It seems that no matter how many times you say “hey, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet,” the message still fails to be received. The internet as we know it (sorta) is a quarter of a century old, and yet, we still don’t know how to use it.
Given that it has been in circulation for years, most of you have probably seen this meme on facebook, or twitter, or reddit, or wherever.
Let’s clear this up once and for all:
Teachers in Finland are not paid like doctors. The average teacher in Finland makes between $30,000 and $45,000 a year (depending on type and experience) while the average general practitioner makes about $70,000 (about half of what doctors in America make).
In fact, teachers in Finland are not even paid as well as teachers in America.
Here. I made a chart for you.
As you can see, the average American public school teacher makes more—significantly more—than a similar teacher in Finland, whether he is teaching grade school, middle school, high school, is new to the classroom, experienced, or retiring. So if we’re going to mimic the Finnish school system, I guess we should be paying our teachers less, right?
But ya know what? This is not a post about preferential forms of public education. This is not a post about the supremacy or inadequacy of American education.
No. There is a bigger problem here.
I am not dismayed that the meme is wrong. I expected that. I am dismayed that it has gained such widespread support and traction on social media sites. I have seen it posted dozens of times on my Facebook newsfeed alone, and have yet to see one person post an article debunking it (they exist).
So this article is about the dire need for people to learn to employ the informative tools at their disposal.
How was I able to figure out within minutes of seeing the meme that its claims are blatantly false? Well, aside from the fact that the Cato Institute debunked the silly meme years ago, I figured it out because I looked up data on teacher salaries!
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) keeps digital records of that sort of thing, along with many other sorts of things. In this table, from which I drew the data, they list the average starting, 15-year, and maximum salaries for teachers in public institutions in a lot of countries as of 2011. Clear as day. How do I know this is credible data? Well, I don’t know 100%. But I can get a pretty good idea based on their citations, and methodology.
And ya know what? There are hundreds of other credible websites with raw data on a variety of topics. All you need to do is learn to navigate them.
So this is a plea of sorts, a plea to my peers: Don’t fall victim to the trolls and crooks of the internet. Learn to use the wealth of information that exists on the webisphere.
If you’re a little dubious of claims made in an article, meme, etc… there is likely some credible data out there that will confirm or negate your suspicions. Not comfortable with raw data? At the very least do a Google search. If it’s false, there is a good chance someone has debunked it. Of course, you can’t trust all opposing articles, which is why learning to find the info and weigh the facts yourself is so important.
The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of bad information out there. Remember that anyone with internet access is capable of creating a meme, or writing an article—without credibility, or accountability. The result is that…well, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. But you can determine what is true and what is false with a degree of certainty. Shoot for a degree of certainty before you post.