Earlier this month, a research paper coming out of the Heritage Center for Data Analysis by Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine claimed that teachers are overpaid compared to similarly educated counterparts in other professions. The researchers added benefits to teacher pay—benefits most teachers never see because they are deferred until retirement age—and counted only teachers’ on-the-clock hours and no summer hours. (See comments by researcher Jason Richwine and myself below.)
The conclusions are extremely flawed. Responses to the argument are now being posted at The debate club, including those of Linda Darling-Hammond and Barnett Berry. (If you click over, make sure to hit the “up” arrow for the arguments you agree with.) Shaun Johnson posts an interesting response at the Huffington Post called, Who’s overpaid, teachers or the wonks who write about them? Nancy Flanagan posted her response, Because I’m worth it?, in which she compares the working conditions she experienced as a teacher with those of a position she took briefly at an education policy organization (a worthwhile read). She also suggests that this research serves to distract the public from the real inequities of our education system.
My own take: The research is flawed and ridiculous to anyone who has experience teaching or knows much about the job, its requirements, and demands. There’s a longstanding misunderstanding and undervaluing of the work of teachers, rooted in sexism. When historical oppression is at work, there is often is a fine line between a viewpoint and a prejudice.
What is passing as a “debate” in the education world looks more to me like some researchers manipulating data to support their prejudicial standpoints. There are many other discriminatory notions that can be supported by misleading data. I’m surprised and disappointed that this biased work is accepted as research in 2011. I guess the silver lining could be the opportunity to expose an area of prejudice that remains hidden in fog in our country.
[Image credit: psychologyinspiration.com]