Our Opinion: Has the time come to dismiss tenure?
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Is academic tenure necessary?
Tenure provides job protection for educators ranging from elementary teachers to college professors.
In a recent Associated Press-Stanford University poll on education, 78 percent of respondents expressed frustration that tenure complicates efforts to fire teachers who perform poorly.
Although a majority expressed concerns about tenure, a minority — just 35 percent — believe an abundance of bad teachers is a serious problem in America’s schools.
Tenure was not devised to protect flawed faculty members, it was designed to preserve academic freedom.
The concept was free thinking and dissenting opinions are necessary, and desirable, in the pursuit of academic study and research.
Once teachers attain tenure, they enjoy job security not afforded to other career professionals. That security, however, is not absolute; specified actions may constitute grounds for dismissal.
The contemporary question is: Does tenure remain a vital component of academic freedom or is it a cumbersome anachronism that insulates incompetent instructors?
Modern society is both commended for tolerance and criticized for permissiveness. By either standard, assaults on academic freedom — although they have not been eradicated — have diminished.
Academic tenure, however, continues to insulate teachers who fail in their mission to educate students.
We believe it is time for the education system to heed public concerns and re-examine tenure.
And we encourage that re-examination to be based not on self-interest, but on the best interests of educating students.