Believe it or not, the following is taken from a letter to the Miami Hurled, not the comics page:
Albert Pujols has signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels worth $254 million over 10 years. I have been teaching for 39 years. I would have to teach 3,628 years to make the same amount of money that Pujols will be making for 10 years. My teaching career would have had to begin in the year 1,617 B.C.
I would have begun teaching before Jesus was born. I congratulate Pujols. I’d take the money, too, but something seems wrong here.
Well, Professor, we understand what you’re getting at, of course — you’re reiterating a very well-worn line of thinking that bewails the disconnect between what is somehow more worthy and significant and that which is materially rewarded at astronomical levels. Why do show business and sports pay so much better than education?
The first reason has to do with supply and demand. Any dolt and geek can learn enough to get a teaching certificate. Shake a tree and teachers fall out, most of them as useless, uninspiring, and talentless as dead leaves. On the contrary, very few human beings can bat .300, hit 35 HRs and 100 RBIs consistently every year, and play excellent first base.
Yes, you say, but even fewer people can park a Cadillac in their noses and there’s no great reward for that.
True, but there’s no market for talented nostrils. If there were, those who were sufficiently gifted and talented to nasally host Cadillacs would be as richly rewarded as they are rare. That’s the second reason: the supply and demand are governed by marketability.
Aha! you exclaim, that’s the point! What should be more valuable — in a universal, even moral sense — gifted baseball players and circus freaks, or educated men and women willing to devote their skills to improving the prospects of the next generation, and contributing to the educated civilization of society?
Poor Professor — you’re working in the shoulda and the oughta and you appeal to a measuring stick that simply doesn’t exist in the universe we’ve created. The answer to the question about what is in fact more valuable in this material world is the difference between the contract Albert Pujols signed and your paycheck. Which world are you appealing to? Some ideal, Platonic construct where omniscient beings assign value to human activities and dole out rewards and punishments consistent with their guidelines?
I, for one, would chafe at such governance, even if I agreed with the outcome. But relax — there isn’t one anyway and never will be.
The Professor correctly identifies a genuine human screw-up. We outrageously reward the frivolous and trite while paying short shrift to the significant. Either the system is broken or the inmates run the institution — or both.
But as he himself notes, he would take the money, too. So would I. And would you. I’d like to think I would be an exemplary philanthropist and return those rewards as best I can (as Albert Pujols reportedly does). This is one step in resolving the problem. Human beings made it, and we can even it all out if we try.
I could provide the remaining keys to the solution, but you’ll have to hire me. Don’t worry, I charge reasonable rates.