Okay, so that title is a bit blunt. Some of you will be angry about it and others will applaud. Since this is my blog, I can be blunt and not have to care about whether I've offended anyone. Just saying...
Why do I feel that tenure is the worst idea in the history of education? The answer is multi-fold but I'll do my best to address all the reasons here.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I'M GENERALIZING. NOT ALL TENURED TEACHERS FALL UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE COMMENTS BELOW AND NOT ALL NON-TENURED TEACHERS FIT THE DESCRIPTION EITHER.
1. Mediocrity -- One main reason I detest the idea of tenure among teachers is because the very nature of it provides a breeding ground for mediocrity. In my experience, non-tenured teachers are the most maleable teachers. Tenured teachers, not so much. New teachers come straight from the college setting ready to mold young minds. They are ready and willing to come in and be directed and corrected. For the most part, they openly and willingly accept constructive criticism and are the first to try a new teaching technique or strategy. They naturally self-evaluate and will blame themselves or their teaching ability for a failed lesson rather than blame the students. You seldom hear "These kids are just slow" or "They don't pay attention" or "I think they gave me the bottom of the barrel in this class". Instead you'll hear them saying "That lesson did not work" or "I have to completely change this" or "I need some help teaching this concept to my students".
Many, but not all, tenured teachers become complacent and fail to self-assess. In some cases, they become lazy and fall victim to the negativity of their even older colleagues. Tenured teachers tend to be the most reluctant to change and they develop a sense of entitlement. Every change, from changing rooms to changing textbooks is fought tooth and nail. Tenured teachers who stop growing and stop self-assessing become the old crones who sit in the "Teacher's Lounge" or "Workroom" and gripe about everything that's wrong with the school, the kids, the parents, the central office administration...everyone but themselves. It always amazed me to hear them gripe and complain about everything and everyone but themselves. It was never their fault that 80% of their students didn't master a concept. It was never their fault that the students were unruly or disruptive. It was never their fault that the lesson failed.
In most businesses (like it or not, public education is a business), there is no such thing as tenure. People are hired and fired based on their qualifications and merit. Are they valuable? Do they contribute? Are they constantly improving and working on ways to help their counter-parts improve? Are they focused on what's important? How's the attitude? What are their long-term goals? Mediocre workers seldom progress up the chain and they are often left doing menial tasks or they are eventually let go. The business of public education is far too important to allow mediocrity to exist in even one classroom. If tenure breeds mediocrity, then tenure must go.
Stay tuned...I'll give additional reasons for the abolishment of tenure in later posts.