Yes, You Pay My Salary. No, You Are Not My Boss.

I cringe when I hear people say of teachers, “My taxes pay their salary–they need to be more cooperative and responsive to my needs!” 

What this really means is, “Give me what I want.”  What’s so wrong with that?  It’s wrong because schools are not customer satisfaction factories.  Our job is to educate future generations, even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, or even upsetting to any individual or group.  In fact, real progress usually has to entail those things.  Public schools exist to safeguard the success of society, not to pander to the whims of individuals.  Sorry if that sounds cold or collectivist, but it’s true. 

Parents rarely seem to consider that all those exceptions, changes, and special favors they ask for don’t just affect their own children–while Mom and Dad often only care about the short-term outcome of a single issue, we teachers must be cognizant of long-term precedents and the ripple effect on an entire campus.  Just giving Junior that higher grade or privilege you’re agitating for will ultimately cause far more harm than good. 

But surely nobody thinks that good schools will make everybody happy all the time anyway!  It doesn’t matter that most parents are reasonable, decent people.  No public institution can function as a pure democracy–imagine if everybody (or only the good people–you know, like you) got what they wanted every time they were upset at a school.  It would be chaos!  How often do you think parental special interests contradict each other, anyway?  Sometimes people will say of rival gangs, “Just put them in a room and let them fight it out.”  Teachers often feel that way about parents. 

So, yes, parents are paying teachers, but not to be at their beck and call.  We’re paid for a service that, by its nature, must ruffle feathers at times. 

And it’s somewhat of a simplification to say that “your taxes” are paying teacher salaries, anyway.


2 comments on “Yes, You Pay My Salary. No, You Are Not My Boss.

  1. Well, we pay the salaries of law enforcement officials, too.

    So next time you’re speeding you can rant to the cop who stops you that you pay his salary, so you’re his boss!

    Sometimes you can expose flaws in logic by applying it to a totally ridiculous situation, where nobody would even think that way.

    The Taxes pay the salaries of Presidents, Cabinet members, etc. etc.. Well, thinking of Congress, we already see the kind of chaos your scenario would mean. :D

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