Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Sharon Liao is a history major at Columbia University who is concerned that elite colleges and universities are discouraging graduates from pursuing careers as K-12 teachers.  Here is a taste of her article at The Washington Post:

Working at a campus calling center this year, I spoke on the phone with hundreds of Columbia alumni, many of whom work in finance, health care, law or media. My elite, expensive school tells me in subtle ways that the “best” students pursue those sorts of fields. No matter how noble it may be to educate tomorrow’s leaders, or how accomplished an individual teacher may be, that person will never earn the social prestige or compensation that professionals do in many other fields.

Alumni who had gone into teaching asked whether I really want to teach or had considered the likely disrespect, insufficient pay, long hours and lack of autonomy that go with the job.

In short, I’m being scared out of teaching by teachers. And it seems reasonable to ask: Who wants to pursue a career in which they won’t be appropriately respected or compensated? 

On one hand, it is shame that some of the best college students in the country are not considering careers in education. This does not surprise me.  Fewer and fewer undergraduates seem to be devoting themselves to selfless lives in service of the public good.  Why teach when you can make much more money doing something else?  I wonder how much this has to do with increasing narcissism among the millennial generation.

On the other hand, young people may be discouraged from teaching by an educational system that has replaced classroom creativity and intellectual inquiry with standardized tests and state requirements.