Monday, January 05, 2009

hard, useful and of public concern

“Naturally the pay is low – for the work is hard, useful, and of public concern, all three of which qualities tend to bring lower pay.”

I get a sense this is right. Running a billion-dollar company into the ground is worth a $43 million bonus. I’m betting that work is relatively easy, not useful, and, although of public concern, takes place out of sight of the public.

The quote is from Paul Goodman’s critique of American, well, absence of meaning, Growing Up Absurd, which was published in 1960. 50 years on things are different but much of his critique is still spot-on.

Goodman was explicitly referring to school teachers. He goes on, “It is alleged that the low pay is why there is a shortage of teachers and why the best do not choose the profession. My guess is that the best avoid it because of the certainty of miseducating. Nor are the best wanted by the system, for they are not safe.” Not safe in that they will encourage their students to think for themselves, which, you know, is always fraught with peril for those in power.

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