Which are the ‘altruistic’ professions that deserve special treatment?

by Grace

High school history teacher Kate LeSueur wrote that she wishes to “enlighten” us “on the discrepancy between the price of my education and the salary of an altruistic career such that of an educator”.

She compared a master’s in education with a master’s of business administration, pointing out that individuals with MBA degrees typically enjoy substantially higher salaries and lower student debt levels.

Why is it that we both went to school for the same amount of time and both earned master’s, yet my degree costs more and I get paid significantly less? I am not arguing that I deserve $90,000 a year — only that the cost of my education should be comparable to my salary. Society expects us to accept a fate guaranteeing small paychecks and large student loan bills. I am writing to say, America, we aren’t going to accept it much longer.

I find it hard to accept the rather sweeping statement that teaching is an altruistic career.  Although teacher unions have long maintained the message that all their efforts are “for the children”, I don’t buy it.  I’m not claiming that teaching is rampant with evil, money-hungry people, but neither are most other professions.  A typical MBA working to keep his employer profitable is no less deserving of special adoration than is a typical teacher.  And many people who earn generous salaries show their altruism in other ways, such as donating their time and money to worthy causes.

Furthermore, it’s troubling when the government gets in the business of deciding which jobs deserve special treatment, like the most generous Income Based Repayment benefits that are reserved for government and nonprofit employees.  George Leef points out the consequences of this politicized meddling.

… Whenever the government gets involved in an activity that is not properly any of its business, we get the infamous trio: waste, fraud, abuse, and then the politicians feel the need to meddle still more in an effort to solve the problems they’ve created. The federal student-aid programs are a perfect illustration. Repayment of loans is being politicized, with easy terms for students provided they make the “right” choices in employment. That will only further misallocate resources and help to keep the higher-education bubble inflated.


Kate LeSueur, “The price of a good education, $80K and counting”, cleveland.com, March 01, 2015.

3 Comments to “Which are the ‘altruistic’ professions that deserve special treatment?”

  1. What’s really stunning is a the bottom of the linked article: “Kate LeSueur, of Shaker Heights, currently teaches history and economics at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio.”

    She teaches economics, yet she doesn’t seem to think to apply basic economic principles to make sense of the situation.


  2. I rather agree with this post, but for different reasons. Labelling teaching as noble and altruistic makes it more difficult to professionalize teaching and improve the status of the field. Tradtionally, altruistic professions are seen as low status (with the exception of medicine, but that is largely because of the AMA). I think much of the current anger that is directed towards teachers is because the general public thinks that teachers should be “good” and “unselfish” and not speak up for themselves. I see this in academia as well. When piling on yet one more time consuming committee assignment, how many times I have heard the chair or the dean say “Yes, I know you don’t have time but we do this for a higher love of our students”.

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that certain positions are extremely hard to fill but are still really necessary. It is really hard to find doctors to staff clinics in deep Appalachia. It is really hard to find teachers to work in remote areas of Arizona or in poverty stricken rural Mississippi. It is very hard to find nurses or other clinicians to work with the mentally ill. And yet, we do need people, good people in those positions. I don’t think we are ready to just say “eastern Kentucky, you don’t deserve medical care”. So there has to be some recognition that some positoins are going to need extra incentives in order to staff them. If it isn’t monetary, then what? Loan foregiveness has long been a way to do it – loan foregivenss programs for medical personnel who take jobs in rural area have been around for a long time. It isn’t because it is an altruistic profession, it is because an incentive is needed. Simple economics


  3. I don’t completely oppose incentives to solve some stubborn problems related to poverty and health care, but I would like to seem these incentives limited and more strategically targeted.


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