If you ask people what things are most important for human survival, most of them will give you a pretty good answer, and it will usually be in the form of a list like this:
The reason that this is a good answer is because it ranks items in order of how long a human being could go without them, starting with the item someone could do without for the shortest time period first. It’s pretty simple really, the less time one can go without something, the more important it is. This type of reasoning can be used to determine the importance of many things, but for some reason, many people are not able to carry this logic over to other areas.
A good example of this is how many people assess the importance of various jobs. They tend to evaluate the importance of a particular job according to its pay, prestige, or the amount of education required to hold the position. I once heard a striking public school teacher say that she and the other members of her union deserved more pay because in many instances teachers were only making as much as a garbage collector, as if there was something wrong with that. She probably never even considered the possibility that the garbage collector’s job was just as, if not more important than hers.
If one was to apply the logic that I described earlier, the consequences of a teachers’ versus a garbage collectors’ strike will quickly illustrate which job is more important.
Consequences of a Teachers’ Strike
Photo Credit: fromtherosecity.blogspot.com
Consequences of a Garbage Collectors’ Strike
Photo Credit: Business Insider
A teachers’ strike usually results in a couple extra weeks vacation for the kids, an inconvenience for the parents, and of course, a kick in the ass for taxpayers. A garbage collector’s strike can virtually shut a city down in a matter of days, making life almost unbearable for its inhabitants.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that teachers’ jobs are not important. I’ve just had it with teachers and their unions ramming down my throat just how important they are. Did you ever see one of those bumper stickers that says “If you can read this, thank a teacher”? My teachers certainly helped me, but I (and most people I know) would have to give most of the credit for us learning to read, to our parents. Why do teachers feel they need to do this. Doesn’t their hard work and dedication to their jobs speak for itself? Guess not, especially when one looks at kid’s test scores.
Too many people believe that the importance, and compensation for a job should be determined by the level of education required to hold the position. There are a few problems with this. First, it tends to make one assume that the only way anyone can learn anything, is through formal education. It also tends to make one assume that all people with the same level of education have learned the same amount and are equally capable of using what they have learned in the workplace.
Another problem with requiring certain education levels in order to qualify for jobs or higher pay levels is that the education requirements tend to increase as time goes by. This puts poorer people at a disadvantage because they may not have the money for the additional degree. Even if financial aid is available for them, they may need to hold down a full time job to support their families, so they just don’t have the time for further schooling.
I have always had a strong suspicion that many of these education requirements have been forced through by four types of people: 1)Employees that have been on the job for some time, and already happen to have the formal education level that a proposed new standard requires. 2) Employees that have been on the job long enough that they would be subject to a grandfather clause, so the new education requirement would not affect them. These first two see it as a chance for a pay increase without them having to do anything in order to receive it. 3) Representatives of colleges and universities who know increasing education requirements means higher demand for their services. 4) People in charge of setting job requirements that have never had an original thought in their lives, and always believe the people who tell them that increasing education requirements for jobs and higher pay levels is a good idea.
I don’t want to sound like I am against continuing education, but it seems to me that too often it is the only thing considered, and experience and job performance are every bit as important.
Maybe an indicator of the importance of a job is - What are the consequences of an employee’s errors. I took a course at the local technical college a few years back and something happened that brought back a few memories. What I am about to describe, I witnessed happened regularly throughout my life as a student.
We were correcting an exam in class by exchanging test papers and going over each of the questions one by one. After reviewing several questions on a multiple choice test, we came to a question where the instructor said “The correct answer is D” Immediately, several hands went up. A number of students challenged the instructor’s answer and insisted that the correct answer was C. They used items form the course textbook and notes from the instructor’s lectures to back themselves up. You can guess what happened next. The instructor gave everyone responded with C or D credit for a correct answer.
In his defense, what else could the instructor do? The fact was however, aside from a little embarrassment, the instructor faced no consequences for his error. Where I work, if one makes (from a mental standpoint) a similar error, they can turn $40,000 worth of raw materials into a bunch of useless chemical waste. Do that a couple of times and you’re looking for a new job.
Professor or dump truck operator: Who has more on the line?
Photo Credit: ocw.mit.edu
Photo Credit: truckinssurancecompany.net
Consequences of a professor’s mistake
Photo Credit: ColourBox
Consequences of a dump truck operator’s mistake
Photo Credit: Bradfordera
I hope all this will make some of you rethink how you rank various jobs in terms of importance. Now what about pay? Shouldn’t pay be based on how important a job is? The answer is: NO!
The value of labor, talent, expertise, skill, knowledge, or whatever employees have to offer is determined by supply and demand in the free market place. In general, the fewer the people there are that are willing and able to do a particular job, the higher the pay. This is why as a rule, I am against artificial barriers to entry into the workforce. Not only do they raise costs, but they prevent talented, capable, but disadvantaged people from getting good jobs. I think exceptional job performance should be the key factor in determining pay raises and promotions.
It might not seem like it is fair the way the marketplace determines the pay for various jobs and maybe it isn’t, but at least it is impersonal. If there are any inequities, at least there isn’t anyone or any group of people to blame it on. (Except in regards to artificial barriers to entry) One thing’s for sure the free market can do a better job of determining wages, salaries, prices, and goods to be produced than the government ever could.