Wine Cork Stratification and Life in Education


My wife and I like wine. A little wine, maybe a couple of glasses after dinner.

My wife also enjoys making crafty projects for the home. So, from the beginning of our relationship, we’ve saved wine corks because my wife has many ideas for projects that she can make. She’s done some cork boards for family pictures and notes. She’s made wine cork frames. Recently, she purchased some letter-shaped molds that can be filled with wine corks. We’ve renovated our kitchen to include a small wine bar. Above the bar, we have the word “WINE” spelled out in corks. It’s really quite clever. Wine

Well, putting this project together required me to empty our cork drawer–yes, we had a cork drawer…don’t judge!

And, since I can’t do anything without exercising my sociological imagination, I couldn’t help but notice an interesting story of our family in the strata of corks in the cork drawer.

You see, enjoying wine is a bit expensive. When my wife and I began our journey together, things were pretty tight for us to start. We were both established in our careers, however, our careers were in education, so being established doesn’t necessarily translate into a great deal of money that can be lavished on wine. Consequently, we consumed mostly low budget wine in our early years. For the purposes of the project above, however, that meant the bottom of the drawer consisted almost exclusively of the BAD corks. In other words, they were the rubber or compressed corks, not real cork corks.

Toward the middle strata, we see a smattering of the GOOD corks, the ones made of real cork from reputable labels. At the top of the pile are exclusively good corks.

It turns out that this cork drawer provides a pretty good paleontological model for our economic status. Early on in our relationship were the bad cork years, corks that, except for some empty spaces in the “E” in the picture above, were excluded from the project. These were the years we had to make do with cheap (that’s not to say bad) wine. As we went along we were able to splurge a bit on good wines more often. Ironically, this represents the impact of the Great Recession on our property taxes and refinancing our mortgage more so than it does an increase in our salaries.

The top layer most closely represents our current economic status, exclusively good corks. What factors contributed to this elevation? My wife left the school system and applied her skill set to start her own business. Doing so reduced her workload significantly, offered her greater freedom and flexibility and tripled her income.

Okay, so I recognize that not being able to afford the good wines is hardly a Dickensian tale, but what does this say to any bright, young person looking for a career? Are they going to choose to teach? I love teaching,  but if I had it to do over again, I would never go into this profession.

The United States is experiencing a teacher shortage, and it’s stories like that told by my cork drawer, that are contributing factors. It’s not unreasonable for someone to expect that, after investing their time and money for entering into a profession, they should be able to enjoy a couple of glasses of decent wine with their dinner. Otherwise, find another career. That’s what many young people and even seasoned educators like my wife are doing.

Another nail in the coffin for American public education.

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