Tuesday, July 05, 2011


There's so much misunderstanding an extraneous emotion out there surrounding the issue of tenure.

Tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment; it is a guarantee of due process before a teacher loses his job for some reason. I'll admit, though, that sometimes due process becomes what I call undue process,with so many hoops to jump through that it can literally take years before genuinely bad teachers can be dismissed. Abuse of the system should call for fixes to the system, not to doing away with tenure itself.

I like much of what Checker Finn has to say, but in this column he's way off base. He gives in to the extraneous emotion I mention above:
Because tenure—job security in general—is a valuable employment benefit that substitutes in part for salary, it tends to hold down teacher pay, which in turn affects who does and doesn’t seek to enter this line of work and who does and doesn’t stay there. Because tenure pretty much guarantees one a job regardless of performance, it reduces teachers’ incentive to see that their pupils really learn—and their incentive to cooperate in sundry reforms that might be good for their schools and their students.
I guess it's possible that he believes that, but common sense tells me that the connections going from tenure to pay to who enters the field is very, very tenuous. (Tenure? Tenuous? Get it? Sometimes I slay myself!) Tenure doesn't guarantee a job regardless of performance, either, unless administrators--the people chosen to run our schools--opt not to be the leaders they claim to be.

Finn's closing statement also really fired me up, making mention of "guaranteeing them lifetime jobs". Finn knows better; at best he's being hyperbolic, but more likely he's being disingenuous with such a statement. I expect better from someone with his credentials.

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