Low Pay for Teachers is an Example of ‘Biblical Principles’

If you want an example of the problems of applying a 2,000-3,000-year-old text to modern life, look no further than Alabama State Senator Shadrack McGill.

Alana Horowitz with the Huffington Post reports:

“Teachers need to make the money that they need to make,” McGill said, according to the Times-Journal. “If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach … and these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em.”

McGill’s comments came at a prayer breakfast this week in Fort Payne, Ala.

The best part? The Times-Journal’s David Clemons writes that the quote in question came up while being questioned about the 62% pay raise lawmakers received in 2007.

Of course, this all sort of makes sense when you realize what the guy thinks teaching entails:

“To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?”

Let me just clear something up for you, Senator Shadrack –- you are confusing your teachers with your babysitters, and they are two very different things. Teachers are highly qualified, educated individuals who are trained to deliver educational concepts in engaging and meaningful ways as well as the behavioral modification needed to deliver such concepts to upwards of 30 children and teenagers in a single classroom. Even babysitters and professionals in ECE are not really responsible for “raising” someone’s child; if you have children, Senator, I think you may have passed off a pretty important part of your job to entirely the wrong people.

Additionally, I know of a couple of “Biblical principles” which might conflict with your ideology. There was allegedly this guy named Jesus, and he didn’t have much patience for the kind of people who get 62% raises.

In Matthew 19:24, the oft-cited verse says:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Perhaps this would be easier to understand if I take some liberties with your original statement?

Politicians need to make the money that they need to make. If you double a politician’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to pander… and these politicians that are called to pander, regardless of the pay scale, they would pander. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em.”

God must be real; it’s the only explanation for such supernatural levels of cognitive dissonance.

About amanda

Amanda is a pie-baking, music-listening, lindy-hopping, yoga-doing, power-tool-wielding feminist, atheist, and wife. She divides her time equally between cooking delicious things, trying to make nice with the house cat, and ranting about religion.

  • Eric D Red

    How incredibly stupid, and wrong.

    Around here, and most places I suspect, you can hardly find any qualified teachers in tech, science and math.  They exist, but few with that training and background are willing to take the lower pay.  I’ve considered it myself, and I’d truly enjoy it, and I’ve been told I’d be good, but I can do a lot better financially in manufacturing as an engineer.

    So you’re left with the ones who are truly dedicated to teaching despite the pay (so far so good), and those who aren’t competent enough in tech/sci/math to work in industry.

    And from what I’ve seen of Hemant’s presentations, he’s one of the good ones, who truly understands and does it because he cares.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mujica.alex Alejandro Mujica

    This is also part of the Christian Nationalist agenda to de-fund a public, easy-access educational system that is all-inclusive and secularized. The public school system could be seen as a counterpoint to evangelical education, which has a narrow interpretation of how children should be taught.

  • Anonymous

    I think that’s called exploitation.  It’s not the worst kind or degree of exploitation, but cutting their pay in the assumption that the good ones will stay is foolhardy.  I’ve never heard of anyone saying offering less money will net you those with the best skills.

    However, I’d love to apply that to politicians.  Really, any pay cut they recommend should include cutting their own pay at the same proportion.

  • Tyler

    See, that’s exactly the reason why I think politicians should be paid less. It should be a service, not as a way to be comfortable. Not that I don’t think teachers should be paid more (they really, really should), but that I think politicians should be paid less (than what they are right now). 

    PS Way to out-Jesus him

    • Tyler

      PPS In case it wasn’t clear, I DO think teachers should be paid more and politicians should be paid less. IMO

  • Anonymous

    I’d be interested to know if Mary thinks you are misquoting/misusing bible verses here.
    Mary: “Oh, please. Let’s not get into contextual/original language debates so early on.” (from her comments, in reference to a bible verse quoted to her)

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

    “To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?”

    I believe that quote continues: “I mean, have you seen what they get paid?”
    But seriously, there are going to be problems in applying a 2000-3000 year old text to modern life, but this isn’t even that kind of problem: the Bible says nothing about how much teachers should or shouldn’t be paid, not even the most obscure or tendentious way.  McGill is just making shit up.

  • Nonexistentpuppies

    “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”Clearly Jesus didn’t mean this to be taken literally.It’s like the times where he advocates castration or tells us to hate our mother and father: he’s only joking!/fundamentalist hermeneutics off

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Shorter vision – “We ain’t need none education.  If God means us to understand, he just gonna tell it to us from the mountain.”  

  • Nicolinesmits

    If this sorry excuse for a legislator is so set on following biblical precedent, let’s see how he does in a pit of fire. His name is a corruption of the name Shadrach, from the trio Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were cast into the fire by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezar for failing bow down to his statue.  See Daniel 3.

  • Alex

    Hey, I’ll stand behind that statement about politicians. Let’s pay them about the same as court clerks. Why should members of the Congress be paid that much more?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    “Shadrack”… Childhood must have been pure Hell around his house.  Does he have brothers named Meshack and Tobedwego?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luther-Weeks/100001027655434 Luther Weeks

    How about the same for preachers, CEOs, journalists, principles, lobbyists, and superintendents. Would they not want them to be truly called? How do we know that Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, Tom Friedman, Dick Gephart, and Bill Gates are truly called?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luther-Weeks/100001027655434 Luther Weeks

      That is PrinciPAL, my teachers would call me -back to school.

  • Sylvia

    In Ancient Hebrew, the word for “camel” is very similar to the word for “rope”.  Hence the confusing reference to a great big beast of burden, well known in those parts. 

  • http://tch3.com C High

    The “funny” part was when the guy said that increasing the pay of politicians was a good thing, because it deterred bribery. 

    Ow! The irony stabbed me in the eye!

  • Anonymous

    “Let me just clear something up for you, Senator Shadrack –- you are confusing your teachers with your babysitters, and they are two very different things.”

    Yes, but they both help you raise your kids. Anyone who spends more time with my children than I do is helping raise my children. Elementary students spend up to 8 hours a day with their teachers, frequently leaving home before 7, and arriving home after 6 (if their parents work). Then, they may have extra-curricular activities that take them away from their parents even more. Yes. The teachers *are* raising these children. Even the courts have said that schools (so not just the teachers, but schools) stand in loco parentis.

    That just means they need a raise, though. Why would you pay someone who is raising your children for you such a piddling amount? We want the best for such an important task. Too bad the people in this country who are standing in loco parentis are paid so little, be they babysitters, nannies, daycare providers, or teachers.

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      I disagree. Teachers can in no way, shape, or form replace good parents, regardless of the time they spend with them each day. When teachers are asked to “raise” kids, it  piles on additional responsibilities of mentor and sometimes even psychologist.

      Sure, teachers can have an insane impact on a student’s life and well-being – especially a teacher that cares deeply on top of being pedagogically sound. But the bad teachers don’t “scar” you for life in the same way that having abusive or neglectful parents do; they’re simply forgotten a few years down the line.

      I’m a prospective HS English teacher, and while I haven’t been hired yet, I spend my time now honing my craft – reading journals, books about teaching, volunteering in the classroom, talking to other teachers. When I get a job, I want to be really fantastic at teaching. When I become a mom, I want to be a really fantastic parent. But not really both at the same time.

      • Anonymous

        “Teachers can in no way, shape, or form replace good parents, regardless of the time they spend with them each day. When teachers are asked to “raise” kids, it  piles on additional responsibilities of mentor and sometimes even psychologist.”

        Oh, I agree. I’m not saying they *should* replace parents; I’m saying they *do* replace parents. Unfortunately, the person who spends the most time with a child is the one with the most influence over them. Why do you think fundamentalists fight liberalism in the schools so much? They know that teachers have a huge impact on their children, and they don’t want their children realizing what BS their parents are trying to teach them.

        “But the bad teachers don’t “scar” you for life in the same way that having abusive or neglectful parents do; they’re simply forgotten a few years down the line.”

        Actually, they can. Teachers can be abusive, too. And, for what it’s worth, you obviously haven’t spoken to anyone who had a teacher that was truly bad. It can take years of therapy to overcome poor teaching, just to be able to learn again. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. 

        Any child who is abused, whether by a teacher, priest, or parent will have scars. That abuse can take the form of neglect, or physical or emotional abuse. I hope that you realize *before* you start teaching the true impact you will have on your students. You will not just be educating them in English. You will be educating them in life, whether you want that to be part of your job description or not.

        • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

          Bad teaching =/= abuse. 

          Not the same thing, and I hardly think that teachers have as much ability to physically abuse, neglect, or emotionally abuse a child as much as a parent or priest (of course it happens, and I would say that emotional abuse would probably be most rampant in a classroom, but you can’t argue with the fact that priests and parents have the potential for a LOT more alone time, and thus potential for a lot more abuse, than teachers).

          It is NOT in the job description of any teacher to “educate students in life”. You don’t spend time in university learning and discussing how to be a parent to your students; you learn and discuss content and pedagogy (although I’m sure that the emphasis on moral development would be greater in a K-5 classrooms). 

          Of COURSE I’ll be delivering ideas about ethics, morality, politics, interpersonal relations, gender, race, sexuality…on and on. But I’ll be doing that through whatever medium I’m teaching – literature, communication, or writing. 

          The insistence that teachers are life coaches, mentors, and parental stand-ins puts extra pressure on teachers to submit to non-educational standards. There are wildly differing opinions as to how teachers should address “life” or “life skills”, and many of them come dangerously close to educational models that see students as vessels to be filled – that teachers should “fill” the students with positive ideas about citizenship and morality, when there is no strong consensus on how to do that.

          My future students are going to get challenged every day in the classroom. They will have to leave their preconceptions at the door; they will have to contend with moral grey areas, difficult emotional issues, and debates that don’t have a clear “right and wrong”. But they are going to fight through these issues through the construct of writing and literature; their moral development is secondary to their ability to read, write, communicate, and think critically, and you can’t expect me to make that a priority. 

          My hope is that being an effective teacher will force them to think critically about the world around them, thus ensuring their moral development, but having a moral or ethical end-goal is NOWHERE in a teacher’s job description.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Tracy.Bradley1 Tracy Bradley

        Agreed that they shouldn’t (and shouldn’t be expected to), but in the case of ‘bad’ parenting, they often do. My busband credits three of his high school teachers with helping him overcome his shitty parental situation – without their attention and care, things would have turned out quite differently for him. Of course, these teachers were not asked to step in and help him – they just did it because they cared and saw a need. Wonderful people – he actually brought me to meet them a decade later!

  • Bob

    Without getting too
    political.  I could happily live on a teacher’s wage and the fulfilment
    from such a job. For daily costs of my family, that and my wife’s income
    combined is acceptable.

    But then I worry about someone in my
    family getting sick and the cost of a nursing home for my older parents and
    in-laws.  Any health issues and my family
    would be in real trouble.  Yes, the job
    comes with health insurance, but if something happened or we lost
    coverage?  This is a risk I am not
    willing to take.

    In this country, it is just too
    risky not to have lots of savings for retirement and health. Until the health
    system and social security are guaranteed, there are probably many of us not
    willing to follow a ‘calling’.  


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