Sunday, December 16, 2012

I'll Take One Teacher Over Ten Businessmen Any Day

There was a letter to the editor in the West Bend Daily News that got Owen Robinson all perturbed. The letter writer was complaining of the comparatively lesser pay teachers receive compared to a business person. As I noted, Robinson took great umbrage from this and wrote quite the rant:
There are three really glaring issues with this. First is the notion that the level of one’s education should determine one’s level of compensation. While in the aggregate the level of education trends with compensation, it is not universal by any means. The level of a person’s compensation is determined by the demand for skills coupled with the supply of people who have those skills. If we were silly with neurosurgeons, they wouldn’t make very much. Conversely, if there were only three guys in Wisconsin who know how to drive a truck, they would make a fortune. Specifically in this case, we currently have plenty of people qualified to teach as indicated by the number of qualified applicants whenever positions open up. The taxpayers, as the employer, should only pay what is required to attract and retain a qualified teacher - and not a penny more.

The second thing is related to the first thing. To say that a starting teacher makes $33,000 is to reveal the effect of union contracts that relegate everyone to the same level. If the market were at work, then we may be talking about the “average starting pay” for teachers. Some teachers, whose skills are more commonplace may not deserve a starting pay of $33,000. Other teachers, whose skills are more rare, may deserve quite a bit more.

The final thing that irks me is the same as the second. The notion that all “business persons” are the same. What does that term mean? Business degrees range from management to finance to accounting to marketing and on and on. To say that a starting “business person” is paid $50,000 means nothing. When I got out of school (yes, I have one of those nasty business degrees), some of my peers started at $80k+ and others at much less. My first salary was $19,500. I earn considerably more now and yet I still have the one and only degree. We again return to the fact that one’s compensation is, and should be, derived by an equation of one’s skillset, the demand for that skillset, and its scarcity. If you don’t feel like you earn enough, then develop a skillset with more demand or more scarcity.
You can just feel the vitriol dripping from this. You can also can get gobsmacked by the stupidity of it.

In the first paragraph, Robinson complains that a person's education level shouldn't be a factor in their pay, but rather their "skillset," by which I believe he means skill set. He cites neurosurgeons as an example, pointing out their scarcity and expertise. What he fails to realize is that the neurosurgeon's specialized skill set is due to the fact that they got a higher level of education.

Owen then makes another mistake in implying that the fair market is at work when it comes to determining the income for business person as opposed those evil union workers, and that compensations is some how only relevant to one's skill set and its scarcity.

That's easily proved to be a false notion with one of Robinson's favorite people - U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Sunspots). RoJo didn't make his millions by having a particular skill set, unless you consider marrying into a wealthy family and then having your father-in-law support your company - which he also started - as a marketable skill set.

Another fine example of how bogus this claim is any of the myriad of stories of the executive that drove his company into the ground but then walked away with millions, or more often, tens of millions of dollars in bonuses, severance pay and other golden parachutes. A recent example of this nonsense is what happened at Hostess. Management drove the company into the ground and then drove away with millions of dollars. I can't even imagine how Robinson or anyone else could rationalize how failure is worth all of that money.

Owen's third mistake is saying that there hasn't been mass layoffs of teachers. When Scott Walker, another one of Robinson's BFFs, implemented his agenda, thousands of teachers in Wisconsin were laid off. If I recall correctly, Robinson didn't exactly lament the loss to our educational system. And that doesn't even count the years of smaller layoffs before Walker's attack on students.

The bigger picture that Robinson is missing is that the "free market" has misplaced priorities. To think that a business person is worth more to society than a teacher is a sign of sick world.

It doesn't matter how good of a widget maker a person is, the world isn't dependent on widgets to carry on. However, it does need well-educated people to conceptualize the widget and to find better ways of making them. And to get that education requires good teachers. Conversely, the good teacher doesn't necessarily need the widget in order to educate their students.

Finland provides a good example of how education should be run:

Higher expectations from teachers, proper respect and pay for teacher, no private schools, no standardized testings, and they have the best education system in the world.

The most egregious part of Robinson's diatribe is the fact that he wrote it while the nation is still reeling from the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, and while stories of the heroic teachers, like Victoria Soto, started to come out:
When Adam Lanza stormed into Victoria Soto's first-grade classroom, he was armed with semi-automatic weapons with which he had already killed 20 small children. She had only her courage, and her instinct to protect her class.

Ms Soto, 27, faced the killer, and saved her children. Accounts of what happened differ. One, posted on Tumblr by a friend, says that she had bundled the class into a large closet, and told the gunman that they had gone to the gym. Another says she was found huddled over the children. Either way, Lanza shot her, and then turned the gun on himself. Her cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News: "I'm just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm. It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children, and in our eyes she's a hero."
We entrust our children to their teachers every day, not only to educate them, but to keep them safe. This is not a job that just anybody can or should do. It is one of the noble callings, same as police officers, firefighters, nurses, EMTs and so many others.

And since it is a noble calling, it only makes sense that they are treated with respect and with proper compensation.  And since Robinson points out that we, the taxpayers, or their employers, if we don't treat them the right way, that means we are bad bosses.


  1. Owen is from West Bend, which is the land that time forgot, and might have one of the worst school boards in the Country.

    Casually reading his blog you can see how they treat good teachers in the district, obvuously education is not a priority of the majority of west bend citizens.

  2. "You can just feel the vitriol dripping from this."

    A dripping that pales in comparison to this deluge by one of Waukesha County's finest, most patriotic conservatives:

    "I was sickened watching President Obama do one of his "I...I...I..." speeches after this tragedy." ... "This man's arrogance and self-absorption knows no bounds. During his scripted speech, he wiped away crocodile tears - I really do believe that these little gestures were written into his speech."

    This woman has no sense of decency whatsoever. To use this tragedy as an opportunity to shower the President with hatred is in my humble opinion an act of pure evil. It makes me wonder, if the citizens of Merton School District had known of the vile nature of this woman, would they have voted her onto the school board?

    Well written as usual, Capper.

    1. Oh, my. Is she still around? She is definitely not a well person. And she is on the school board? What the hell is wrong with people?

    2. i couldnt find any info that she is on a school board...which one is she on

  3. what the writer fails to understand is....teachers are neuro sureons....they help develop the brain. They are heart surgeons...they work with hearts. They are orthopedic surgeons...they teach the young to run for dreams, and walk towards they light. They are poets, writers, technicians, scientists, geologists, diplomats, psychologists, painters, politicians, astronauts, architects, lawyers.....
    ....without teachers...we are all just primitive hunter-gatherers bashing each other with clubs. Teachers do shape our future...and, to his point...without teachers...there are no businessmen.

    1. Thank you for standing up for us and for seeing what we are...

  4. There are many many many things that our friends at boots and sabers "fail to understand"

  5. Owen fails to show even the most moderate of comprehension.

  6. The Westboro Baptist "Church" has announced plans to protest at the funerals of the victims of the tragedy in Connecticut -- as if they still needed to prove that that group is run by morally bankrupt, miserable excuses for human beings. In response, a friend of mine has started a White House petition asking for the WBC's tax-exempt status to be removed:

    They've hidden behind that status for far too long.

  7. Business has the goal of making a profit. Schools have the goal of teaching students. The comparisons of businesses and schools don't really make sense to me.

    But, if we insist upon the business analogy then off the top of my head, I would say that
    I don't really think the taxpayers are the bosses of the teachers. The principal is the boss. The taxpayer might be something more like a shareholder, the dividends are the educated students. The dividends would be paid out to everyone in the community, not just businesses. So, one kind of dividend is someone who grows up to become a public worker, another a soldier, another, someone who volunteers, another a chaplain, another a computer programmer. The other dividends are people who on an everyday basis continue to learn, help others, give Toys to Tots, take care of their ill moms, talk a friend out of doing something drastic, that kind of immeasurable thing.

  8. Would Robinson stand in front of his employees to save them like Victoria Soto did in front of her students? Take a poll of teachers and CEOs. I bet a helluva lot more teachers would take the bullet for their kids than CEOs for employees. I am a teacher and I know that I would without hesitation. They have their life ahead of them.

  9. Another right wing businessman spouting the doctrine of the Almighty Marketplace. Isn't it time we quit even paying recognition to that dogma?

    Would that there were a truly free market. Unfortunately, those types' definition of "free," as applied to the marketplace, is freedom to manipulate wages and prices to their own advantage.

  10. All of the women killed at Newtown died trying to protect their students. One of the others was found covering them with her body to protect them. They, and their luckier comrades who had time to lock their doors and survived, are all heroes. Many of Ms. Soto's students actually DID die in the attack, but six who saw her shot escaped the classroom unnoticed and survived. It is not clear if anyone else in the room did. Most current reports state that she died "trying to protect her students." In any event, they are martyrs.