Depression 2.0: Let’s Cut Teacher Salaries, Please!

This post will start at one place and end at another. I hope you read on to see where it goes.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Today I got a memo from the corporate offices of my son’s school. The management had decided to cut salaries across the board, including the teachers’. Of course, I was angered by this course of action (I even Tweeted it in hopes of contacting a journalist). Teachers, along with parents, are on the front line of ensuring the healthy development of our country’s future. The dark expectations of our economy’s future has hit me personally. It hurts: not for me, but for everybody else.

In my concern, I contacted one of the members of the senior management team. I expressed my appreciation for the corporation’s perspective. Honestly, I understand where they’re coming from. Her response was, surprisingly well-articulated, her voice almost on the verge of teary breakup.

Long story short: we came to an understanding. Enrollment is down across the country and the corporation has little elbow room. Cutting costs and hunkering down through he financial s**tstorm is the standard (and understandable) strategy for preparing for the cycle of doom and gloom.

Still, I think we need a major re-think of how we do business in America. Over the course of the 20th Century a certain model for how we conduct business evolved. Most of that evolutionary process was necessary: academia merged with science which merged with business which merged with mass communication. A whole complex evolved and by the end of the century we pretty much figured a lot of it out.

The basic philosophy of our economy, from the kitchen to the boardroom was this: spend money during a boom and save it during a bust.

That’s wrong. It’s intuitive, but wrong.

What if we did it the other way around? Save (invest) money during a boom and spend it during a bust? Wouldn’t we all be wealthier?

We have lost our discipline. We have followed the wrong gods: consumerism, instant gratification, government. We are going to miss our star, unless we get it right.

For too long, we have aided and abetted a system governed by buy-now-pay-latter. This mentality has infiltrated every single one of our instituions.

And now, my child (even if only in a small way) will be affected by the cost of this childish mentality which my country has accepted as standard business.

So, since I can’t control most of the economy or other peoples’ expectations about our future economy (a nominal value is pure perspective), here’s my response to the paycuts which my son’s teachers will be burdened with (it’s more results-oriented than journalism):

  • Go even further in expressing authentic appreciation for what the teachers do
  • Hold management on the line to do the little things that go a long way for teachers
  • Talk to the teachers personally to express my sadness at what’s happened
  • Pay even closer attention to how my son is doing in school
  • Infect my fellow Americans with (realistic) optimism every chance I get

My anger wouldn’t have gotten me to where I am this evening. In spite of what’s happening, I realize that this is a time for keeping a creative perspective on how we see things. The point here, is that regardless of how hard times might be (or appear to be), there are always ways to change your perspective and create new pathways.

I wish our expectations of the economy were brighter. I wish our economic realites were brighter.

My parents came to this country fifty-seven years ago after spending six years in a Displaced Person’s camp after surviving six years of psychopathic war and oppression and persecution. They were born into, and lived through, Depression 1.0. They loved this country before they even stepped onto its soil.

When my father died over a decade ago, he died believing in America’s status as the last refuge for wrecked hopes. He also believed that Americans would one day find themselves facing the accumulation of their mistakes. He believed that somehow American ingenuity would save the day, but he also understood that nothing lasts forever.

Now that I am father to my parents’ gransdson, I realize just why my parents fell in love with our country, why they came here: America was a model, a hope, a Great Teacher. Sadly: now the Teacher is being taught a painful lesson.

Let’s never again get to the point where cutting teachers’ salaries is a tactic to survive a downturn. Never again.

If you’re reading this post and got this far: please go do something remarkable for the unsung heroes of our dying country. Thank the teachers that you know: the ones who have degrees and work in schools. Also thank the other great teachers in your life: adversities. They’re great teachers too.

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