Americans are justly proud of our country.
Sometimes that pride gets in the way of progress. For instance, why do we put up with the world's most expensive health care system when it doesn't produce any better results than in other developed nations?
And why do we put up with pay for teachers that is far less than the pay in Europe?
In Germany, for instance, teachers are among the best-paid professionals.
Yet we respect teachers. The profession is No. 2, just behind the military, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Teachers are respected more than doctors and scientists.
Yet average pay for teachers has dropped in the last decade, according to a column in The Washington Post. In fact, teachers are earning less, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1990, reports Time magazine.
In a comparison of public school teachers to comparable workers, teachers earned 1.8 percent less in 1994 and 18.7 percent less in 2017.
Americans realize this. In a September poll, 60 percent think teachers are underpaid.
Is sexism at work? Teaching long has been considered a female-dominated profession. Yet registered nurses make far more than teachers — $73,550 compared to $58,950.
Unfortunately, pay is deterring people from entering the teaching profession or suggesting it to their children, according to a poll released in May.
Between 2008 and 2016, the proportion of new teachers completing preparatory programs dropped by 23 percent, reports the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
And close to 1 in 5 teachers leave the profession in the first five years. It's a demanding profession in a society that keeps dropping more demands on public schools.
Students today are asked to do more than read words on the page; reading comprehension means being able to think as well.
A logical spinoff would be teaching students how to spot fake news, whether it's a deceptive ad for a product, a political candidate or an issue.
There is so much bad information that "It's the equivalent of a public-health crisis," said Alan Miller, the founder of the News Literacy Project, in Time magazine.
So what should smart readers be doing?
Wise consumers abide by this journalism adage: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."
Wise readers don't take a piece of information by itself. Leave the website and see what other readers are saying about it. Go to the "About" section of the site to see who is funding it.
And if you receive an email with no author's name attached to the information, consider it fiction.
In short, it's easier to make up an interesting story — especially one that involves conspiracies — than to simply report the facts in a complex world.
Most of the people reading the Times-Union aren't undecided voters. But many Americans don't follow politics or even vote.
In fact, you could say that nonvoters handed Donald Trump the presidency.
About 30 percent of Americans were eligible to vote in the 2016 election but did not do so, reported The Washington Post.
Demographic groups that preferred Trump were more likely to vote.
Republicans were more likely to vote, and they voted for Trump.
Black and Hispanic voters were more likely to vote Democratic, but they also declined to vote in higher numbers.
People under 30 preferred Hillary Clinton by and large, but they also were more likely not to vote than their elders.
Call it the enthusiasm factor, but turnout in a close election can be decisive.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD