General Question

gimmedat's avatar

Are teachers undervalued in our society? If you say "yes," why?

Asked by gimmedat (3943points) September 25th, 2008 from iPhone
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19 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

Most definitely they are and that is wrong, because they are molding the future.

I wish teachers in the USA were honored, venerated and revered, the way they are in Japan.

They certainly deserve to be treated that way; at least most of them.

thegodfather's avatar

Teachers believe they are undervalued in society, no matter what we have to say about that, if no other reason than they hold to an outdated union.

Society values teachers, but only certain kinds. For example, professors get a lot of clout and respect, but it’s because they have earned it and have had to put up with enormous amounts of scrutiny and bureaucracy that secondary and elementary school teachers never face. When was the last time a high school teacher had to publish something to keep his/her job?

tWrex's avatar

Oh yeah! My Ma has been teaching for about 15 years now and she still gets paid nothing! She’ll never be able to retire either! I know that part of that is because she teaches in a Catholic school, but it’s still relevant. And my wife is a TA in a self-contained autistic classroom and has been in the district for 4 years now. She get’s paid the same that a Target worker does after their 30 days is up. It’s sickening.

We treat the people in this country that do the most with the least respect, and generally they’re paid the least as well.

tWrex's avatar

@thegodfather A secondary or elementary school teacher may not need to publish anything to keep their job, but they do have to participate in continuing education classes. And to further their career they have to have a Masters minimum. On top of that, there really aren’t that many professors that still have to do stuff like that unless they’re teaching at Harvard or Brown or University of Chicago. Most state colleges don’t mandate those requirements.

And yes the teachers union does suck in a great deal of ways.

St.George's avatar

@tWrex – and we make them the scapegoats for everything that’s wrong with education. Teachers get a bad rap, and that’s not going to change unless we, as a society, can change what/how people think about teachers.

tWrex's avatar

@Megan64 You will notice that I never blamed the problems of childrens behaviors on teachers. While I support some of the stances that the question asker had, I never said it was their fault for ADD or anything else of that nature. And there are a great deal of things wrong with the education system that is directly a result of the teachers. There are also things that are way beyond their control. A perfect example is the bill that Ted Kennedy sponsored called “No Child Left Behind”, which was actually an addendum to a bill that was passed in the 70’s. Unfortunately, they passed the bill and issued no funding to support it. That is an example of something out of the teachers hands. Tenure. That’s something that’s in the teachers hands and a huge problem in the public education system.

St.George's avatar

@tWrex: I was agreeing with you and then adding my own thoughts after.

tWrex's avatar

@Megan64 Ah. Got it. My bad… =)

SuperMouse's avatar

YES THEY ARE!! That needed to be shouted! Teachers are undervalued in society. They are underpaid, under-respected, and mistreated in general.

Everyone seems to forget that our teachers are shaping our future. That is an awesome responsibility, and given the treatment our teachers endure, those who manage to stick with the profession are incredibly caring and amazingly special people.

My sister is a teacher who gives her heart and soul to her job and her students. She is dedicated and is a teacher who makes a difference in the life of every middle school student she teaches. She should never have to worry about finances, health insurance, or the cost of prescription meds. Period.

JackAdams's avatar

One of my closest (and dearest) friends, is my former music teacher from grades 4 – 6, with whom I keep in semi-regular contact, and I have known him since 1960, a total of 48 years.

I find out from his equally-wonderful wife if he needs anything (or wants something specific), and if I can get it for him, I will.

One time, I found out that, because he is a pianist, he admired (and is a lifelong fan of) Liberace. So, for his birthday one year, I sent him a box that contained movies in which he had appeared, plus movies of his concerts.

His wife told me that when he saw what I had sent to him, he cried tears of happiness.

You can’t just tell your former teachers how much they were/are appreciated; you need to show them!

EmpressPixie's avatar

Yes, they are. Those who teach our children as they grow shape and mold them, yet teaching is often considered a bad job, doesn’t pay well, and teachers aren’t greatly respected. I object to it because teachers shape the future—literally. They are the ones that put the effort in to educate your kid, teach them values (yes, they do), and give them the drive to succeed in life. Parents are important, but when school is in session, kids see their teachers more than their own parents.

thegodfather's avatar

Um, parents are shaping the future. Why don’t we pay them to do that job?


See, that’s a ludicrous idea, and makes common sense. I just don’t see how “they shape the future” as a viable argument for why they should be paid more. Several other jobs out there “shape the future” and aren’t highly paid either. Notice that in most private schools, schoolteachers are paid more than in the public school system. That’s because parents don’t have to put their kids there, and the school can charge any tuition they want. This brings competition into the mix, and competition drives up the salary, not down. Teachers, if they want to see the true value society places on their job, ought to get out of their outdated union and fight for market competition.

As for the comment about needing master’s degrees to further their career… What? Doesn’t every career need that now, with bachelor’s degree inflation? See, teachers live in a dreamworld if they think that getting a master’s degree is too much to ask.

tWrex's avatar

Firstly, I can’t even think of anything to respond to that because that rationale is so idiotic. Because it’s their kid. How about that?

Next, no one argued that they aren’t the only one shaping the future. Here’s the list of underpaid, overworked, future shapers (in order of importance):
The Military (The most underpaid in the world for what they do and with the worst benefits)
The Police
The Firefighters
The Teachers

There ya go. Doctors are paid quite enough as are nurses, so with just those occupations I just listed, you can have an almost perfect society. The only thing left would be farmers and they are paid very well as well.

Your idea that private school teachers are paid more is definitely misplaced. Sure universities can do this, but the majority of private schools – which are Catholic or Protestant – pay their teachers less than what a public school teacher gets paid. I know this firsthand. My mother has taught at 2 different schools in 2 totally different communities (one extremely poor, the other extremely well to do) and she’s been teaching for 15 years. She makes about 1/3 less than a public school teacher and she has a retirement plan that makes you laugh. She works their because she likes working for God so that’s her prerogative, but the idea that private school teachers get paid more at the elementary/middle/high school level is ludicrous.

Now private schools usually do not have tenure so they are all at-will employees so that does drive up competition and it does make a better breed of teacher available.

Finally no not every career needs that. Doctors need it. Nurses need it. Does a programmer need it? no. A designer? no. An architect? no. What about someone who has a degree in business? Are they going to need a masters? Nopity nope nope nope. See a trend? Key fields need more than a bachelors, but more often than not job requirements are Bachelors degree and Experience. And no one said it was too much to ask for them to have a Masters. It was simply stated that they had to do the same thing a college professor did, as far as education pursuing goes.

thegodfather's avatar


An architect not needing an advanced degree? Or a businessman? Many programs are adjusting because of the recent inflation of MBAs. The world you live in is probably ten years behind the times. Just take a look at listings on Those jobs that require a bachelors + experience are entry level.

You’re absolutely right about military, policeman, firefighters, and that furthers my argument. They don’t get better benefits than teachers, yet teachers seem to think that they deserve more because of how they “shape the future”. And I pointed out that it makes sense that parents don’t get paid for their jobs, you’ve helped my argument with your points, though it appears that you believe it disagrees with what I assert about teachers not deserving higher pay. You’re absolutely right, and it demonstrates that teachers are not much different from cops or soldiers, except for the fact that they work less hours and have longer vacations. Even more of a reason that their gripes about not being valued enough by society are unfounded and more the rhetoric of their union than anything else.

I wish I could provide a link, but there was a 20/20 episode on “Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity” and John Stossel made some salient points on why teachers think of themselves as undervalued more than anyone else thinking the same. They get paid per hour almost as much as doctors, but have had much less student loans to pay than doctors, and put in less hours than almost any other major career. That’s just the data, do with it what you will.

What teachers need is for the public school system to open up. Vouchers are a bad idea, in my opinion, but there’s got to be a way to have market competition in schools. Teachers would be better off, but their pretty little union would suffer, and that’s why they want to bind American taxpayers to make them rich, not play by the rules of any other job market.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

When you say teachers you are lumping them all together. All teachers are not undervalued. Some are way, way overvalued. Get rid of tenure and the union and pay the good teachers the best money. I cannot comprehend how people as smart as teachers got themselves into this mess. In my community we value our teachers greatly. Unfortunately, we don’t value their union.

tWrex's avatar

@thegodfather Architects don’t need advanced degrees. They have their own certifications that they have to pass, just like a teacher. And I guess Chicago is pretty behind the times. I mean, shit it’s damn near close to fuckin’ the U.P. eh?

I agree with most of what you assert in that those other professions do a great deal more than the teachers and that they are far more undervalued especially the military. hey protesters. what if we stopped doing what we do. what would your hippie ass do then?. If your gripe is with the union then hell, we’re on the same side! The teachers union is as outdated and outmoded as most of the teachers that rely on that system to keep their jobs! I guess my argument would be that there are some areas and places where teachers are greatly underpaid for what they do. I think that teachers that work in special-ed or self-contained classrooms deserve more pay. They deal with more and have 100x’s the paperwork a normal teacher does. And I do my parents taxes and I see my wife’s check and neither of them get paid what a doctor does. Not even close.If you’re looking at it in respect to the money they have to pay for their education I suppose I can see what you’re saying, but after the first 10 years the doctor will be well ahead of the teacher. So I guess initially it makes sense, but not in the grander scheme of things.

I do agree with the voucher system. I think that would show people where the issues lie. I think it would get rid of overpaid pompous principals that don’t manage their staff and it would force good teachers to find better places to work.

I think we agree on a great deal of things, I just don’t think we see eye-to-eye on the undervaluement of them. I think as a blanket statement it’s not quite accurate, but if looked at on a local level then you may or may not have an argument.

thegodfather's avatar

Good thoughts. Get rid of the teachers union, and a lot of the problems they gripe about would probably get solved more quickly than appealing to govt. and voters. I favor the Belgian system of public schooling, which is more along the lines of not paying for schools with taxes but with tuition and students can study wherever they want; but schools have to supply top-notch teachers and low tuition to compete. Just like with products. If a car sucks then you’re not going to pay a high price for it, if it’s nice then you’ll be willing to pay more for it. Simple economics that still haven’t found their way into schools. University level—it works there and we have, collectively speaking, the best set of universities in the world. Why not get our High Schools and elementary schools in gear?

Also, you’re right about special ed, etc., teachers. Much more paperwork and technical understanding of psychology, etc. More work, more technical skillset should equal more pay, but in most states, no.

tWrex's avatar

No doubt. My biggest issue is that people expect education. It is federally mandated now, but that was not what the founding fathers envisioned. Privatization of the schooling system would change America for the better. My sister lives in a town where they just built 8 new schools because they had no foresight to see the population boom in their area. Now their taxes just went from somewhere around 3 grand to over 8 a year. With 5 grand a year, you could most definitely send a kid to a private school. Hell, tuition at the school my Ma works at is less than that!

EmpressPixie's avatar

A quick note on special ed teachers since it was brought up: they should NOT have classes of normies forced on them to “integrate them” with the rest of the school and “be more of a team player”. If the school wants another English teacher they should flipping hire another English teacher and leave my spec ed teachers alone! (I’ve seen it more than once, but most recently to my most favorite of all teachers.)

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