The real stars

August 28, 2014 

The two most common elements in the world are hydrogen and stupidity, and not in that order. Every day we are confronted with this reality, whether we realize it or not. Wake up in the morning and the sun is shining, we should all say thank you to hydrogen. Wake up in the morning and turn on the news, and clearly stupidity is everywhere.

Recently, I listened to a podcast from Neil Degrasse Tyson. Dr. Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium, host of TV’s “Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey” and bona fide scientific celebrity. The podcast I listened to discussed the birth of stars like our sun. For the most part, I hung in there as Dr. Tyson explained the finer points of mass, gravity, pressure, heat and fusion.

When the podcast was over, I felt smarter, and I couldn’t wait to share my newly acquired knowledge with the world. Turns out, not every one cares about the formation of our stars, and trying to explain it to the patient, albeit perturbed, lady working the counter at the license bureau was probably not wise.

As much fun as it is to share knowledge, and to the degree that I abhor stupidity, it’s surprising that I didn’t choose teaching as a profession. There have been many times I’ve considered going back to school to earn my education degree.

Usually all it takes to rid me of that urge is to attend a middle school assembly, or sit next to a gaggle of elementary school kids at a football game, but there are times that the thought of being in a classroom really appeals to me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very soft spot in my heart for the teaching profession. Some of my favorite people in the world are educators, including my wife.

My wife has been a great encouragement to me throughout the years whenever the teaching bug bites. Mostly, her encouragement consists of laughing hysterically at the thought of me in the classroom. Apparently, she has some concerns regarding my ability to resist duct taping students’ mouths shut. My wife has also made it clear that because I know a thing or two about being a big ball of gas with frequent emissions, it doesn’t qualify me to teach science.

Speaking of big balls of gas, Alnilam is the middle star of Orion’s Belt. The light that star emits takes just over a thousand years to reach the earth. A light year is roughly equivalent to six trillion miles. So, if you do the math, which I won’t because I want to teach science, that’s, like, a really long way away.

Know what else is a thousand light years away? My understanding as to why we as a society do not value educators more.

In the most recent salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, teachers’ starting salaries ranked second to last. Late in 2013, the Washington Post published a study from the National Center for Educational Statistics. The study ranked average teacher salaries by state. Missouri and Kansas finished 40th and 41st respectively. As I have already established, I am no math teacher, but I’m pretty sure that’s not good.

I’m not one to grant any profession instant hero status, but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers. Maybe someday I’ll get my chance to explain how the gas giants formed. For now, I’ll have to be content with just supporting our teachers any way I can.

And working on my math skills.

Bill Filer is a Harrisonville resident.

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