Time Reporter Cheers Liberal Actor Damon for 'School[ing]' Libertarian Reporter on Teacher Pay

Time reporter Megan Gibson apparently considers liberal actor Matt Damon's testy tirade against Reason.tv reporter Michelle Fields as a veritable lecture on the economics of tenured teaching.

"Matt Damon showed his love for teachers — and after this confrontation, we're sure teachers are loving Matt Damon right back," Gibson enthused in an August 3 "Newsfeed" blog post entitled "Watch: Matt Damon Schools Reporter While Defending Teachers."

"Preach!" Gibson cheered after  quoting the "Dogma" co-star's insistence that teachers are motivated purely by the love of teaching seeing as their salaries are downright "sh*tty."

But as conservative Boston-area talk show host Michael Graham argued in today's Boston Herald, Damon's wrong both about the quality of teacher pay and the importance of economic incentives:

 

Sorry, Matt, but if I were your math teacher back at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, I’d have to give you an F. Wrong on theory and fact.

First the data — starting with Matt’s myth that teachers work for a shi— . . .  er, “less-than-adequate” salary.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the average Boston teacher earned around $80,000 last year. That was the average. And that doesn’t include the generous health care or pension benefits, which would equal $100,000 in the private sector. All for just 180 days of work.

Nationally, the average teacher salary is significantly lower — $53,000. But a teacher still earns more by herself (and about 75 percent of K-12 teachers are women) than the household income of the average American family. Once again, with summers and holidays off.

That fact is important because when you break down what teachers earn per hour, the average teacher is better paid ($30.52) than the average computer programmer ($21.27) or architect ($27.71).

So Damon is wrong on the numbers. And his theory is even worse. Modern economic theory is based on the premise of incentives. Damon’s position that incentives don’t affect behavior puts him in the fiscal Flat Earth Society. He’s the equivalent of an economic creationist.

Of course people work harder if they believe it will pay off. Naturally people slack off otherwise.

Nobody denies this is true of cabbies, car salesmen or newspaper columnists — why wouldn’t it be true of teachers?

Oh, that’s right: “Teachers want to teach.” They’re above worldly concerns like pay and job security. Which some teachers are.

But isn’t it likely that others have more materialistic motivations? Like the fact that it’s a great way for underachievers to prosper?

“Slackers wanting to earn the country’s easiest college major, should major in education,” reports Lynn O’Shaughnessy of CBS’s Moneywatch. “It’s easy to get ‘A’s’ if you’re an education major.”

Which is good news for education majors who, according to O’Shaughnessy, “enter college with the lowest average SAT scores.”

Damon wants us to believe this all-but-guaranteed lifetime employment has no impact on performance? Nobody’s a good enough actor to sell that.

So if you’re a “slacker” who wants to earn more than your brother the accountant, the public schools have got a deal for you!

And once you’re in, you’re in. If you’ve seen “Waiting for Superman,” you know that while one of every 57 doctors loses his license and one out of 97 lawyers gets disbarred, just one out of 1,000 teachers gets fired from big-city school systems for performance issues.

Damon wants us to believe this all-but-guaranteed lifetime employment has no impact on performance? Nobody’s a good enough actor to sell that.

Now that, Ms. Gibson, is how you school someone.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters