I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why Teachers Need Tenure

Diane Ravitch responds to a particularly bad piece in The New Republic (did I really used to subscribe to this rag?) calling for the gutting of tenure:

In an editorial called “Making the Grade: The Case Against Tenure in Public Schools,” the editors argued that it was a fine idea to remove any job protections from public school teachers because they don’t need them. In making this assertion, the editors of this once-liberal magazine were giving support to the far-right Virginia legislature, which was at that moment not only trying to strip teachers of tenure but to require women to have “a trans-vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion.” The editorial of course condemned the latter as harsh, but thought that the far-right effort to remove job protection from public school teachers as a “halfway decent idea.” Indeed, the editorial went on to decry teacher tenure as “the least sane element” in our country’s education system.

The editorial claimed that after a few years, teachers get job protection that “makes it extremely difficult to fire them for the rest of their careers.” The source of this claim is the conservative National Council on Teacher Quality. TNR goes on to say that university professors deserve tenure because they are “our country’s idea factories,” so they must be free to explore unpopular ideas and to be protected from “ideological or intellectual retribution.”
By contrast, the editorial maintains, K-12 teachers need no such protection. They don’t create ideas, they don’t delve into controversial subjects. Their job is so important that they should be fired if they aren’t doing it right (let us assume for the moment that “doing their best work at all times” in Virginia means teaching what the Virginia legislature wants to hear and not teaching what it finds abominable).
But why do teachers need due process rights? Are they merely transmitters of information or do they too deal in ideas? I would argue that teachers must be free to teach and students must be free to learn. In the states trying so hard to eliminate teacher tenure–and in those that long ago succeeded–teachers put their jobs in peril if they teach about evolution, abortion, global warming, or many of the other hot-button issues of the day. If they teach a book that offends community values (and the American Library Association has a list of the 100 most-challenged books of the year, which includes Harry Potter books), they can be fired. [emphasis mine]
Is Ravitch overstating her case? Is this really a problem? Are K-12 teachers under the gun to adhere to ideological views rather than teach what has been arrived at through the scientific method or the application of reason and logic?

You tell me:

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Don McLeroy
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Again: "Someone has got to stand up to the experts." Says it all, doesn't it?

This cat, who holds a degree as a medical professional (!), believes that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. And he served as the Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education.

These people are everywhere; don't try to convince yourself they aren't. They serve on boards of education throughout the country - even in the smart, sophisticated, "we-would-never-do-that-here!" Northeast.

How would you like to be a librarian at a school where Don McLeroy served on the local board? Would you like to justify the dinosaur books you check out to kindergarteners? Or the menorah you put up on the windowsill next to the Christmas tree?

The New Republic, in all their condescension, forgets the most important thing about schools: they're where we train children to think. Unfortunately, there are many adults out there who don't like it when children think; they prefer unquestioning rote behavior, like filling in the correct bubbles on a sheet of paper.

If we are to ever have any hope of retaining our prominence in the world, we'd better make sure the Don McLeroys of the world do not get to interfere with the work of our teachers. We need tenure.

1 comment:

Teacher Mom said...

I don't need to comment, I just need a "Super Like" button. Agree on all points. FYI tenure gone for all new teachers in FL. Why would someone want to teach there?