Teacher Pay

This is what needs to be done.

So what kind of teachers could a school get if it paid them $125,000 a year?

An accomplished violist who infuses her music lessons with the neuroscience of why one needs to practice, and creatively worded instructions like, “Pass the melody gently, as if it were a bowl of Jell-O!”

A self-described “explorer” from Arizona who spent three decades honing her craft at public, private, urban and rural schools.

Everyone’s all for the free market until that means that the market for something should be competitive at their cost.

Two with Ivy League degrees. And Joe Carbone, a phys ed teacher, who has the most unusual résumé of the bunch, having worked as Kobe Bryant’s personal trainer.

Everyone’s all for the free market until it means that they might have to pay more for something. In the case of education, there isn’t really a mystery as to what the problem is. When you pay teachers less than most secretaries make, you’re going to get people who the market is going to make secretaries.

Instead, education relies on the missionary zeal of teachers to care when they aren’t paid. In every other profession, there is little or no controversy over getting paid more. When startups were stealing talent in the late 90s, law firms and investment brokerage firms raised starting salaries. They bitched, but they did it because they wanted the talent.

Yes, this is a knock on many current teachers. Sorry. Some are great. Some aren’t.

Health Care Reform

This is a brilliant article in the New Yorker.

The point is, though it never explicitly says it, is that the problem with our health care system is not trial lawyers or even insurance companies: it’s the doctors.

This is the dirty little secret that no one really wants to touch, because doctors play the role in our culture that Hercules and Achilles played in the ancient world: romantic heroes who struggle against the gods. There is always at least one hit hospital show on television. Hardly an episode goes by where the doctors not only perform some miraculous surgery, but they impart sage wisdom on their patients as well. The patient isn’t just healed, they are reborn and you just know they will live happily ever after. It’s biblical.

I have nothing against doctors. I believe they should be well compensated, and I believe there should be more medical schools. I believe that the cost of that education should be subsidized, because it’s no wonder so many doctors enter the field with revenue on their brains when they come out of school a quarter million dollars in debt!

But they are not magic people. They are no more heroes than teachers, policemen, firemen, servicemen, or, even some lawyers. And they are just as susceptible to the concerns of having a house, paying for braces and college as the rest of us. In other words, they are human just like the rest of us.

The New Yorker article argues that the argument over public or private payment misses the point because until we fix how the *doctors* operate, the costs will go up. I think that’s engaging in a little bit of hyperbole to make a valid point. A private system without at least some government help will never cover everyone even if we suddenly develop the most cost effective health care system in the world. Even entertaining the thought that we can do that and the rest of the world is too stupid to have though of it or to have tried is the same old American exceptionalism (we think of America the same way we think of doctors) that gets us so often into trouble.

Domestic Terrorism

Will the mainstream media call the hit by christian fundamentalists today on an abortion doctor in Kansas what it is: domestic terrorism? Will there be questions about the propriety of waterboarding this guy? Will there be apologies for criticizing homeland security secretary Napolitano for her report or right wing radicalism? Will all of the doubt Dick Cheney tried to kick up recently apply if there is another Oklahoma City like event, or is “terrorism” just code for Islamic radicals and not Christian ones? What about declaring war on Venezuela now because we don’t like their leader and that country happens to be Christian, just like the terrorist here?

You know the answers to all of these questions, so, they are, of course, merely rhetorical, but they capture all of the lunacy of this decade in one discreet example.