the millions off children by marketing the violence.”

    By the way, did you catch Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum on TNT last night?

  11. A monopoly provider is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls; a retarded experimental design.

    So you would be in favor of cutting the military budget since it is a monopoly provider with no controls?

    Not that other experiments haven’t been tried. Charters have been around for years and the evidence is clear; they don’t provide the miracle cures at reduced costs as they claim, even with the advantages of selectivity and draconian policies regarding student behaviors.

  12. Mark Roulo says:

    “…he has some first hand experience with living on a teacher’s budget. If I had to rely solely on my salary my family would be in a heap of trouble; no new car, no college tuition for the kids.”

    There seems to be some sort of general belief that very few families can make it on one income for MOST jobs. Teachers don’t seem to be special in this sense.

    I suppose almost everyone in the USA is making do on a “shitty” salary based on this criteria, but that says more about the standards Matt is using for a non-shitty salary than it is for reality. ‘Twould be nice if we could *all* be rich … except that based on 1900s standards of living we are … and we don’t feel rich because our expectations (as a society) grew.

    I can imagine Matt holding the same view on salaries for most jobs in the US. I don’t see any obvious way to double everyone’s salary without doubling prices, too.

  13. P.S. He grew up in Cambridge MA. The average teacher salary there last year was $77,380 per year.

  14. $77k per year doesn’t go very far in the Boston metro area. When we lived just across the river in Allston from ’03-’06, the going rent for a small 2 BR apt. was around $2000 per month. I don’t know how accurate these rent figures are, but I find them plausible.

  15. 1. I didn’t have the money for a vacation this year.
    2. I’m already back working.

  16. The problem has two layers. Given the qualifications to be a teacher, teachers are not overpaid. They have about a year of schooling beyond a bachelor’s degree, and, unlike law or medicine, entry into the profession is not competitive. Teachers have no consistent, demonstrable expertise: some are excellent, some are incompetent, most are somewhere in between, but we have no reliable way of determining competence (student test scores are absurdly unreliable in this capacity).

    Until teacher training programs can reliably produce experts, the way med school and law school do, teachers will not be full-fledged professionals, they will not be accorded status and respect, and they will neither deserve nor receive salaries that are competitive with those of full-fledged professions.

    I’m writing about this currently at http://edcommentary.blogspot.com

  17. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    I don’t want to enter the “what is a fair teacher salary” discussion but for me it brought up an interesting observation.

    Some time ago (2004) the Fordham Institute published a report describing how a disproportionally large fraction of teachers in urban settings send their own children to private schools, more than better-paid non-teacher parents (http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2004/200409_wheredopublic/Fwd-1.1.pdf ). Quite naturally, the report caused a storm at the time and Gerald Bracey (RIP) attempted to discredit it (http://www.susanohanian.org/atrocity_fetch.php?id=2987 ) .

    And what was Bracey’s key argument?

    A). A teacher is not a family. Most teachers are married to another wage earner, often another teacher or an administrator. So the $42K figure is in no way reflective of the household income of teachers (we won’t even count what they pick up in the summer). For teachers, as for others, increasing family income is associated with a tendency to use private schools.

    B). Most teachers do not make a lot less than $42K. The NEA gives the 1999-2000 average salary as $43,740. But when Doyle compares them to all families who make less than $42K, he includes families in abject poverty. Statistics released last week indicated that about 18% of all Americans are living below the poverty level which is a meager $18,660 for a family of four. Few of these 18% have enrolled their children in private schools (!), some of which have annual tuition in excess of $20,000. Students from families of four where the income is $34,521 are still eligible for free or reduced price meals

    I am wondering why we should not apply Bracey’s argument to the current discussion too.

  18. Deirdre Mundy says:

    My husband is a librarian with a Masters– he makes 40K, which is a little less than what teachers with a masters and his level of experience make.

    But: He has to work all year, we pay 3 times as much for health insurance as they do, AND his retirement isn’t as generous.

    However, 40K is enough to support a large family in our area, provided you: Buy an older home in town instead of a new one in the subdivisions, Buy used cars, Drive to a vacation in Mammoth Cave instead of flying to one at disney world, and shop the sales, not designer.

    I know male teachers who support their families on this as well. What constitutes a bad salary varies ALOT depending on the area the teacher lives in. This is something that a lot of coastal people seem to be unable to wrap their heads around.

  19. Teachers chose to go into teaching and they probably had a better idea of what teachers do than most HS grads choosing a college major; after all, all teachers were once k-12 students and therefore had 13 years of watching teachers at work. Also, most of the teachers I’ve known (including many family members) have specifically identified the job security and family-friendly schedule as an important reason for their career choice. Like it or not, it’s also pretty much an established fact that women (in any field) are likely to trade better hours for less pay; if they choose to do so, I feel they lose their moral standing to complain about the situation. Bottom line, teachers (as a group, not all individuals) seem to complain so much that many people have stopped listening. If it’s that bad, move or make a career change. Non-teachers do it regularly (also including a number in my family). I also follow health-care issues and nurses, as a group, work far worse hours (nights, weekends, holidays) and also tend to work with people in high-stress situations, but I don’t hear much whining.

  20. Amy in Texas says:

    I support my two kids and I on a teacher’s salary and $500 monthly child support. In Texas this is quite doable (and why I moved back here from Seattle).
    In my previous teaching job I knew dozens of school personnel, some teachers and some who I just considered paper-pushers, making upwards of $20,000 more than I…for doing very little actual work. One of these people had a TV in their office!

    I think that some (not all) teachers and ALL administrators are actually overpaid for the job they do.

    I also just took a nice pay cut to work at a top charter and it’s worth every penny I’m giving up.

  21. Peace Corps says:

    The best teachers will never be paid what they are worth, and the worst teachers will always be paid more they are worth.

  22. Two issues:

    1. Some teachers make great salaries (see places like Damon’s hometown, Cambridge, or where I used to live, Westchester County, NY). I taught private school in Westchester County, and it was painful to look up what we were worth on the public salary scales. In some towns it was double what we were paid to teach private school.

    But many teachers make terrible salaries — see places like Alabama. Because our education budgets are localized rather than nationalized, salary scales vary hugely. I think that is the more relevant debate: is this range of scales fair, determined by state, town, etc.?

    2. Let’s also be honest: like every profession, there are those that work hard and those that do not work as hard as they could. If starting salaries for all teachers, regardless of state or city, began at $75,000, with bonuses of $25,000 for high-needs areas like math and sciences, it would certainly draw a lot of qualified people into the profession who might otherwise look elsewhere.

    But money alone isn’t enough to get people to care about what they do. There need to be better mechanisms — in BOTH public and private school systems — to encourage teachers to want to improve, grow professionally, and increase the rate of student learning. I’ve worked in places where competent people were supervising my work and expected results, and it does make me more effective and accountable as a teacher.

    So, yes, paying more can be effective, but without other infrastructure to ensure teachers are doing their job well, it can just be throwing money at the problem.

  23. Teachers aren’t overpaid.

  24. Oh, wait. I forgot to mention that they aren’t underpaid, either.

  25. Deirdre Mundy says:

    We were just discussing this over breakfast. Teachers make the same as nurses, but I know several people who went into ES teaching because nursing coursework was too hard. (All that science!)

    Teachers make the same as most engineers.

    Teachers (at least around here) are about even with policemen, train engineers, long distance truckers, construction workers (Make more hourly, but it has to last them all year) and a lot of skilled machinests.

    Teaching is a solidly middle class profession. If a teacher can’t afford the vacation she wants every year and usually buys used cars, well….. welcome to the middle class, kiddo! That’s called “average American.” And your friends who ARE taking lots of fancy vacations and buying snazzy cars are probably either doctors or running up major debt.

  26. Amy in Texas says:

    Cal-

    In my previous district, the teachers who teach a full load of academic subjects (core: math science English and history) who are accountable to testing are only a subsection of ‘teachers’. Maybe they make up half. The other half might teach three ‘keyboarding’ classes and coach the volleyball team, or earn six figures for working in athletics and not teach at all. Or they might staff a room of content mastery (special education) all day and do very little. The sp-ed department also hires teachers (babysitters) who shadow our Behavior Adjustment students all day.
    And every department has a ‘coordinator’ who does not teach a class or even tutor, who earns several thousand more than a regular teacher.
    All of the coordinators, assistant principals (6!) and other non-teaching officeholders would roam the school like a social clique, playing gags on each other and trotting out to lunch, while others held down a course load of upward of 200 students every other day.
    This is is anecdotal, but as a large public district I would bet that most districts are similar.
    To me that’s a bloated and wasteful way to run a school.
    And yes, I am down on athletics in public schools. I don’t think we can afford it as it stands.

  27. Alabama teachers can retire with full pension at 25 years, a very sore point among teachers in neighboring states who watch them come in in their mid-40s and work in those systems while collecting their pensions.

  28. Well, his mother is a teacher so he has some first hand experience with living on a teacher’s budget.

    His mother is a professor at a private college in Cambridge. Listening to limousine liberals willing to give the shirt off someone elses back is always amusing. He might have noticed that the unemployment rate is over 9% and the stock market is crashing and we’re probably headed to another recession. No doubt he feel that the solution is higher salaries for teachers funded by tax increases.

  29. palisadesk says:

    Hmmm. There is great variability in teacher salaries by state. While many who post here (including myself) feel their salaries are fair and adequate, this may not be the case everywhere. I am not in the highest-paid district (I make less than a police officer, more than a nurse, and less than a trucker for, say, Exxon ). However, a friend who works in a low-salary state has similar credentials to mine — academic BA, master’s in a high-demand subject area, teaches in an area which experiences staff shortages nationwide — and makes, after 22 years, less than half what I make in base salary. This person has a spouse whose income is significantly higher; otherwise, to educate their children, they would need to relocate.

    So inequities do exist. In relatively high-paying districts, the competition for teaching jobs, even elementary jobs, is intense. That doesn’t mean that only A-1 candidates get hired, but the quality of the pool is significantly higher than it was when I started out.

    So Damon is correct on *some* teacher salaries, but his statement cannot be taken as an accurate evaluation of the salary picture nationally.

  30. J. Remarque says:

    I think Alexis and Palisadesk suggest good points: Matt Damon generalizing about teachers’ salaries nationwide is just as ineffective as critics of teachers generalizing about their salaries. In some states, teachers do have “Cadillac” health plans and other remarkable benefits; in other states, not so much.

    I’m generally on the non-Matt-Damon side of this debate, but maybe if we all discussed these things state by state, we’d find a bit more common ground.

  31. Amy,

    I’ve seen a PE teacher’s life. I don’t want it. I see no reason to pay them less, although I’d love to see the state cut PE as a requirement.

    Ditto special ed RSP teachers. The state requires this nonsense. It’s not a fun job, and they spend a lot of time contacting parents and doing reviews.

    The sp-ed department also hires teachers (babysitters) who shadow our Behavior Adjustment students all day.

    These are teacher’s aides–and usually highly paid because no one wants the job.

    All of the coordinators, assistant principals (6!) and other non-teaching officeholders would roam the school like a social clique, playing gags on each other and trotting out to lunch, while others held down a course load of upward of 200 students every other day.

    While I agree there are a lot of non-teaching positions in a school and I’d love to see them cut, you’re pretty delusional about what they do all day. In schools with a lot of low income kids, they are monitoring the school for gang-related activity, dealing with cops, and so on. Moreover, as a rule, they aren’t paid as teachers, but as administrators.

    Look, I agree we waste money because of absurd federal and state mandates. But your beef comes down mostly to state required positions. Go yell at the state to get rid of them. But the job itself is no more over or underpaid than it is for academic teachers.

  32. Palisa,

    I was a bit stunned when I saw starting salaries in North Carolina–where I’m planning on going in a few years. Gulp.

  33. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Cal– compare them to real estate prices and grocery prices and gas prices— you’ll feel better.

    Honestly, when we’ve looked at West Coast librarian jobs, at least, they don’t pay nearly enough to give us the same lifestyle that we get on 40K in the midwest!

  34. Mike in Texas – cry me a river. Did someone hold a gun to your head and force you to be a teacher? If you don’t like it then do something else. Stop bitching about your salary as if your a prisoner of war and find a new way to make more money.

  35. Oh, librarian jobs pay terribly. (But then that’s another job I think should mostly go away. Forgive me.)

    But I lived in North Carolina. It wasn’t that much cheaper.

  36. Deirdre Mundy says:

    You know, as a fairly net-savvy person I used to be confused about why we needed librarians in the age of google.

    Then my husband started work as a public librarian and I understood—- The majority of the world is unable to tell an authoritative source from a quack, or to find basic info EVEN WITH A GOOGLE SEARCH.

    On the other hand, MLS degrees (like Teaching degrees) are, IMO, vastly overrated. Any reasonably smart person with a good range general knowledge could become a good librarian within 6 months of taking the job. And there’s no reason why, for the amount of work required, an MLS should take more than 6 months to complete.

    State library requirements are as worthless as most teacher-licensing requirements.

    But we do need librarians, and they actually are a pretty cost-effective means of providing educational resources to the community. (They also teach computer classes, help with research projects, etc.) And one reason their pay is the same as teachers even though they get less time off is because when THEY have a disruptive teen, they get to ban him from the library for 6 weeks to a year! If teachers had that power, HS would be much more pleasant…..

  37. On the other hand, MLS degrees (like Teaching degrees) are, IMO, vastly overrated. Any reasonably smart person with a good range general knowledge could become a good librarian within 6 months of taking the job. And there’s no reason why, for the amount of work required, an MLS should take more than 6 months to complete.

    Exactly. I’d say they are even more overrated, because at least teaching credentials get you a job. The competition for library jobs is insane, and absolutely zero reason for the education.

    I know most people don’t know how to find definitive sources. I just am not sure it matters. For the money, libraries are a huge waste–and for all the talk about their necessity for poor people, they get funding because middle class people like free books.

  38. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Well, per person in a district, library funding is pretty negligible– especially when compared to schools. So if you wanted to compare, dollar for dollar, what did a better job lifting poor people out of poverty…they start looking a lot better. But yes, they really do have funding because the middle class likes them, and, at least in the Midwest, they’re some of the last bastions of “middle brow culture.”

    I personally think they’re at least as worthwhile as park districts, local symphonies, and all the other ‘quality of life’ things that go into a community— but I’ve always been the kid who spends all her free time at the library, so I’m biased. I have noticed that they seem to do a good job with adult literacy, job training, and other things as well– and I think they provide a valuable escape for a small subset of kids.

    On the other hand, there are also a lot of wasteful areas of library funding, especially in areas where there are lots of little independent libraries instead of more efficient library systems– pooling resources to buy books, music, movies and databases works better when the pool hits a certain minimum size– and you could probably go hard-core libertarian and go to a system funded by donations and user fees.

    However, in a lot of small towns, the Carnegie library is really the heart of the community…. so there’s a bunch of history and emotion tied up in it too— much like with the school systems! 😉

  39. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Also, my husband likes to joke that if Libraries had football and baseball teams that competed against each other, they’d get a lot more funding….

  40. . So if you wanted to compare, dollar for dollar, what did a better job lifting poor people out of poverty…they start looking a lot better.

    Libraries over the past 40 years have done next to nothing to pull people out of poverty. Schools aren’t supposed to pull people out of poverty. They’re supposed to educate them to the best of their ability–and besides that, they offer babysitting for kids who would otherwise be on the street. They give far more bang for the buck.

    Given the inordinate cost of pensions, I think we should privatize most of the nonsense that communities fund, at this point, so “they’re better than symphonies” is not a compelling argument.

    Of course, as wasteful as public libraries are, they aren’t quite as big a waste as school libraries, which offer everything public libraries do at twice the cost and half the quality.

  41. I’m with Cal on the issue of school libraries, in general. The ones at the schools my kids attended were barely used – (1) kids had almost no time during the day and (2) the library staff didn’t arrive until school started and was first out the door at the end of the day; total waste of resources. Until my oldest started JHS, I used to wonder at the large number of kids working at the public library every evening and on weekends. However, I have lived near two towns (in two states) that had a good idea: the library was physically attached to the JHS/HS and the resources were shared between the town and the school. During school hours, the bigger computer area was reserved for students, but was otherwise available to the community and the hours included afternoons, evenings and weekends (doors to school were locked after school).

    However, I’m not in agreement that babysitting is a valuable attribute of schools. Drop the required age to 14 or completion of 8th grade, kick out the dangerous and the perennially disruptive and work with the kids who are willing to work.

  42. Drop the required age to 14 or completion of 8th grade, kick out the dangerous and the perennially disruptive and work with the kids who are willing to work.

    And then the cops are really, really mad and we spend a fortune on prison guards, who are much more expensive than teachers.

    I’m glad you acknowledge that a major function of low income schools is babysitting, given that most people find that suggestion a bit shocking. But I wasn’t arguing that it was a “valuable” attribute–simply that it did the job better than libraries.

    The real issue is this: once we agree that a major, if unstated, function of schools is to keep at risk kids under supervision so they aren’t committing crime, then we agree that a huge chunk of the money devoted to schools would not be freed up if we did it by kicking those kids out if they didn’t play nice. It’d just be spent elsewhere.

    If we could be honest about this function, we could start to see if we could get a better bang for the buck, but so far we’re still pretending that everyone is supposed to go to college.

  43. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Cal– perhaps schools could become self-funding by offering mandatory classes in “license plate making”, “Rock breaking”, “Roadside cleanliness” and “Call center staffing?”

  44. Roger Sweeny says:

    I’m glad you acknowledge that a major function of low income schools is babysitting

    You could have left out low income.

  45. I usually only look at fox news just to marvel at how terrible they are, but every now and then, just to mess with me, they have something of value.

    This opinion piece on Matt Damon is well written and on target:

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/08/05/matt-damons-silly-teacher-rant/?test=faces

    momof4, my school librarian won the Librarian Of The Year award because there wasn’t one missing, vandalized or overdue book during the the entire year. How was she able to accomplish this? The library was opened after school started and closed the minute school ended. It was closed during lunch because she said, “Librarians have to eat too, you know!”

    As for P.E., I once floated a proposal at my school that we apply for a waiver to replace P.E. classes with reading classes. Nothing came of it. But about two weeks later, out of the blue, I got a call from a woman from the state department of education who did nothing but yell at me for 20 minutes about how essential P.E. was for a child’s development. If you dare make a public statement that questions the importance of P.E., be advised that the word may travel far and incur the lunatic wrath of the secret but powerful P. E. lobby/cult.

    Amy, I know a district that has “resource teachers.” They set their own hours and aren’t responsible for teaching classes. The only downside to their job is that they’re universally hated by the regular teachers.

  46. At the same time that far too many kids are overweight and underexercised, there are far more kids who are full-time serious athletes. The latter should not be required to take PE at MS-HS levels; i.e. there should be an automatic waiver for such kids. That used to be true for kids playing school sports; one season equalled one semester of PE and it could easily be extended to non-school sports (which exist now at a far higher rate than formerly). It’s idiotic and often counter-productive (over-use injuries) for a swimmer who trains 5 hours a day or a soccer player who plays on 4 teams in 5 leagues to waste school time on PE; they’re more likely to need a study hall.

    Even for kids who need more exercise, school isn’t the most efficient place to provide it. Too much time is wasted on changing clothes and showering and, if showers are not included, MS-HS kids (understandingly) won’t get sweaty. Also, the kids most in need of exercise are typically most likely to avoid exerting themselves.

    As far as babysitting is concerned, don’t let the unwilling compromise opportunities for the willing. Put the dangerous in what used to be called reform school and warehouse the chronically disruptive in a situation they don’t like – perhaps in individual study carrels with no personal electronics allowed and classical music piped into the room. Or, put them to work – there are plenty of things kids over 12 could do (forget union rules).

  47. As far as babysitting is concerned, don’t let the unwilling compromise opportunities for the willing. Put the dangerous in what used to be called reform school and warehouse the chronically disruptive in a situation they don’t like – perhaps in individual study carrels with no personal electronics allowed and classical music piped into the room. Or, put them to work – there are plenty of things kids over 12 could do (forget union rules).

    You really are clueless. If you’re going to announce dicta, read up. Check out disparate impact. To say nothing of the fact that you’re ignoring what I began with–all of your pronouncements would be much more expensive. Far more (but never all) kids might be engaged if we were allowed to teach at the level of their ability, rather than ignoring it.

    Or, put them to work – there are plenty of things kids over 12 could do (forget union rules).

    Ditto about the clueless. You really just pick your villains and then ignore reality. It’s not union rules that keep 12 year olds out of the workplace. Read up. To say nothing of the fact that you can’t require anyone to work. So some will get knocked up, some will just sit around and do nothing until they are 18, when they will have even fewer skills and be more of a societal drain.

    All of your absurd pronouncements will just make things more expensive.

    So again–once we accept that school is babysitting for the low ability kids (I incorrectly said low income above), then we should check out what would be the best way to get the largest number to be something approaching productive.

    The problem is that we don’t acknowledge this. The problem is NOT that we don’t take your advice, because you’re not terribly aware of, you know, reality.

    Psst: “don’t let the unwilling compromise opportunities for the willing” is identical to “kick out the dangerous and the perennially disruptive and work with the kids who are willing to work.” I get it. Everyone gets it. It’s hardly groundbreaking. Most people even agree with you, but have a better grasp of the underlying problem. No need to repeat it in every single post.

  48. Do you really think that I don’t know that changing the way schools operate would require serious changes in thinking and changes in regulations and laws? I am perfectly familiar with disparate impact, for instance, but it’s effect is rather blunted in primarily black urban schools; ditto for ability/level grouping. Also, unions – teachers’ unions – are likely to oppose non-union work at schools, by anyone; even volunteers. I’ve seen instances where they blocked parent/community volunteers from painting, cleaning, doing repairs and landscaping. Of course, in some places kids can work legally; in one place I’ve lived, 12-year-olds could bag groceries and move up to cashier at 13 or 14. A schoolmate of my son’s was managing the local Burger King (not shift manager, the franchise manager) while he was in HS – had started as a part-timer. There’s no fundamental reason kids couldn’t be required to have a full-time job if they’re not in school. The first step is to consider doing things differently because continuing to do the same things and expecting different results is one definition of stupidity.

  49. Correction: I meant to say; “its effect, ” not “It’s effect” – and that error is one of my pet peeves – sorry.

    Yes, Cal, I am also aware of the refusal to acknowledge inconvenient realities – like differing ability and motivation – that’s part of the reason for my last sentence.