What Is Tenure?

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant has provided an excellent analysis of arguments against tenure.

One thing to keep in mind as you’re considering this debate:

Tenure is not a bullet-proof guarantee of perpetual employment.

Tenure is a union-based protection that ensures that before an administrator can axe an employee, they have to follow a process designed to ensure that they have cause for termination. Teachers who have tenure are protected from whimsical firings because the union establishes rules by contract that force administrators to conduct actual observations and to document flaws and failings.

As Mr. McLeod points out, the average American worker lacks these kinds of protections. But I think that’s just because the average American worker doesn’t belong to a union.

So to a great extent, the fate of tenure will be wrapped up with the fate of unions. If teachers’ unions cave and bargain away tenure protections, then I doubt the unions themselves are long for this world.

If America wants its educators to be just another sub-set of the service sector, with the same job protections as the typical Wal-Mart employee, then America is going to have to be prepared for teachers with the same level of intellect and skill as the typical Wal-Mart employee.

(With apologies to my dear semi-retired mother, who is an absolutely atypical Wal-Mart employee.)

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