Contributor: Kavya Davuluri
Education used to be important. That is not to say it is no longer important, but rather its importance has significantly decreased. In fact, 30 years ago, America was the leader in number of high school diplomas attained, but today, we are 36th in the world.
What’s to blame for this lack in learning? Some would blame the government, saying that inadequate resources are being rationed to schools. Others would point to technology, claiming that, with the increase in video games and online learning, human interaction and its correct understanding is diminished. Yet there are still fingers pointing to parents being too busy to encourage studies, the school system’s criteria for making it harder for children to excel, and so on.
Although there are many sources for the lowering standards of American education, I find blame to be related to the teachers. Not the teachers themselves, but their wages. Why? Allow me to explain.
Suppose I hand you a book to read. And you, as an individual thirsty for knowledge, happily embark upon this literary adventure. I don’t even have to give you anything. The story is your prize.
Now imagine I replace your enticing novel with a dense textbook on ancient protozoans only found in some pockets of the ocean. Perhaps this is interesting to you. But, let us assume that you aren’t exhilarated by this particular subject. And so, the book is less fun to read. It is harder to comprehend, and to keep at it, the required effort is greatly increased. Maybe if I give you a prize, like a cookie for each chapter you read, the effort required is lessened. It’s easier and even somewhat enjoyable to read the book.
But if I kept piling books as dense as bricks onto your to-be-read pile, it would become more difficult for you to become dedicated to each book, knowing that there are still many more words to read, concepts to understand, and so forth.
This is how teachers in America live. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for high school teachers in 2014 was $56, 310. Without the proper compensation for their efforts, teachers find it harder and harder to stay dedicated to their jobs, both in terms of performance and actually keeping them. In the U.S., 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first three years, and almost 50% leave by their fifth year.
Now, what exactly does this mean for the students left in the classrooms, especially in low-income settings? In low-income settings overcoming the disadvantages that the environment presents the students is analogous to handing you a ton of difficult books, challenges that have to be overcome through focus and hard work. For teachers, to have to surmount all these challenges with a relatively constant and low pay is difficult. Ultimately, it is the education of their students that suffers. Although this may not be intentional, it is far from falsehood.
An article published by the Center for American Progress puts it bluntly by adding a name to the situation: “Richie Brown, a North Carolina educator who was a candidate for teacher of the year, is the type of teacher that every principal should want. He was teaching in a high-demand subject area in a low-income school just outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. However, Brown decided to leave the profession last year after six years of teaching, and the reason was simple: He did not earn enough money to support his family.”
By losing teachers who are quite capable and find passion in trying to overcome challenges presented by the low-income setting in which they teach, students’ educations are only harmed even more.
And in a time where education is becoming more and more vital for a successful, healthy, and happy life, it is crucial that changes are made to ensure that as many children can attain a full education as possible.