And, just on a personal note, I think I’d rather be the person who I would have been in the absence of about 1/3 of the teachers I had in K-12. Surprisingly many of them were not only incompetent, but petty, power-hungry, and even vindictive. I remain angry and bitter about those damaging years, and it’s part of why I’m so interested in education now (Maybe I’ll write a whole post on my anger and bitterness another time). But, because it was a wealthy area, most of the students did just fine academically – despite these bad teachers, not because of them. And, every year, the parents were coughing up expensive gifts and gift certificates for the poor, underappreciated teachers. I reckon that many of the teachers who truly deserve some extra appreciation – those who work with severely underprivileged students, those whose schools are unsafe, those who don’t make a decent living – are those who are, sadly, the least likely to receive it, holiday or not.I agree that it feels gross to systematically honor certain people, especially entire professions. But maybe society is better off because of it?
Teaching has all sorts of nonmonetary benefits, such as the satisfaction of influencing young lives, the favorable work schedule (summers off for most), and the various forms of recognition, including Teachers' Appreciation Day.
Because of nonmonetary benefits, fun jobs pay less, all else equal. Many people would happily choose teaching elementary school at $35,000 a year over a working a boring job at $50,000 a year.
If we cut some of these nonmonetary benefits, we'd have to increase teacher salaries, in order to keep the existing pool of teachers away from alternative professions. Teachers probably value the recognition more than it "costs" us to provide it, so paying teachers in recognition instead of cash is probably a good deal for taxpayers.
As another example: imagine how much more we would have to pay teenagers to become soldiers if there were no parades, standing ovations at public events, or other acts of respect.