I enjoyed doing those writing exercises so much that I went back to see if I could find any others. One really popped out at me regarding doing a mock interview following a list of preset topics and then writing an article on it. It specifically stated in the instructions that I was not supposed to actually conduct the interview, but to prep a list of interview questions as if I were actually going to do it.
I went ahead and prepped the interview, and then per the exercise’s instruction, wrote out the interview as if it were a real and happened.
For this particular article, I chose a real world situation involving tenure and its importance in keeping college professors well paid and staffed. I chose a real school, but the names of the people used are completely fabricated. The answers to the interview are also fabricated. I simply wrote those out for the purpose of writing this mock article.
While tenure has remained a debatable topic amongst scholars, its positive effects vastly outweigh the negative in modern day educational institutions.
Tenure is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from dismissal.” Recent years have shown an increase in scholarly debate on tenure. The U.S. has seen a steady decline in the numbers of employed teachers in the last few years, but tenure numbers have continued to rise. The reasoning behind this discrepancy is the pure advantage to disadvantage ratio of tenure’s effects.
Scholars continue to argue the merits, advantages and disadvantages of tenure. Given the falling rate of teachers and professors in the U.S., tenure seems to be the one staple holding the population together. Tenure has been a foundation in universities and colleges since 1886 when Massachusetts first introduced tenure as a form of rewarding and providing more freedom to professors. Of the 3.5 million teachers and 1.7 million professors throughout the U.S., around 2.3 million have tenure. Those numbers are staggering and prove that tenure is alive and well, whereas the population of teachers is not.
The question of why teachers are leaving while tenure is almost an automatic guarantee is a heated topic. WeAreTeachers.com said that hundreds of thousands of teachers were part of walkouts, strikes and pay issues during the 2018-2019 school year. Tenure is given freely to almost every single K-12 teacher, yet the numbers continue to decline.
Many of the largest complaints filed by teachers were challenging work conditions, lack of a support system, lack of respect, discipline issues and the pay discrepancy. While most of the complaints are centered around a poor upper network to help support the teachers, the one that applies the best to tenure is the pay discrepancy.
Jonathan Henry, the chair of the department of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha blames tenure as a large contributor to the lack of high pay for teachers.
“Tenure, as I know it anyway, was designed to ensure the safety of a faculty’s position regardless of their performance, however, it creates a financial liability to both the government and the academic institution,” Henry said. “I was appointed tenure three years ago, and I still don’t understand where the money comes from.”
Henry has been studying economics for the better part of his adult life, and he doesn’t understand the finer intricacies of tenure. This does not mean that tenure is the sole reason for the decline in employed teachers. This is simply one small puzzle piece in a much larger overall whole.
Many scholars argue that tenure is creating a lack of creativity and productivity among professors. The promise of stability produces a lackadaisical effect that causes professors to become complacent. While this may be evident, the fact that more than half of the employed teachers and professors have tenure means a continued commitment to education. The decline of teachers and professors in the field can be corrected through tenure.
“I honestly do believe that high profile positions are more likely to be taught with dignity if tenure is a legitimate option,” said Sandra Malwen, the Associate Dean of Business for the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. “Many people in academia believe that tenure means stability. This is true, but it also means an understanding of performance.”
A teacher or professor that has been tenured can no longer be terminated or dismissed based on performance. This can cause a teacher to start lacking in performance with the idea of stability at the forefront. This is a legitimate concern but does not necessarily mean it is a common occurrence.
“Academics argue that tenure is a liability because facilitators might stop giving their full effort if they receive tenure,” Malwen said.
While Malwen recognizes this issue with the tenure system, she also believes that the benefits outweigh the costs. “To be honest, I believe in the greater good of people. I honestly do believe that high profile positions are more likely to be taught with dignity if tenure is a legitimate option.”
ProCon.org believes that tenure has become a stooge that is responsible for the financial and economic woes that affect education. Test scores and graduation rates have been dropping exponentially over the last decade. This is not the case, as tenure has helped secure a future for one of the most liable jobs in the industry. ProCon.org says that abolishing tenure would not solve the real issues at hand; issues like student’s home life, underfunding or the rising rate of teach resignations.
Those issues aside, tenure has vastly numerous advantages that outweigh the disadvantages.
Protecting our educators is paramount. Professors and teachers are just like every other person. They carry political beliefs and personal views, and tenure ensures they cannot be fired for those views. This is especially essential in a time where social media and the internet employs many ways to speak a person’s mind.
Given that the teacher population is on the decline, tenure is a great recruitment tool. When a teacher has the promise of security, stability and a guaranteed future, the allure to join and continue in the profession can be strong. Tenure can help alleviate some of the tension surrounding the pay discrepancy.
“If an [educator] provides a substantial contribution to a school’s mission or overall statement, has spent many years in their position with high regards, and is working to achieve something fruitful in their work, then yes,” answered Daryl Fuller, the chief financial officer of Business for the Waukesha County school district, when asked if tenure should continue to be offered. “Teachers are highly underpaid in our predicament. Being a teacher . . . is a risky venture. Protect them, I say, protect them. Security.”
Educators might also feel stagnant without tenure. Educators are usually given a set curriculum they must follow in order to meet standardized testing. Tenure can help educators become innovative and to think outside the box. Educators can also feel more comfortable being argumentative with school administration on behalf of their students. Insurance and guarantees are strong allies in a volatile work environment.
Unfortunately, economics remain at the forefront of the tenure debate. But what if the economical debate was nothing more than a scapegoat for the real issues? Current and future generations rely on the educational system to provide upstanding, intelligent people. High school, universities and graduate schools will continue to be the catalyst for educational ambitions. Abolishing tenure from these institutions is just a temporary, albeit poor, resolution to the problem. Continue offering tenure, and watch the advantages take form in the minds of students.