Chan Lowe: What Sandy
Hook taught us about teachers
By Chan Lowe December
As the nation wades into parallel and interconnected discussions about gun
rights, mental illness and the culture of violence in this country, we should
also be considering a topic no less related to the Connecticut school tragedy: Are we doing
right by our teachers?
Never has the dedication of the people who practice the teaching profession
been spotlighted in the way it has over the past few days. We were shown, in
dramatic terms, to what lengths teachers are willing to go to fulfill the
crucial mandate they have been given: the education and welfare of the most
precious members of our society. Yet they are so often treated with disdain.
Teaching is a calling. Not everyone has the will or the stamina to do it
well. It takes love, pride, and an almost sacred commitment that can’t be
explained in words. In America,
teachers have traditionally been underpaid, because in America’s early communities,
"schoolmarms” were always spinsters who were not expected to support families.
In other countries, the teaching profession is considered so noble that it
is well paid in comparison to many other professions, as it should be. In this
country, politicians—acting as proxies for taxpayers—haggle with, lowball,
denigrate and harass teachers as if their demands for job security and decent
pay are unreasonable and selfish.
Let’s talk, then, about receiving proper remuneration for the value of
one’s work. A hedge fund CEO manipulates money for his investors. While he’s
busy "creating wealth,” making himself and his clients richer, it could be
argued that he is contributing nothing of lasting value to society.
A teacher invests in the future, student by student, and his or her legacy
consists of the product of those students’ fertile minds. Occasionally,
teachers are even called upon to throw themselves into harm’s way to protect
the lives of their charges as if they were their own children—and last week six
of them demonstrated most profoundly that they do not shrink from the task.
About this, no one can argue.
So, who deserves to be paid more, and what does the reality tell us about
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