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Before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to the nation on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, the most anticipated topic was undoubtedly the economy. The president focused on plans to get the country back on track and keep us competitive with other powerful nations.

The president spoke of education among these plans, citing it as a foundation for our nation to remain competitive in a world of innovation and change.

He spoke of China and India “educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science” to give them an advantage in the job market.

Obama also talked about how the creativity of us American citizens is our edge in the competitive arena. But will this creative edge be enough in the long run?

Creativity is the key when inventing new technology and solving problems, but without knowledge there can be failure in executing these brilliant ideas. Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Knowledge is power.” This statement is on numerous posters in classrooms across the nation and is completely true.

If we are, in fact, so worried about losing our stance of power, then why is it that, as the president said in his speech, “in South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders,’” and here teaching is a mere occupation?

According to, the average salary nationwide for a teacher with 10 to 19 years of experience is $48,088. However, the website shows that the average salary for a teacher is only $44,672 in the state of Arizona.

These numbers don’t really mean much on their own. But when they are compared to the $30,000 per episode members of the popular reality show “Jersey Shore” are making, they come up a little short.

Granted, these are celebrities we are talking about. But when teachers are expected to train and educate the leaders of tomorrow, shouldn’t they get paid more than someone who can hardly scoop ice cream or sell a t-shirt?

What does this major difference in salary indicate about our values and about what is important to us in this country?

Well, it clearly says that we would pay more money to see a bunch of “juiceheads” and “guidettes” fight in a house all summer rather than pay for the education of our children and the assurance of a stable tomorrow.

It seems our priorities are a tad out of line. “We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair [as well],” Obama said.

This is all too true. We should not only celebrate superstars and rare talents, but also the intelligence of our peers.

The troubled economy and the ever-competitive job market are big clouds looming over the heads of America’s youth. In order to succeed, it is necessary for our children to be as prepared as possible.

This means teachers could quite possibly have the most important job of all. Shouldn’t they start getting paid accordingly?

Kailin can be reached at

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