Since I am not a very large blogger, and not overtly political (most of the time), I seldom have my articles end up in organized trolling campaigns. But over the last week I had a flood of comments on this three-year-old article about teacher salaries. This sudden interest in an old article (particularly when many others more prominent than I have written on the topic more recently) puzzled me until I saw that the Center for American Progress had come out with a study saying that, surprise, teacher salaries were way too low.
I seldom participate in comments wars on my own articles, and prefer to post updates or clarifications in the article itself for all to see. However, this was particularly frustrating when it was clear that most commentators were coming to the site with some preconceived notion of what the article said, and did not feel the need to actually read the article before commenting. So, we end up with numerous folks saying "what about all the overtime work", as if I totally ignored that thought and hadn't even considered it, when there was a whole section on teacher overtime in the article. I finally lost it when I got a comment that said "I don't know where this guy gets his numbers..." This is a total cop-out response I see in comments all the time. It allows one to imply the numbers are shady or unsourced without having to actually provide specific criticisms of the data. I responded:
On the Internet, underlined bits of text, often in a different color, are called “links”. By clicking on these “links” with your cursor, you will go to other sites. In the case of this article, the source of data are all from the BLS, a part of the Federal Department of Labor. The “links” will take you directly to the pages where the data was taken (though since 3 years have passed the links may lead you to newer versions of the data).
There were also a number of comments along the lines of "well, I don't make anything like those numbers" to which I was forced to respond
In a distribution of millions of values, all the values in the distribution don’t normally match the average. Some will be above and some will be below. Though an average is different from a median, it is fairly safe to assume that something like half** of teachers make less than the numbers in the article and half make above those numbers. As discussed in my second update, if you are in a rural area, you are more likely to be in the “below” category. If you are in an urban area, you are more likely to be above
** with salary data, since the floor is typically closer to the average than the ceiling (salaries can't go below zero but can in theory go infinitely high), the median is generally below the mean, so likely more than half of teachers make less than the average.