01/10/2012 11:18 am ET Updated Mar 11, 2012

Instead of Complaining About Teachers, Become One

Over the holiday break, I had a pretty heated conversation with a conservative friend of mine about politics and other assorted topical sundries. The discussion turned towards the obligatory public versus private meme trotted out by most Republican and Tea Party sympathizers. That is, the public sector needs to shrink and its employees are bankrupting our economy, what with their lavish pensions, benefits, and retirement packages. He brought up public school teachers, stating that their benefits and pensions are especially egregious, particularly with how little they actually work.

Now, I'm not going to rehash the whole argument that teachers typically work more than 40 hour weeks, that their days are definitely not only nine to three, and that the profession could use an overall salary upgrade, merit rewards notwithstanding. So, I'll let the reader litigate this in the comments.

In response to my conservative comrade, I invoked an interesting campaign from the United Farm Workers (UFW) over a year ago called Take Our Jobs. The message is simple. If you're bothered by a stagnant economy and high unemployment, then "farm workers are ready to welcome citizens and legal residents who wish to replace them in the field." So, yes, take our jobs.

I'm not really sure how many people might have taken up the UFW on their offer, and I can certainly understand the reluctance. Farm work is really hard work; Stephen Colbert sincerely testified to this in 2010. And not that American citizens are averse to hard work, yet even with high unemployment, it's unlikely that people are jumping at the chance to harvest produce.

So, when my conservative friend griped about the undeserved teacher, I told him, "Then become one." Seriously. Rather than tear down the hard work performed by educators, calling their salaries and pensions unjustified, and railing against long vacations, then go ahead and teach, no one's stopping you.

He replied simply that he could, planned to at one point in his life, and that was the end of it. I assured him that a healthier alternative to criticizing teachers for their summers off -- which are really not all that off -- and their limited working hours -- which are really not all that limited -- is to change careers and work in a classroom.

Consequently, I implore all readers out there who begrudge teachers of what they earn to quit their dead-end private sector jobs and become a teacher. If you want information, I'm happy to provide it in the comments.