I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility and self-control. About training and the demands of jobs that society wants done, as opposed to the jobs that society needs done. I’m thinking: you can’t just throw a person into a position of responsibility without training. It takes practice and self-control to perform well under pressure.
Colin Kaepernick has a job that society wants done. (Apparently. I don’t understand sports fandom myself.) Police officers and teachers have jobs that society needs done. All three of these jobs take a lot of training to do well. But only one of them is well-paid. Why is it that we are willing to pay so much more for what we want than for what we need?
Kaepernick makes an obscene amount of money for what he does — according to USA Today, $11.9 million. According to salary.com, the median salary of a police officer is $52,910 and of a secondary school teacher (like me) is $47,198.
I imagine it takes quite a bit of training to be a quarterback (that’s what Kaepernick is, right?) and I know it takes a lot of training to be a teacher (mostly done at our own expense). I’ve read varying accounts of how much training police officers get, but from what I have read, it’s not nearly enough.
“Whittingham discovered police officers in Nordic countries are required to receive at least two full years of nonstop, university-style classroom training before they become officers. In California, police are required to complete 833 hours (that’s 21 weeks) of training. That’s on the longer side for most states in America, but wouldn’t even equal a single semester of the 104 weeks required in Norway.”
I know that teaching is stressful, and teenagers can push buttons that make adults do and say things they know they shouldn’t. It’s hard to have self-control when you’re tired and you’ve had new requirements added to your job. It’s demoralizing when everywhere you turn people are criticizing your profession.
How much more difficult and stressful is it when your job includes risking your life? How much more challenging is self-control when you carry a gun?
We may think that the police should have been abiding by certain humane practices all along, but we know they haven’t. For example, Officer Karl Thompson Jr. was given 51 months for the death of Otto Zehm, a mentally challenged man in Spokane.
“Standing over him, Thompson fired Taser probes into Zehm’s chest, then smashed him with at least seven more baton strikes. Several other officers hogtied Zehm and held him on his stomach. Zehm ended up in a coma and died two days later after his ventilator was turned off. His last words in the store: ‘All I wanted was a Snickers bar.’ Thompson would later say he felt threatened by Zehm’s soda bottle.”
Things like this shouldn’t happen. But if we want better policing (and better teaching) we are going to have to value teaching and policing the way we do quarterbacking. We can’t expect people to do well on jobs which are crucial to our society without improving their training and compensation
The Seattle Times reports that U.S. District Judge Robart said he wouldn’t let the Seattle Police Union hold the city “hostage” by linking wages to constitutional policing. It doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable to ask for compensation when your job has new requirements. Teachers shouldn’t have to pay for the schooling they are required to get to maintain their certificates. Police officers should not have to give up anything to get the training they need — and the down time they need — to do their jobs effectively.
They can do their jobs better, and they must. Shaun King has a 25-part series on how that can happen. It needs to start NOW.
We’ll all benefit in the end from well-prepared teachers and officers — far more than we will from a winning football team.