A better way

Published 7:06 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It’s a interesting phenomena that when young children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the answers are more often than not, “a teacher,” “a fireman,” “a policeman.”

Why that’s the case could be any number of reasons: the big, red trucks, the cool, flashing sirens, the affection they feel for their current teachers. Perhaps children choose these particular careers to aspire to because most are taught to respect the authority inherent in those positions. Perhaps they recognize that teachers, firemen and law enforcement officers are the people who represent safety, who are often catapulted from an average person to hero in the space of seconds, just by virtue of doing their jobs. Perhaps, in a child’s eyes, that alone makes them worthy of admiration.

But what happens to that admiration? We all have favorite teachers that we look back upon with admiration. We’ve all experienced, or heard of instances, when EMTs, law enforcement officers and firefighters have come to the rescue. So why is there this increasingly aggressive national trend to vilify the very people whose everyday work forms the very foundation of civil stability?

In North Carolina, we refuse to give our teachers raises and make meaningless any higher education that could actually make teachers better at their jobs. The best and the brightest are leaving North Carolina, not because they want to, but because they can’t afford to teach and raise a family here. They are leaving us in favor of states that will pay them what they deserve — and they deserve a lot, considering they are charged with teaching children to read, to write, everything needed to become productive members of society.

As for firefighters and EMTs, there was a very telling campaign in this state earlier this year: the Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association took out billboards around town, with a startling message. They showed an image of a firefighter in full gear, battling a roaring fire. The text reads: “RISKING OUR LIVES FOR $9.63/HR.”

It’s a sad state when the people we rely on when our lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy have to take out billboards begging for a raise. It’s even sadder that their jobs aren’t worth more to us.

Many would argue that it’s the unions they object to, not the individuals who work in those fields. Whether you believe in unions or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that these people have the ability to inspire our children to go on to great things, they save lives, and are the ones we rely on during emergencies, that we turn to when we’re victims. They are our neighbors, friends, family and, sometimes, our heroes.

And for that, they deserve better.