What do we value? And why?

Note the two headlines from The State‘s app yesterday.

Here’s the nut graf of the one that says “It’s official: Massive raise makes Shane Beamer highest-paid coach in USC history:”

The South Carolina board of trustees approved a new deal for the Gamecocks’ head football coach on Friday that will pay him $6.125 million in 2023 with escalators of $250,000 each year through the 2027 season — making him the highest-paid coach in school history. That’s up from his previous salary of $2.75 million annually….

And here’s the essence of the one that says “McMaster calls for $2,500 pay raise for SC teachers, plus a bonus:”

Gov. Henry McMaster wants to increase starting pay for South Carolina teachers by $2,500 to bring the base salary to $42,500….

This past year, the minimum teacher salary was set at $40,000….

Yes, I know there are ways to dismiss such comparison as silly. For instance, you can point out that the teacher pay raise will cost the state $254 million. On account of, you know, there being a bunch more teachers than head football coaches at USC. (Note that I limited that by saying “head” football coach. There are a lot of coaches. I tried to Google it and count them just now, but I got tired.)

I dismiss that by asking why you would value one football coach more than any one of those teachers. Of course, if you’re one of those public-school haters, you’ll single out the weakest teacher in the state and say, “I value him more than this teacher.” So let’s derail that argument by saying, why would you value the football coach over the single best teacher in the state (use your own standards, if you’d like)? For that matter, why would you value him as much as the very best 1,350 teachers in the state — since that’s how many times $2,500 goes into the raise Beamer received?

Of course, you could also say that you can’t compare the two, since one is purely state money, and the other is largely money voluntarily paid by people who are nuts about football. My response is that you’re missing the point. The point isn’t about public expenditures. The point is about what we humans in South Carolina value most — whether we pay for it through taxes or football tickets, or those premium parking spots around the stadium, or however we shell it out.

Of course, the “What do we value?” question is rhetorical. It’s obvious what we value.

Which takes me to my second question: Why?

15 thoughts on “What do we value? And why?

  1. Barry

    priorities are all screwed up.

    No surprise.

    My wife’s former school has still not been able to hire a replacement for her. She resigned early Summer 2022- 6 weeks before school started back up.

    They have no ability in the law to pay more for the position- even though the free market has obviously proven that the starting salary is not enough to attract a candidate.

    The self described – proud – conservative free market champion Republican conservatives in South Carolina have not given school districts the ability to pay free market rates for a teaching position that has now been vacant for 8 months.

  2. Doug Ross

    If you paid every teacher $1 million a year, how long would it take before you’d see a measurable, undeniable increase in SC literacy rates? Beamer’s pay is tied directly to his ability to a) win games and b) put fans in the seats.

    I’m all for paying teachers more… and paying teachers bonuses based on how their students perform… and firing teachers who can’t motivate students to learn. Are you willing to accept that model to match what a football coach has to do to earn his salary? If so, how would you measure a teacher’s performance? We already have a system of standardized tests that seemingly should be used for that purpose… but they aren’t. The bottom line is teachers don’t WANT to be measured, don’t want to be paid based on performance… because they know — and we all know — that the teacher is only a small part of the equation. Good teaching rarely overcomes bad parenting and never overcomes a student who is unwilling to learn and unable to have the self-discipline to focus on learning. The problem in our schools is not teachers, it’s the students and their parents. That can’t be fixed with money. The fix is actually free – not passing kids along who can’t read or do math, enforcing strong policies related to classroom behavior, and convincing parents to do THEIR job to raise THEIR kids instead of passing them off to overworked teachers. Another free option: stop all the woke nonsense in classrooms, policies, and curriculum — it’s made the educational experiense worse.

    The value issue isn’t about football, it’s about personal responsibility of bad parents failing their kids. My tax dollars won’t fix that not matter how many of them you want to take from me to give away.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Ah — you allude to another important point, one that I left out of the post, intending to come back to it in a separate post. Because it’s that important. But I haven’t yet.

      Or I hadn’t yet, until now

  3. Doug Ross

    The top paid symphony conductors in the U.S. are:

    Riccardo Muti at the Chicago Symphony: $3,420,804
    Gustavo Dudamel at the Los Angeles Philharmonic: $2,857,103
    Michael Tilson Thomas at the San Francisco Symphony: $2,139,720
    Andris Nelsons at the Boston Symphony: $1,787,000
    Yannick-Nézet-Séguin at the Philadelphia Orchestra: $1,672,167

    Considering the much smaller audience for their performances compared to college football, why do we value their output compared to a lowly teacher? What makes a guy waving a baton worth 3.5 million dollars when the orchestra is doing all the work? He shouldn’t make any more than a piccolo player.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You’re trying to make a point, but I’m not seeing it.

      It might make some sense if you’re saying that the football coach is the conductor, and the piccolo player is the teacher. But since that analogy in no way relates, that doesn’t make sense.

      Are you saying a player on the football team is the piccolo player? That is a more logical analogy, but it still makes no sense in the context of this discussion — since the player makes NOTHING, and the coach is paid (regardless of the amount).

      I don’t know. Perhaps you could explain. Because obviously you think there’s some point here…

      1. Doug Ross

        You are out of touch. The players have access to NIL money now (name, image, likeness).. many are making more than a million in endorsement deals. Even the lowest player on the team can make thousands of they choose to

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Out of touch with the latest in sports money developments? You bet.

          But that doesn’t change my point. As I’ve tried to make clear, the point isn’t that the teacher, or the player, or the hypothetical piccolo player doesn’t make enough.

          The problem is that the coach makes too much… I tried to make that clearer in the other post.

          And if you haven’t read that post yet, then dang it, keep up! Stay in touch! 🙂

          1. Doug Ross

            How much are you willing to increase your own taxes to increase the pay for teachers? Because Beamer isn’t paid by tax dollars.

            Would you pay 1000 more if you knew it went to teachers?

            I pay enough. The government spends it and apparently doesn’t value teachers more than other things. That’s a government problem, not a value problem.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              You just really don’t pay attention to the words I say, do you? Not Doug. Because Doug knows everybody’s mind better than they do.

              I say X, and you say I’m saying Y, and then argue with Y. Over and over again…

      2. Doug Ross

        Imagine hating college football which has given so many black teens an opportunity to get a free college education and perform at the highest level of athletic achievement to give them the opportunity to become millionaires in the NFL. Ask Beamer’s players whether they appreciate what he has done for them.

        Your values apparently are mediocrity and paying for it.

  4. Doug Ross

    Why doesn’t Joe Biden value the policies related to classified documents? It’s hilarious watching democrats spin joe’s failings as we reach the third location of his with documents.
    He’s just a better politician than Trump but not much better ethically.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I really worry about you, Doug.

      “Why doesn’t Joe Biden value the policies related to classified documents?” Where do you get that idea? He finds he has some documents in a place where he shouldn’t, and reports it, and his attorney general appoints a special prosecutor to investigate it. What in that causes you to think he doesn’t “value the policies related to classified documents?”

      Let me tell you what that would look like: The government would discover that you have the documents, you tell the government to go to hell, and so it has to raid your property to recover them.

      How about explaining to me why you fail to see the difference? That difference which you apparently call “spin,” in keeping with your religious conviction that everyone involved in politics is a crook and a liar. And then when an actual crook and liar comes along, you go around wondering why everyone is so unhappy about it, since to you, that’s the norm…

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