Teachers in the U.S. Seem to Be Getting a Raw Deal Compared to Teachers in the Rest of the Developed World


With news that public school students in Chicago have successfully goaded summer into an encore performance, the New York Times thought it’d be a really opportune time to ask current and prospective shapers of young minds: is being a teacher in the U.S. really worth all the bullshit?

From a strictly cost/reward perspective, the quick answer is, “Fuck no.” According to an annual report on the state of education investment throughout the developed world from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. spends, relative to most other countries, a whole lot on education: including public and private school spending, the U.S. spends 7.3 of its GDP on all levels of education, compared with the O.E.C.D. average of 6.2 percent. That doesn’t mean, however, that teachers in the U.S. are eating take-out on coffee tables made of gold ingots — teachers in America aren’t paid as well as their counterparts in most developed countries, especially considering the opportunities available to college-educated workers.

Pretty much across the developed world, teachers are at the low end of college degree-holding earners. The O.E.C.D. report reveals, though, that the gap between teachers and other college-educated workers is much more dramatic in the U.S., with the average primary school teacher here earning about 67 percent less than the average college-educated working stiff. By comparison, that figure is about 82 percent across the the overall O.E.C.D. For lower secondary school (middle school), the difference narrows just slightly, with a ratio of 69 percent in the U.S. and 85 percent for the rest of the O.E.C.D. Upper secondary or high school teachers, meanwhile, jump to 72 and 90 percent, respectively. If those numbers weren’t enough of a kick to teachers’ shins, U.S. educators also do waaaaay more teaching, grading and student wrangling than their counterparts abroad.

After scooping out all of this info, the Times asks the soul-searching question: Is it worth it, teachers of the United States? Is the light bulb flashing over the head of a kid who just figured out how to long divide after hours of instruction reward enough for your labors, or are teachers just too disrespected and underpaid in the U.S. for teaching careers to be worth their substantial troubles?

Teaching is hard work — anyone who thinks otherwise is a complete asshole who’s never had to explain the difference between “their,” “there” and “they’re” to a student writing a five-page personal essay about their Aunt Bridget’s July Fourth pig roast and how it prepared them for their junior year of high school. It’s bad enough that teachers are underpaid and overworked, and, yeah, it sucks that kids like those in Chicago get caught in the middle of labor disputes, but parents in the U.S. need to adopt a better attitude towards the people who educate their kids because someone has to do it, and odds are that people would prefer their kids are taught properly by a paid professional who’s compensated fairly for grading their kids’ shitty essays or going over a scratch of pre-calc work that, despite its length and thoroughness, fails to arrive at a correct answer.

Does It Pay to Become a Teacher? [NY Times]

Image via olly/Shutterstock.

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