As a teacher, I find the president’s call for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour particularly worrisome. As we increase the amount that businesses are minimally required to pay their employees, we place more and more value on the types of jobs to which those wages are attached. We also increase the emphasis on the idea of the minimum.
This country’s message should not be that high school graduates can get out in the world and earn more than anyone has ever earned before them for doing the minimum. I agree wholeheartedly with the president that no one who works full time should live below the poverty line, and I realize that, when it comes to putting food on the table for a family, any income is better than no income.
But I strongly believe that high school graduates should face a job market in this country that values careers over jobs, education over memorization and invention over reproduction. To ensure they face this type of job market, the minimum wage should be driven downward and a message should be constantly repeated in classrooms and society that the world has enough and has had enough of the minimum.
As the minimum wage, the emphasis on the minimum, and the reward for repetition is increased, so too is the difficulty in meeting the greatest challenge of my generation of teachers: maximizing the potential of our youngest minds by cultivating the innovation that lies within each of them.