A lot of people are eschewing teaching for more reasons that just the money, even though most of them could command better salaries in business and industry, and that is a significant draw. A big reason friends of mine are leaving the field is that they are simply fed up with so many obnoxious kids coming into the classroom with an overinflated sense of ability while demonstrating an underwhelming level of performance.
Why? There’s lots of speculation. For instance, there’s a significant effort right now to return education to a kind of 1950s model of rote memorization, with subjects being taught not so much to increase students’ skills and intellectual prowess but to perform well on standardized tests that purport to measure their progress.
At the same time, some of those tests are being “renormed,” which is basically code for “curved”–I was told that to compare my results on the SAT from 17 years ago to that today, for instance, I should add 200 points to my score. That would put me above the 1600 mark. There is a lot of political pressure to show that, on paper at least, students are improving–and school districts don’t want to be faced with budget cuts, angry parents, and public embarassment when their kids aren’t getting high grades and high scores.
Nowadays, a “C” is not viewed as average, the true definition of the grade, but as failing. Everyone expects to receive an “A” or “B,” even though by definition, most should receive a “C.” Kids are taught by either aggressive parents or by surrogates, like television and peers, that getting what they want is the only important thing, and if that means cheating or complaining, they’re prepared to do so.
Of course, all of this is leading to a generation of kids who’ve been told they’re all above average, enjoyed inflated grades, and grew up at least partly in the roaring 90s, when economic times were good, jobs were plentiful, and it wasn’t all that hard to make a living.
Add broken homes, neglectful parents, school violence, and dwindling resources, and many smart people are deciding it just isn’t worth it. There are many, many fine people who still choose to go into teaching, but if faced with making 35K a year to put up with all of that or doubling one’s salary in other pursuits, many are choosing the latter.