Very funny… right? But why is it funny?
If I had said “rich doctor, rich lawyer or rich businessman”, we wouldn’t have batted an eye.
Why so? Is our professional path not valuable, or worse, not valued?
Of course, not… there’s more to the story, though…
I don’t know how it is for you, but I wholeheartedly ran from professions that would’ve made me rich, and I think many teachers can probably identify with this train of thought: I didn’t want more of the pie than anyone else. I wanted truth, happiness and the feeling that I was making a positive local impact for our global tomorrow. The 70+ comments on “Why did you become a teacher” showed me I certainly wasn’t alone in this way of thinking.
Measured by our material gain, we’re discrediting the values that often brought us to this profession. Of course, this doesn’t have to undermine our being compensated “fairly” and rewarded for higher professional development or experience as discussed in Phil Wade and David Petrie‘s posts on “What is your value?”.
VALUE = RARE
What is rare has often been what is most valuable… gold, diamonds, beauty, supreme physical form, intelligence, plutonium, salt (which is where the word salary comes from!).
What is VALUABLE now in the 21st century?
Well, yes, the rare materials as before; the hard-to-enter professions that require years of study; exceptional talent… but there is something new that is valuable because of its scarcity. In our modern information-dense world, attention is scarce, and it is actually one of the growing bases of our economy as well as the cornerstone of Facebook, Youtube, Google and other huge internet giants. They have your attention and they are profitable businesses because they can sell that attention to someone else. This article from Wired shows that in 2011 Facebook doubled its revenue, and 89% was from …
Oh, how I love to discuss advertising in class. Hot topic it is! We’ve had week-long debates, developed projects on it and I consistently (and selfishly) challenge students to analyze our day-to-day collisions with ads in hopes of breaking the enchantment that it can hold over us.
Ok, so what’s the point?
In the end, we all know that value is 100% subjective; “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure”. It is important to note, though, that the values and types of interactions that drove us to our professions as teachers lie far from those that drive others to seek greater material wealth.
We are not rich teachers. Quite the opposite, but we are rich to lead a life that we have chosen.
Finally, our decision to enter the teaching profession may have been values-based, but it is only the first in MANY, MANY values-based decisions while teaching and choosing how and with what to teach. I mention this because the education industry IS going to be shaken up in the next few years, and it NEEDS to be too.
Not another rich publishing company…
Whereas as our values are aligned with ‘fair-sharing’ and the growth of our students, these are not necessarily the priorities for the major actors in Educational publishing. Apple is entering the show now (what are its motivations you wonder…), and a recent Wired article explained how it’ll be quite the showdown because Educational publishing is a HUGE industry with enormous profits. It is also an industry that has historically been very adept at keeping others out of its well-protected educational sector.
Will the Goliaths continue to dominate?
Or will more open platforms, crowd-sourced platforms, smaller teams with niche and innovative lunges outflank them? That was the story of the encyclopedia dominated by Encyclopedia Britannica for 200 years, usurped by Microsoft in the 90s with Encarta, and then both left to the wayside by Wikipedia in the past 10 years.
It all makes me think of how happy I am to be where I am right now. I don’t want to be the overzealous evangelist, but my team at Edulang is a David among Goliaths, and our slingshot needs to be wielded wisely. I am resolute in the belief that my team is shaking things up with our pay-what-you-want offer, and it is largely because our direction has a ‘fair-share of the pie’ philosophy that teachers can identify with. But, just as importantly, it is also in line with the great truth that “value is subjective”… as we ask the English teachers and students of the world: What is the value of our efforts to you?
Ah…2012. It is an exciting time to be alive.