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Many of us might agree with the recent commentary, "Pay teachers a living wage" (March 24), which effectively argued that teachers should receive higher salaries. That may be true, but it's true as well that our education system needs a thorough critique.

I retired as a professor of engineering and management at the University of St. Thomas several years ago, in part because our youngest son was battling cancer at the time. We lived in Pittsburgh for a year while Hans was receiving a five-organ transplant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. During that time, I taught two courses at the University of Pittsburgh. After returning to Minnesota, I was asked to teach at St. Cloud State University. At age 87, I am still employed full time. Here are my thoughts on the compensation of education professionals:

1) Yes, teachers should be paid more. But we should also do more work. U.S. school hours per year are well short of what is common in most industrialized countries. Korea, Finland and several others take the responsibilities of education more seriously — both in terms of hours spent and homework required. The need for more work in education also exists at the university level.

2) We should pay teachers more, but we should also be picky. The norms on the Graduate Record Examination for the Major Fields of Study place education majors below fields in physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, humanities and business. Yet many barriers are in place to keep people from other disciplines out of the teaching profession. Though it is true that many K-12 educators do have advanced degrees, many of the programs involved are not particularly rigorous.

3) The school year should be examined. The required number of contact hours in Minnesota is among the smallest in the nation and much less than what is required in other industrialized countries. We have breaks, snow days, and summers off. What other profession enjoys such a schedule?

4) What skills our young people need to learn should also be examined. Perhaps the inclusion in our educational programs of an occasional carpenter or machinist (or a scientist or a nurse) — people who understand responsibility — would add to the quality of learning. Maybe the introduction of those role-models would enrich the experiences of our students.

Of course, we have many fine and dedicated people in education. And, yes, we should pay them more. But we should also get a lot more for our money.

Thanks to the authors of the March 24 commentary for their thoughts on this important issue.

Fred Zimmerman is professor emeritus, University of St. Thomas, and currently a fixed-term faculty member at St. Cloud State University.