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Tenure: A Hot Bed of Controversy

by

Kirstie Cook

10 October, 2012
English 13
Block 4 A/C
Mr. Tress
Many people believe that tenure is a great thing that can help protect our teachers from being fired for the wrong reasons. Within this opinion lies the real problem. Tenure started as something that would allow teachers to teach things that were controversial at the time, such as Huck Fin, without having to fear being fired because of a parents outrage (Stephy, pg.1). Now it is next to impossible to fire a teacher. The problem with tenure is that it has become a way to protect the incompetent from being fired. One California school board spent $8,000 to fire an instructor who preferred using R-rated movies instead of books (Stephy, pg.1). Tenure needs to be revamped, we do not need to completely abolish it, but we do need to change it on a large scale. Right now it is harder to change tenure then to add an amendment to the constitution. When discussing the causes of tenure you think of a time when teachers could be fired for things such as reading a book a parent doesn’t approve of. It is true that this is how tenure began. It started at the same time labor unions were coming around. The first state to get tenure was New Jersey in 1909, it started as a way to protect teachers for being fired for a cheaper hire (Brody, pg.1). Tenure also started as a way to protect female teachers from being fired for things such as getting married, pregnant, or wearing slacks (Stephy, pg. 1). At this point in time tenure was very important and some people agree we still need it. One reason people think we still need tenure is that in removing tenure it would reduce innovation in teaching. Without the protection of tenure, teachers may feel pressured to use the same lesson plans and teach directly to standardized tests. Former California Teachers Association President Barbara Kerr said, "Teachers are afraid to try new, innovative things if they are afraid of losing their job” (Pro Con Website, pg.2). Tenure has made teaching one of the most desirable jobs in terms of security. This job protects every Teacher from getting fired for any reason at all except for cases with evidence of things such as inappropriateness with a student. Everything about tenure sounds fine and dandy. Teachers won’t be fired for reasons such as a disgruntled parent. It has been a long time though since teaching has been put under such a microscope. Tenure has turned into what a safety net would be for someone walking a tight rope. Tenure has now become a card in every teachers back pocket. If they are told they are going to be fired for any number of reasons they just take out their get out of jail free card. Suddenly it’s either you have to keep a teacher or spend multiple years and thousands of dollars to fire them. Teacher tenure creates complacency because teachers know they are unlikely to lose their jobs. Tenure removes incentives for teachers to put in more than the minimum effort and to focus on improving their teaching (Wanda, pro con, pg.2). Many people also watch another more current problem showing up that has been created by tenure. You watch every day as that elderly teacher with tenure continuously gets more and more out of touch with the latest teaching styles. They start to care less and less about the profession but they just won’t retire for one reason or another. Then there is this new teacher that hasn’t got tenure yet or just got it. This teacher has a desire for feeding students the knowledge they need and makes every day exciting and new. But what happens when this school has to lay off a few teachers due to budget cuts? Is the new teacher with innovated ideas laid off, or the old teacher who is scrapping the bottom of the barrel the one that’s cut? It turns out to be the old teacher that is kept, and the new teacher is told to pack their bags with the same sorry excuse every time, “Last hired, first fired, we’re sorry.” Should this really be a valid excuse? When tenure comes into play it becomes a perfectly valid and in fact acceptable excuse. Why should we allow for this innovative teacher to be fired? If we were in any other profession the old teacher would be fired. What if they weren’t teachers but chefs at a restaurant? Would you want the owner to keep the guy who is losing his touch, or should they fire that guy and keep the new guy with a many new ideas? In this case without that tenure wild card the elderly chef would get kicked out and the restaurant would thrive. That leaves us with the question, what should be done with tenure. How can we change such an old system? What needs to happen is tenure need to lose some of its control. If a teacher is not doing his/her job to the upmost of their ability they should be fired. Along with this teachers should still be protect from being fired for religious or personal belief. The process to fire a teacher should be shortened; it takes too much time and money. Tenure should only be granted to those who have demonstrated that they are effective in the classroom, it should not be given merely based on the number of years you have worked there (Gardner, pg.1). When many schools are dealing with financial problems the last thing a school should have to work with is trying to oust a non-useful teacher. What school would want to spend $8,000 in economic hardship just to get rid of one lazy teacher? One idea is a new bill in Florida where new teacher hires would have a one year contract. Florida has always been a forefront for educational changes (Scott Finn, pg.1). Another idea is to rate teachers, teachers who fail to earn high ratings for two consecutive years will automatically face revocation of tenure, unless they have shown some improvement (Kate Zernike, pg.1). All in all, tenure has become an object for teachers to hide behind. It has become a way to get stuck with incompetent teachers. No one knows how to escape these teachers. We are at a point when the only way to fix our school systems is going to be redesigning the system of tenure as a whole. We need to find a way to fire incompetent teachers or outdated ones that don’t have a passion for what they do, without spending thousands of dollars. Many civilians within the school districts don’t even realize the complications involved in firing a tenured teachers. Tenure is an outdated system that needs a massive makeover so that our schools can begin improving.
Citations
1. "http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/walt_gardners_reality_check/2012/08/ teacher_tenure_overhaul.html?qs=tenure." Education Week. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. (this is a radio conversation with host Scott Finn.)
2. Stephy. "Tenure." Time U.S. N.p., 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. .
3. Zernike, Kate. "Christie Signs Bill Overhauling Job Guarantees for Teachers." The New York Times. N.p., 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
.
4. The Record North Jersey. N.p., 22 Aug. 2010. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
.
5. Pro Con. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. .…...

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