Dr. David James
6 August 2012
Today, there seems to be a push to change the policy of teacher tenure. “Roughly 2.3 million public school teachers in the United States have tenure—a perk reserved for the noblest of professions (professors and judges also enjoy such rights).” (Stephey) Tenure refers to a policy which gives teachers a permanent contract that effectively ensuring them a guarantee of employment for life. Stephey continues to state, “Though tenure doesn’t guarantee lifetime employment, it does make firing teachers a difficult and costly process, one that involves the union, the school board, the principal, the judicial system and thousands of dollars in legal fees.” (Stephey) In making this comment, Stephey urges us to think about tenure process and what is involved in removing a teacher. Tenure started in the early 20th century as a means of protecting teachers from being fired for wrong reasons. Back then, racial or personal bias could get a perfectly good teacher fired. Female teachers even faced being fired for becoming pregnant or for wearing pants to work. Tenure also serves to protect professors whose research or teaching practices might ruffle feathers, and to ensure job security for out of the box academic pursuits. Typically, tenure is granted to university professors only after an intensive and protracted process of review. Professors usually do not come under review for tenure until they have spent at least five years working in their position. Primary and secondary school teachers can earn tenure in as little as two years on the job. Should teacher tenure be abolished? Wisniewski 2
In 2000, 36 year old Leslie Jermyn went to teach her first course as a seasonal lecturer at the University of Toronto for $4,550, she taught 100 students a two month first year anthropology course. Though Jermyn would go on to teach courses every summer for the next 11 years, the job was never guaranteed, and every year she experienced “gut wrenching tension” waiting to find out whether she won the contract. “Often I was hired within two weeks of the start time of the course.” For years she had no benefits and worked out of a shared office, furnished with one desk and telephone. In 2007, after she had been teaching upwards of 800 students a year for three years straight, she argued to the dean that her department needed a regular teaching position. That didn’t work, and Jermyn says she knows why:”I’m cheaper without benefits.” (Findlay) When university’s replace full time professors with a seasonal lecturer, it undermines the whole profession. Today, tenure gives teachers protection from being able to take chances with material that may be deemed controversial or speaks out about the latest headlines or issues at hand. According to Nelson, “In truth, many Americans deserve better job security than they have. But people responsible for teaching your children have a special need to be protected from capricious dismissal.” Nelson continues to say,” If your children are going to be taught to think rigorously and creatively—which is their best route--they need to be taught by teachers who can be rigorous and creative and courageous as well.” (Nelson) In making these comments, Nelson argues that tenure is a necessity if our children are to succeed by exposing them to different teaching methods. The argument that tenure is just a matter of showing up to work and putting in your time is reflected in this article written by the: The New York State United Teachers, “Mythbusters: The Truth About Tenure”, Wisniewski 3
“Unions don’t grant tenure – administrators do. Too many school boards and superintendents attack tenure rather than hold their own managers accountable for hiring and supervising teachers and, if necessary, removing those who don’t make the grade.” (Mythbusters) In most cases when a teacher earns tenure there are very few reviews and if the reviewer likes...
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