Among the many expressions of thankfulness we hear at this time of the year, appreciation of teachers seems to always rank very high on most people’s lists.
Being empowered with knowledge and guidance provided by educators is a cornerstone to a successful life.
It’s what makes our country great and safeguards our future.
I’ll ask a question that is not new: Why don’t we value them as much as we do thugs and felons who happen to be gifted with athletic prowess that excites us so much?
The best demonstration of this quandary in our nation’s expressions of the things we value was presented on, of all places, The Comedy Channel.
In a spoof of ESPN’s top-rated Sports Center programming, we get the “Teaching Center” to illustrate just how upside down things have become in the choices we make.
The segment leads off with the breathless announcement of news of the top teacher in the nation being traded from her Ohio school to Public School 431 in New York City.
In front of graphics from classrooms across the country on multiple monitors behind her, she’s modestly celebrating her $80 million in guaranteed money over the next six years.
She will also get another $40 million in incentives based on her students’ test scores. It’s the largest contract in “UTL” history.
Next is coverage of the high school teacher draft. “Central Rapids High School” finished the year with the nation’s worst test scores, so they get the first draft pick.
They choose calculus teacher “Mike Yoast” from “Tulsa Teachers College” and, “just like that” the Teaching Center hosts declare, “you’re a millionaire” and identify Mike as a “natural mathlete.”
Then they go on to explain how much better his family’s life will now become as they emerge out of a paycheck-to-paycheck existence from his father’s compensation as a humble pro football player.
You can’t help but chuckle when you view the video, but it’s really not funny.
It would be were it not for the reality that we pay our very best teachers something like 2 percent of the average pay raked in by the top 15 players in the NFL.
The comparison doesn’t end there, however.
If you are really good at sacking quarterbacks, you will still be rewarded with $13 million annually, even though you have brutally beaten up your girlfriend and thrown her on a bed of firearms.
Sometime in the past, teachers were actually allowed to paddle a misbehaving student, but doing so these days will result in consequences that will possibly have such an educator facing assault charges.
If an above-average pass catcher verbally assaults sports reporters in a packed locker room during a profane and obscene tirade, he will still get to collect $70 million from his five-year contract.
Any teacher so inclined in his/her workplace will see their career ended.
The real shame in all of this is not just the disconnect from what should be but the spectacle of our own behavior and confirmation of how our values are corrupt.
We will stand and cheer at the top of our lungs for the spectacular catch and slamming the quarterback to the ground. The more violent, the better we like it.
The team’s owner will declare the thugs to be emotionally charged team leaders, extend their lucrative contracts and plan for the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile we will complain like crazy of any tax initiative to reward teachers with salaries that would increase their earnings to just 1 percent of what we pay the gladiators on the field of play.
What’s wrong with us?
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.