Anyway, back to Colbert. He was interviewing a professor from Harvard (which made him a smarty-pants, in Colbert's words) who teaches a class simply titled "Justice." Apparently you can find it on YouTube and he wrote a book about it, too. I haven't looked any of that up, but that's what I was informed last night. The guy (not unsurprisingly) sounded pretentious as hell talking about his class and the material, but I have to admit I think I would find it terribly interesting if I could get past the guy's personality. He said he mostly taught the class by asking questions and encouraging the students to debate. The example he used last night was Alex Rodriguez and the average schoolteacher. A-Rod gets paid $27,500,000 a year to play third base for the Yankees. The average schoolteacher, at least according to the guy last night, makes about $45,000 a year. As you can see, there's a bit of a difference on the zeros there. His question: Is that fair?
Colbert gave an answer that, while not exactly humorous per se, was still very funny in that it was extremely by the book, in character, and totally right.* He said A-Rod gets paid what the market would bear/demands, which is determined by the "invisible hand" we've all heard so much about. So, yes, it's completely fair. There was more to the discussion from there, but the answer really seemed to take the Harvard guy off-guard and left him a bit flat footed. And the thing is, he is right.
*At least in economic terms as I understand them. For reference, I got as far as Econ 101. And, of course, "right/correct," "moral," and "fair" are terms that don't necessarily have much to do with each other.
You might have guessed this won't have much to do about sports, but so it goes. And also keep in mind that this is coming from somebody who really wanted to be a teacher, then got burnt out on the whole academia thing, and then had that goal reignited when it was too late. At least, too late to make it happen during undergrad. I still haven't totally written off going back to grad school. In any case, I'm not the anti-ivory tower guy. I desperately would like to get back into that tower if I could. Back to the story.
We've all heard the arguments that teachers are some of the most important people in society. Where do we usually hear that argument? In school, where you are surrounded by teachers. Seems a little convenient, but we'll let that slide. Mostly because I do agree that teachers are very important. Are they particularly valuable, though? There are many things that are extremely important, but not necessarily valuable. Water, for instance, is very cheap.* But we wouldn't get very far without it. Same would go for basic foodstuffs, like bread. It seems to me that teachers are very much a commodity like that. Sure, there very good teachers and there are not so great teachers. And, just like different brands of bread, they are priced accordingly. But, there are quite a few people with the ability and willingness to teach and fill that role in our society. So, yeah, while important, they don't necessarily deserve huge salaries.**
*At least in the developed world. I'm not sure if that term is still in vogue or not, but I'm using it.
**Not that $45,000 is awful. I've read in multiple places the average household income in the US is $50,000.
A-Rod, on the other hand, is unique. For one, there are not as many positions for Major League Baseball players. There are 750 players to fill out the entire league.* There are quite a few more teaching positions in this country. There are also quite a few less people with the ability to fill these roles, although probably many more who are willing. Do they add as much to society as teachers? Probably not, but don't fall into the argument that it's meaningless. A society without its distractions isn't really a society at all. And baseball (along with sports in general) are a major civic distraction. Add to that A-Rod is at the top of his field (arguably the best player on the planet in his younger days), his profession generates more money than teachers, and plays for the team with the deepest pockets.
*725 in this country. Damn Blue Jays.
Is any of this news? No. We all have a sense of this. Whether we agree with it or not, as Colbert pointed out, this is what the market dictates, and we dictate the market. So, yes, it is fair, and I'm oh so very tired of hearing the argument from teachers that teachers are so vital to his world that they ought to be paid like ballplayers.