Stuck With Tenure

I know it’s tradition to only quote Megan McArdle to disagree and insult her, so let me say that this is incorrect:

The state legislature of California should get rid of teacher tenure.

Tenure does confer some benefits to society. Professors can work on higher risk, longer term projects that they might not be able to otherwise if they needed to show they were productive each and every single year. If a research project requires you to embed yourself in some subculture somewhere for three years, you aren’t going to have anything to show for it until the fourth year at best.

University of Chicago Seminary Staircase. Photo credit: Chris Smith

University of Chicago Seminary Staircase. Photo credit: Chris Smith

Academic freedom is also valuable, though you might not want to try exerting it until after your first check clears.

But there are those who abuse the situation. They aren’t carrying out long-term, risky projects. They are simply coasting.

Yes, I am propelled solely by anecdotes in this belief, but they are firsthand ones. They tell me tenure isn’t really a great idea for most positions, and its benefits can be gained through other ways.

That doesn’t mean it is simple or wise for any given institution to unilaterally get rid of tenure.

If my wife’s university did away with tenure, she and I would be sad. We love living here. But within a year or two, we’d leave for a university that did offer her tenure. Had her current school advertised her position as non-tenure-track to begin with, she’d have never deigned to send in her C.V., let alone interview.

This wouldn’t break the university, but you’d see within five to ten years most the professors who are capable of moving (i.e. the good ones) move. You’d be left only with those who cannot move—including many of the coasters that you were trying to get rid of in the first place.

Classes would still be taught. There are good teachers who through no fault of their own will accept adjunct work on fairly unattractive terms. And lest you think teaching is bifurcated into tenure-track and adjunct work, it’s not. Universities can and do employ full-time, full-benefits lecturers who teach a bit more but have no research expectations.

Still, the way to improving a university’s standing is for it to be choosy, not simply to fill a class schedule. I have no idea whether John Cochrane is actually a good in-class teacher. But my respect for the University of Chicago derives from people like him and Richard Thaler. They are at UC, and they do awesome research.

If these people moved to the University of Iowa, some measure of my respect would move along with them. Eventually, those changes would filter down to the students to the detriment of Chicago students and the betterment of Iowa students. Without its most research productive faculty, a university’s reputation will eventually decay. Research matters to the reputation of the school even as it fails to matter directly to students.

So, even as someone who isn’t a fan of tenure, I predict doom for the first state, university, or school district to abolish it. This applies for K-12 education too. If California gets rid of tenure, its best teachers will leak out. It will only successfully retain those who are stuck. And it will become the state new teachers put last on their list when they search for jobs.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

107 thoughts on “Stuck With Tenure

  1. McArdle is arguing against tenure for K-12 teachers, which you do finally mention in the last paragraph. Your arguments for tenure at the university level, though, don’t really apply to K-12. The teachers there are not doing research; they’re not teaching controversial subjects; and generally speaking, schools in one state are not out poaching recruiting “star” teachers from other states.

    Report

    • I’m fairly sure she’s against it for universities as well.

      The risk of poaching is indeed lower in K-12. I would guess that fewer schoolteachers are likely to be top wage earners in their families than is the case with professors. If your husband works for Google, you might not move no matter what kind of deal the California school system gives you, but the phenomenon will still be present and probably enough to matter. I think you would see the most notable change in an inability to attract the best new teachers, or even any new teachers who are good enough to have multiple options.

      Report

      • Even at the university level, a very small portion of the people who actually teach are tenured professors, now. Well over half the people who teach in universities (something like 65%) are adjunct, without tenure, benefits, or job protection. In my sweetie’s department, which is a technology department, this translates to the people who’s technical skills that were cutting edge 20 years ago holding the tenured jobs, and all the people who are cutting edge now working as adjuncts. I don’t know that this is a good thing, or a bad thing, it just is the way it is. I do know that job security and benefits would be nice, lack of them creates churn; but they only accrue to the tenured professors and the ever-growing cadre of admins; and the churn is probably cheaper then paying adjuncts bennies.

        Report

      • In my perfect world, there’d be (1) full-time positions for people who do teaching and research (what we now consider tenured positions, though I don’t know why they have to be). (2) full-time lecturer positions for those who only do teaching, (3) some one-off adjunct positions for professionals who want to come in some evening and teach a course for the hell of it. (I’d put Burt in this category, though perhaps he disagrees.)

        Unfortunately, none of that is the way things actually work.

        Report

      • my sweetie actually works doing cutting-edge research, and I’m sure he not alone in the adjunct world; people with highly specialized skill brought in to teach a specific topic; he teaches seniors. They require him to turn in a lot of his class material; and I already know they’re mining it for course material. He participates in teaching school-wide seminars, available to all students, and performs in school concerts.

        Seems to me that though he’s only an adjunct with a few classes, what he’s doing, what others like him are doing, deserves something closer to the tenure track. The only value it has to us, this tentative employment, is that he’s free to leave it each semester because a better opportunity has come along — either more money, more interesting, or actual benefits.

        And having written this, I will advice him to look at his next contract in terms of his IP rights in the course material he develops; since he’s not an employee, I expect he should own them, and it shouldn’t be a make-for-work contract. I suspect that may be a real problem for people in a similar boat; though it’s likely a small percentage of adjuncts. There are so many adjuncts, however, that it’s still a pretty big boat.

        Report

      • I’m not a fan of the phenomenon of adjuncts doing research. (I mean, I guess I’m a fan in that they might do something good and then I’d get to read it, but it’s basically unpaid labor, which is bad. People doing research should get paid to do it.)

        One frustrating thing for me that I see is adjuncts doing research they don’t get paid for and tenured professors not doing research for decades, but getting paid for it.

        The only value it has to us, this tentative employment, is that he’s free to leave it each semester because a better opportunity has come along — either more money, more interesting, or actual benefits.

        Sort of. I assume they’d be really annoyed if he left in the middle of a semester, right? Or even right before a semester before they could find a replacement.

        And having written this, I will advice him to look at his next contract in terms of his IP rights in the course material he develops; since he’s not an employee, I expect he should own them, and it shouldn’t be a make-for-work contract.

        He ought to stick a copyright Mr. Sweetie (2014) right on there. That might be preferable in fact to putting it in a contract. Even as employees, professors retain copyright over their work. This ain’t IBM.

        Report

      • Even as employees, professors retain copyright over their work. This ain’t IBM.

        It might depend on the university.

        I’m not sure tenure track would necessarily be as beneficial as it might sound. However–and congruent with my and what I take to be Vikram’s “perfect world”–a full-time position, or at least a multi-year contract, doing what he’s doing might work well for his situation. Or maybe not. I don’t really want to presume what’s good for him. But I would like a situation in which more people with your sweetie’s abilities had better opportunities for full-time and more permanent positions. And in my opinion, a system with tenure-track positions doesn’t provide those opportunities.

        Report

      • I’m not a fan of the phenomenon of adjuncts doing research…. People doing research should get paid to do it.

        Well, there’s pay and there’s… What’s access to a properly maintained and calibrated strength-of-materials machine worth? A scanning electron microscope? The faculty-only parts of the library’s collection of Medieval manuscripts? Ten years of archived observations from the pulsed fusion reactor that may answer a question no one was asking at the time? Research universities have enormous accumulated inventories of all sorts of useful stuff, much of it available if you have that magic “faculty” ID.

        Report

      • I’m not a fan of the phenomenon of adjuncts doing research. (I mean, I guess I’m a fan in that they might do something good and then I’d get to read it, but it’s basically unpaid labor, which is bad. People doing research should get paid to do it.)

        If they like it enough to do it for free, what’s the problem? Bloggers are doing unpaid labor, too.

        Report

      • True, and I wouldn’t want to see them prevented from doing it. One of the objections I have though is that it benefits the university you work for.

        I don’t know whether unpaid bloggers is the best comparison. When I write, I benefit OT (theoretically!), but not an institution that is in the business of producing written content. I think a better objection might be guest Op/Ed pieces in newspapers. They are almost always unpaid and benefit companies that probably ought to be paying people who produce content for them. The same objection applies to some of the Forbes.com blogs and many of the Huffington Post ones. I don’t think those people are paid, but they aren’t exactly OT.

        Report

    • There is also the issue of the damage a “coaster” can do to the education of the students. At University, a coaster who is a crap teacher & poor researcher can be sidelined to low level projects & marginal classes. Crap coaster K-12 teachers are much more difficult to sideline except in the largest of districts (such as LAPS or NYPS).

      Report

      • Agree with you on K-12. In practice, I think sidelining crap teachers doesn’t actually happen the way you might expect. “Crappy” teachers are often the ones assigned to large required classes with lots of students while “good” ones get to do obscure electives in their particular area of interest. (Your University May Vary.)

        Report

      • MRS, I disagree with that pretty strongly. From what I understand, it’s the largest districts that seem to have the biggest problems with crappy teachers. Small districts usually just get rid of them, either by identifying them before the end of the pre-tenure term, by going through the established process to dismiss a tenured teacher, or by enticing them to resign.

        Big districts apparently just move them to a different school where they’re somebody else’s problem.

        Report

      • True, but you get my point.

        If the smaller districts dismiss bad teachers before tenure, then they, by definition, don’t have many coasters. My whole point was that small districts can not afford to shunt coasters to places where they can do little harm, but big districts can (NY is famous for it). So smaller districts have to have a way to deal with it. A more manageable way to dismiss tenured faculty is one way, but such a process would weaken the protection of tenure somewhat, at least relative to places like NY or LA (but tenure would still be preferred over no tenure).

        If I remember correctly, University tenure is meant to protect faculty from dismissal due to political disagreements & to allow them freedom to research. K-12 tenure is more to protect senior teachers from casual dismissal over budgetary concerns.

        Report

  2. I support K-12 teacher tenure because it is a long and hard fought for union benefit. We also need things to attract people into teaching because it will never be a great paying profession (usually) and job security is attractive to many people.

    That being said when these fights happen, I am always reminded of Jay Gould’s infamous comment about being able to set one-half of the working class against the other.

    Workers/employees in general have largely had a rough deal for the past few decades. Middle class incomes are stagnant. Working class incomes are declining. Careers that used to be safe and prosperous are no longer. Adjuncting has turned university teaching from a respectable career into a very precarious and usually barely above poverty living condition if that. Union membership is on the decline. The internet has destroyed paid writing as a career largely or at least vastly lowered the wages paid. Freelancing abounds for my generation and younger, etc.

    There are still some workers like teachers and some government workers and some private industry workers who have the old conditions of 20th century labor because of their relatively still strong unions. It seems to me that lots of people are frustrated and instead of organizing and fighting for their own conditions, they can be galvanized to vote for people who will destroy the conditions of old labor.

    Plus the education reform movement (like many movements) is drawn to simple stories and the simple narrative that they choose was that of the ignorant and bad teacher who does everything half-assed and only wants job security.

    This fight over wages is largely about economics and it seems that there are two schools of economics and one is basically market anarchist and fixated on driving costs down as much as possible and thinks that society benefits from a low cost and low wage life. This is the “iron law of wages” school of thought. I am reading a recently released history of liberalism and they cover the battles between Keynes and economists like Hayek who stuck more to the free market. The free market purists seem to believe that it was better for prices to fall 10 percent and wages to fall 5 percent rather than have wages raise 15 percent and prices maybe raise 7 percent. Another issue as was pointed out is that the costs of entertainment are going down but the costs of the necessary stuff are going up like health insurance are going up. We get into this debate when our free-marketers scream about relative standards of living when liberals bring up income inequality.

    So I see getting rid of teacher tenure and other worker projections and benefits as a goal of the market anarchists and market anarchists seem to let nothing stand in their way.

    Report

    • My understanding of K-12 “tenure” is that it’s very different from university-level tenure. In k-12, I understand it means only that the teachers are no longer at will and now can be fired only for cause. At university, my understanding is that the tenure-holder can be fired only for “moral turpitude,” or perhaps having a program defunded.

      Report

    • Workers/employees in general have largely had a rough deal for the past few decades. Middle class incomes are stagnant. Working class incomes are declining. Careers that used to be safe and prosperous are no longer. Adjuncting has turned university teaching from a respectable career into a very precarious and usually barely above poverty living condition if that. Union membership is on the decline. The internet has destroyed paid writing as a career largely or at least vastly lowered the wages paid. Freelancing abounds for my generation and younger, etc.

      “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more….”

      Report

    • So I see getting rid of teacher tenure and other worker projections and benefits as a goal of the market anarchists and market anarchists seem to let nothing stand in their way.

      I’m not sure where you’re seeing this. Where is a place that has gotten rid of tenure?

      Report

      • Colorado at least reformed tenure (although one part of the law is now in court). All the professionals in the system are evaluated every year. Teachers with non-probationary status (ie, tenure) lose that after two consecutive “ineffective” annual ratings. School districts can no longer simply assign teachers to schools; teachers are “hired” to teach at a school within the district by mutual consent of the teacher and the principal at the school. Any teacher who goes for a year without being “hired” can be let go.

        Fundamentally, it becomes much easier to fire teachers who are rated ineffective or who are viewed as troublemakers. The reform was passed in 2010. The union filed suit this year on the claim that the Denver school district and its principals were using the “mutual consent” portion to discriminate against older, more highly-paid, teachers.

        Report

      • Texas never had tenure, although they do technically have ‘permanent contracts’ — but they stopped issue those decades ago.

        I suspect there’s still a few teachers somewhere in Texas with one, but I’ve got contacts in four school districts (including HISD — Houston’s) and nobody knows anyone who has one. Nobody can recall anyone retiring in recent memory that had one.

        There’s plenty of dinosaurs in the teaching profession in Texas, of course — but the reason they still have jobs isn’t tenure or permanent contracts. It’s because the job’s crappy, the pay is low, the benefits suck, and a dinosaur willing to put in the bare minimum beats “nobody” or a total incompetent.

        Or — worst of all — someone with a subject-mastery, three weeks of behaviorism and teaching methodology, and a total unwillingness to listen to anyone. Luckily, they only screw up kids for a few years before burn-out hits. It’s apparently very stressful to keep trying to teach kids who can’t seem to learn from you. A few get lucky or smart enough to figure out the kids aren’t the problem and ask for (or seek out) help and figure it out, but most just get frustrated and leave.

        Report

    • I support K-12 teacher tenure because it is a long and hard fought for union benefit.

      And that’s part of why it’s so different from university tenure. The union can’t fight for a benefit that only a small portion of its members can hope to achieve — it has to fight for something that almost all of its members can expect to achieve. What’s the typical K-12 tenure arrangement this days? Finish a few-year probationary period (during which you can be fired for pretty much any reason), then you get guaranteed due process before you can be fired. Which, as I understand it, doesn’t mean that you can’t be fired for poor performance, only that the administration has to document it and make reasonable efforts to help you improve. IMO, that’s a good way to run things in any professional setting.

      University tenure is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. The demands are much higher. I’ve not seen formal statistics, but far too many of my friends who have been through the process repeat the old “joke” that most marriages are not strong enough to survive it. All frequently-told jokes have at least a kernel of truth in them, and I suspect this one does.

      Off on a tangent, here’s a thesis topic for someone. Acadamia has created the nightmare of adjunct faculty, both the part-timers and the full-timers who are not in tenure tracks, by over-producing PhDs.

      Report

      • I think a typical tenure track at a university is about 7-8 years and if tenure is not offered, the professor is expected to look for work elsewhere. The same is true of partnership tracks at major law firms or used to be. If you were not offered partner after 6-10 years, you were supposed to look for work elsewhere, usually a boutique firm but now law firms have all manner of positions but until recently it was only associate, partner, and of counsel. Of Counsel used to just be a position for semi-retired partners and now it represents something like “more than an associate and not quite a partner.” We also have senior associate, non-partner track attorney positions, non-equity partners, equity partners, etc.

        In short, lots of divisions where there used to be a few.

        Report

    • We also need things to attract people into teaching because it will never be a great paying profession (usually) and job security is attractive to many people.

      Let me acknowledge that I’ve not actually examined how much it would cost, but I do question why teachers couldn’t simply be paid in dollars instead of in perfect job security. Even without tenure, I would guess that the profession would still be considered among the most stable out there, certainly better than almost any private sector job. Are teacher salaries such a big component of state budgets that they couldn’t get a compensatory bump?

      Report

      • I suspect that it is because of the complicated nature in which schools are funded in the United States (local property taxes) and the fact that many Americans are tax resistant. There are some school districts that pay really well, at least low six figures for senior teachers. These tend to be upper-middle class school districts where the parents are mainly if not almost all college-educated professionals who really want their children to be college-educated professionals. There are also probably lingering issues from the days when teaching was something you did before moving unto something else* or when it was seen as a profession for women before they got married or for women who never got married.

        *It used to be common for men to teach school for 2-3 years and then go onto being lawyers or some other profession.

        Report

      • Re: the “never be a good paying job” thingy:

        From dex’s link below:

        Average salary of tenured position, all disciplines combined $97,784

        Criminy, the average tenured masters degree salary is $83,857.

        Report

      • I was talking about the K-12 level, not the university level though I suspect many K-12 teachers make decent middle class salaries.

        Interestingly public school teachers tend to be paid better than private school ones.

        Report

      • Vikram, why on earth would teaching be stable without tenure? Remember, school budgets are beholden to the perpetually dysfunctional state budgets, and a really easy way to stay under budget in the lean years is to lay off a bunch of experienced, better paid teachers and replace them with neophytes.

        My teaching credential is a commitment of time and money equivalent to a master’s degree, except that the only employer who cares if I have it is the public school system. There’s no way I’d have made that commitment if I didn’t have the promise of job stability, certainly not for anything less than about a 50% bump in salary.

        Report

      • , which state is that from?

        I’m a bit confused by the bottom half of that Salary table. The schedules around here are structured pretty similarly, but once you’ve reached a few years of experience, the left-most columns completely top out. I have no idea why that district starts giving raises again to teachers with no continuing education at 16 years.

        Report

      • Alan, I have to admit that I’m not all that confident in the claim. That said, I would think that property tax revenues are likely to be more smooth a function than revenues at most private companies. Also, it just seems empirically true that people in government jobs have more stability than those in private sector ones. The secretaries and other administrators at schools don’t have tenure; how often do they get replaced? I’m sure they do, but I would guess it’d be less often than at an equivalent private job.

        50% bump in salary

        Again, admitting I’ve never looked at a school budget, I don’t know why that should be considered a non-starter. What percentage of school budgets, let alone state budgets go to teacher cash salaries? Not to say that it wouldn’t do havoc with the budget and perhaps require a tax increase, but it might be worth it for the flexibility afforded.

        Report

      • Secretaries are classified employees. As far as I know, that qualifies them for general civil service protections. Under California law, that means they have a probationary period of between six months and a year, as opposed to the effectively 18 month period for California teachers. And while it’s common for teachers at California Schools to spend one or more years teaching on a temporary contract before that two-year period begins, that sort of shenanigan is much harder to pull off under the generally applicable civil service laws. After the probationary period, both tenured teachers and classified employees have seniority protection and due-process protections.

        So while secretaries don’t have something called Tenure, they do have job security. Actual in-charge-of-things administrative positions, such as principals, can be another matter.

        And Vikram, the level of increased compensation I’m asking for bumps me up into Engineering ranges. I think the conversation about tenure really does change when you pay teachers as much as you pay Engineers, but there have never been any serious proposals to do that.

        Report


      • Stillwater’s salary schedule is for Jefferson County, Colorado. It’s the largest school district in the state, extending from the west boundary of Denver well up into the mountains, 775 square miles and a half-million total population.

        Report

      • general civil service protections

        My assumption (maybe stupid) is that something of the sort would apply to teachers as well, even if tenure were done away with.

        I think the conversation about tenure really does change when you pay teachers as much as you pay Engineers, but there have never been any serious proposals to do that.

        Well, to some extent this is all theoretical even aside from the salary stuff. I don’t think it’s particularly likely that any changes one way or another will happen.

        Report

    • I support K-12 teacher tenure because it is a long and hard fought for union benefit.

      That’s not actually an argument. It’s the kind of thing I might snarkily type into a text box while responding to you, and then delete because I don’t think it’s fair.

      This fight over wages is largely about economics and it seems that there are two schools of economics and one is basically market anarchist and fixated on driving costs down as much as possible and thinks that society benefits from a low cost and low wage life.

      Neither low-cost/low-wage or high-cost/high-wage is obviously preferable. The real issue is real wages. All else being equal, pretty much everyone agrees that high real wages are good. The objection to the leftist economic agenda is that the specific things you guys want to do to increase wages create inefficiencies that slow down growth and hurt everyone in the long run. Note that France’s per-capita GDP is now a mere 2/3 of the United States’, and low-spending Taiwan is now neck-and-neck with Germany. The difference in median income isn’t quite so stark, but France’s is still about 20% lower.

      This is the “iron law of wages” school of thought.

      The iron law of wages is descriptive, not prescriptive. Basically, it says that as increasing wages enable people to raise more children to adulthood, the resulting increase in supply of labor will drive wages back down to subsistence level. This has been pretty thoroughly discredited by historical evidence, perhaps most significantly the fact that above a certain level of income, people tend to have fewer, not more, children.

      The free market purists seem to believe that it was better for prices to fall 10 percent and wages to fall 5 percent rather than have wages raise 15 percent and prices maybe raise 7 percent.

      Did you just make those numbers up? 15/7 is clearly better in real wage terms. The only time you would want real wages to be lower is when unemployment is high and real wages need to fall to allow the labor market to clear.

      According to you, “liberals” “bring up” points, where as “free-market purists” “scream.” And yet I get bitched at for “leftist.”

      Report

      • Well, “thoroughly discredited” may be saying a bit too much. It may be approximately true at certain levels of development, but it’s certainly not an iron law, and clearly isn’t in effect in modern developed countries.

        Report

  3. My argument against tenure at university has less to do with the “coasters.” I’ve known a couple in the departments I’ve been a grad student in, but they represent probably only 5% or so of the tenured folks, or in other words, in a department of about 20, only 1 or 2 obvious “coasters.” They’re bad, but their numbers probably match what you’d find at an at-will job.

    My chief argument is that it takes so long and the aspirant has to hem and toe the line so much that the years spent getting tenure are lost to real, groundbreaking research. Or if not “groundbreaking,” then at least good research. Tenure at university creates such a high-stakes game that is so fraught with complications that only the very best and only those who meet what effectively are arbitrary standards can get in. The result, in my view, is to constrict the opportunities available to scholars.

    I realize I probably have a vested interest in ending tenure, so that colors my view,. It also makes me suspect that my argument is more motivated by my perceived self-interest than it is by the good of academe. So I’m bothered by that.

    Now, to one of Vikram’s argument, as I understand it, I think he’s right. Whatever the good’s and bad’s of tenure, we are “stuck with” it. You attract the good researchers by offering them tenure. It’s a competition for the better qualified, and it’s a benefit that can be offered. So I get it. However, there’s nothing stopping universities from offering fewer and fewer tenure positions for the superstars and giving the rest multi-year contracts, perhaps with unionization or some other mechanism to enforce academic freedom. (I’m skeptical of most faculty unionization movements, but will consider them if they are willing to abrogate tenure. Of course, some unions are unions of adjuncts and not tenure-track people.)

    To Vikram’s other argument about lifetime tenure being necessary for someone to engage in the long research required for new advances. That’s one I don’t really have an answer for. In my preferred world without tenure, or with sharply reduced tenure, there would be less incentive to do the 3-year immersion in a culture to come up with a new work. At the same time, even tenured folks don’t often get the 3-year sabbaticals necessary to immerse themselves in the culture (unless the culture is the college town or a close-by neighborhood) to permit immersion while teaching.

    Report

    • toe the line

      That’s a good point. It’s somewhat mitigated by the PhD program giving students some years to work on their own project, but it’s a good point nonetheless.

      there’s nothing stopping universities from offering fewer and fewer tenure positions for the superstars and giving the rest multi-year contracts, perhaps with unionization or some other mechanism to enforce academic freedom

      I actually don’t know whether a university could just decide to end tenure for some employees after it has already been given. I would assume a legislature could change that, but if tenure means anything in the first place, it would seem that a university couldn’t just point at a subset of its faculty and say “you guys aren’t tenured anymore”.

      Report

      • Oh, I definitely agree with your last point there. I don’t think a university could abolish tenure for those to whom it has been granted. I also don’t think it ought to do so. When it offers tenure, it’s making a promise/contract, and it shouldn’t go back on its contract, nor should a state impair the obligation of that contract.

        Re-reading my comment, I was unclear. I was speaking about new tenure-track positions. By “giving the rest” multi-year contracts, I meant (but didn’t say) that when it comes to new hires, those should get, for the most part, multi-year contracts or some other, non-tenure (but preferably more permanent than “adjunct”) contracts.

        Report

      • That certainly fixes some issues. But at least in our fields, if you were to offer a job posting like that, you will be lonely when trying to recruit at the job fairs as long as other schools are offering real tenure-track positions. For better or worse (probably worse), “tenure-track” means a legitimate job you could do as a career and everything else means you couldn’t get a legitimate job.

        Report

      • I assume by “our” you mean “your” and “your wife’s.”

        As a humanities person, for me such a job offering would be quite attractive. Not necessarily for all humanities persons. But for a significant number.

        Still, I acknowledge the situation you’re describing. Universities who don’t offer tenure track will probably get the less choice applicants, especially in fields where applicants are in relatively (to humanities people) short supply.

        Report

      • I used “our” because both her and my subspecialties work that way.

        In the business school, I would guess that any job posting would get *some* traction, but there are limits to how choosy you then get to be. Even in the humanities, I would assume that offering a long-term non-tenure job would mean you’d lose out on the candidates who could get them.

        Report

    • I was wondering if anyone would bring that up!

      I think that might be a way to 99% circumvent the problem for K-12. For university professors, it would get us perhaps only 70% of the way. We certainly would consider moving to another country for the right offer. The higher ed job market is much more international than K-12. And for many departments out there, you only need to drain away a few of their top people to leave them pretty bad off.

      Report

      • I still feel like the best argument for tenure on the higher-ed side is that the benefits of allowing true freedom of thought outweigh the negatives of potential slackers being rewarded by the system.

        Which, I suppose now that I say it like that, is a way of saying I think of tenure as being like food stamps.

        Which, now that I think about it, is a very poor analogy that might make Vikram’s head explode.

        Report

      • true freedom of thought

        Not to take the conversation on my own thread off topic, but I think it would be a mistake to say that tenure offers “true freedom”. I totally could have written this same letter that Daniel Kahneman wrote to the psychology profession. He is far brighter than me, but the contents there don’t require brightness. It requires you to be Daniel Fishing Kahneman. He’s not going to get snubbed at conferences because he offended people. I totally could if I were to denigrate a whole sub stream of research like he did, and tenure would be a comfort, but it wouldn’t be true insulation unless I just didn’t care about what happened at conferences or what might happen when I submit articles to journals.

        This is a minor quibble, but I thought to point it out.

        Report

    • There’s also the question of where they will leak to. Other states? Or other professions inside California?

      There’s an education thing called “the Colorado Paradox.” We do a pretty average job of graduating the resident population from high school then getting them into and through college. At the same time, we have one of the most-educated workforces in the country. Over the last 20 years, budget constraints have meant our per-student spending on K-12 and higher ed have declined relative to other states, but the educated workforce numbers didn’t change.

      Report

  4. I compare this to the parallel in the business world, where seniority and job security were seen as inefficiencies to be jettisoned, where everyone has to justify themselves constantly, or be pushed aside.
    Its taking the concept of accountability and amping it up to Darwinian levels, in which only short term survival has value.

    I can’t say if tenure as it is practiced is beneficial to the university- I’m not in that world- But when I look out over society, I do see a lot of short term thinking, a constant drumbeat of instant gratification, and a not-very-conducive atmosphere for deep reflection and long term analysis.

    Report

    • I suspect that if universities suddenly said something to the effect of “we need to go back to the tuition rates we had back in the 90’s (adjusted for inflation)… let’s cut some positions…” they’d end up cutting the tenure guys who have had 20+ years of 4% raises and not the administrative positions that weren’t there back in the 90’s. They’d cancel the adjunct professor position (and god knows how many other positions) instead of cancelling the proposed updates to the gym.

      Report

      • Jaybird,

        They wouldn’t save much money cutting the old farts with years of raises. The bloat is concentrated in administration (have you SEEN what school presidents and such make? Outside of a few rock-stars, with their own endowed chairs, even tenured professors make peanuts — most can make more working in the non-academic world) and, of course, athletics.

        You want tuition to go back to the 90s? Take a hatchet to the CEO-level of university administration and then get rid of the ‘professionalization’ of the sports programs. REQUIRE them to be entirely self-sufficient, rather than outright sucking down general funds like a starving beast.

        A handful of schools have a handful of sports that make money or can self-support. Most are parasites on the school proper.

        Report

      • Dude. I’m absolutely with you.

        But I’d give even odds that they’d fire every single professor before they drop even one administrative position and while they may turn a jaundiced eye to the sports department, the only sports they’ll ever get rid of are the sports in the “tennis” tier and below.

        Report

      • The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

        Report

      • sports programs have great value as recruitment tools. their value to each institution, however, is pretty vastly different. obviously without football notre dame is some weirdo catholic school out in the sticks – a good rep maybe, but nowhere near that kind of endowment. their alumni donation levels are so high that people would literally kill for them at other schools. like straight up cutting throats for satan. their endowment is keerazy. and a lot of that rests at the feet of their football program.

        even on the d3 level – where there are no scholarships – athletes tend to have much higher giving levels post graduation, making them a net win even as recruits. and it helps the recruit pool – someone may not make the team, but they may enjoy the school regardless, etc.

        “where everyone has to justify themselves constantly, or be pushed aside.”

        the price of existence is eternal warfare. and no where on earth is that truth more powerful or obvious than in the 2nd hour of a three hour humanities department meeting.

        academia ist kreig

        Report

      • dhex: The numbers have been crunched. Notre Dame is one of the VERY few schools whose football program, for instance, is actually self-supporting. (That is, between ticket sales and alumni donations, they don’t raid the school’s general fund).

        Most colleges? Football programs alone transfer millions from regular students to support a program that only has a fraction of the student population. And good lord, don’t even get me started on the coach’s salaries and gold-plated locker rooms.

        College sports are a racket. They screw everyone from the actual athletes to the students at the schools. Very few people benefit, the school least of all.

        Report

      • “dhex: The numbers have been crunched.”

        oh thank the lord.

        obviously i would counsel that football programs in particular are terrible ideas for nearly any school (anyone that doesn’t already have one should not start one; anyone who does have one but doesn’t have tv profit share should kill it slowly, if they can avoid pissing off the donor base) but you can’t just say “it’s a scam” across the board as far as athletics are concerned.

        because taken as a whole athletics is freakishly useful as far as recruitment tools go in the d2 and d3 sectors, despite having no scholarship hook on the lowest rung.

        i have no doubt the sector also keeps app numbers up (and admit numbers down) at a variety of d1 schools, though its actual direct utility is pretty dang variable – see tv deal rule above.

        as as whole, though, it’s very useful for advancement, alumni relations, retention, admissions, etc. besides, if we’re going on a “pays its own way” framework, goodbye everything except executive mba programs and nursing. (or if you have a geo/gis program that contracts out) if you want to say all that stuff is ancillary or perhaps even pure evil, go ahead. i would not want to rob you of that pleasure.

        Report

      • dhex:

        It really doesn’t help with recruitment, except again at a handful of schools. But it’s certainly easier to make nebulous claims about how it ‘helps recruitment’ and ‘keeps alumni involved’ because who is going to check that?

        Meanwhile, schools like UCLA can shove millions of tuition funds to shore up their big stadiums, coach salaries, and expensive sports training facilities that might benefit 1% of the student population — but which everyone subsidizes.

        I get that people LOVE to watch college football or basketball. But no matter how much you love it, the reality is pretty simple: Most of the athletes get absolutely screwed, most of the schools get absolutely screwed, and most of the students at those schools get absolutely screwed.

        Report

      • “It really doesn’t help with recruitment, except again at a handful of schools. But it’s certainly easier to make nebulous claims about how it ‘helps recruitment’ and ‘keeps alumni involved’ because who is going to check that?”

        are you serious?

        you are wrong, especially on the d2 and d3 level, where there’s even less at stake in terms of both budgets and student scholarships. you also track how prospects and applicants get introduced to your school because you do, at most institutions, have to have a clear roadmap for both the present and the future. even at smaller schools athletics fits into both club and a general category of “student life”. facilities also have runoff for general student use, particularly fitness – which itself is part of the expectations of incoming students at most schools, even if they’re never going to pick up any weights. at larger schools with big name programs there’s no doubt a “poor door” or lesser facilities for the non-athletes, or older facilities adapted for this when newer stuff is built.

        how do you track alumni involvement? you, uh, track alumni involvement and alumni giving, and you check that against athletic participation. it’s two or three clicks in most development software packages. it is remarkably easy to track. and alumni participation is part of what the usnews rankings track, and though they are a ridiculous thing, it’s something that everyone needs to stay abreast of. many states also require tracking this info, at least alumni participation, from both public and private colleges. (they require a lot of things, but that’s a different thread)

        a simpler – or perhaps less fraught – way of thinking of it may be such – if you’re more involved (clubs, student leadership orgs, etc) you’re probably more passionate about the culture and, post graduation, about the experience you had. former athletes give at higher rates than other involved groups; involved groups give at higher rates than uninvolved groups. fairly straightforward.

        you may not like it, but such is life. now whether it’s always a good idea to have massive programs at huge d1 state schools, i dunno. it’s certainly part of the culture, and there’s always ways to trim fat if the will exists (similar to the arguments about tenured v. adjunct faculty).

        but if everyone spends money on it, and the entire thing is completely a scam with absolutely no benefits whatsoever outside of a small cabal, then it is an industry-wide scam involving thousands of participants. it also means every single set of stats has been juked across more than four thousand different institutions, and every bit of research, every data pull, and every prospect trend i’ve seen and development officer i’ve ever talked to was involved in this fabrication.

        i find that hard to believe.

        for the record, out of high school i was a football recruit at a well regarded school that i did not attend because the culture was gross and the coach was a jerk. i followed the money to a non-athletic scholarship at another school. i don’t follow sports today, except a bit of boxing. if it turned out art classes were a huge draw, i’d be repping art classes like you wouldn’t believe.

        my only god is that which works.

        Report

      • A few observations:

        1. There are actually a lot more football programs that turn a profit than one or two. Morat may be thinking of Athletics Programs writ large. Even there, from what I recall, you are in the twenties.

        2. It’s a stretch to attribute the continued investment to some sort of mass-delusion, as people often do. San Jose State has better brand recognition (outside of California, anyway) than UC-San Diego, and it’s not hard to figure out why. The same for UT-Dallas vs North Texas. It’s some pretty valuable advertising in that respect.

        2b. That is talking about the mid-major programs. Dhex talks about D2 and D3, which is a different bird. I assume, though, that they definitely have their reasons.

        3. On the other hand, at least for 2a, there is the sense that it works in the same way that luring companies to states with financial incentives works. There is a pretty strong zero-sum aspect to it.

        4. The notion that most college athletes are screwed borders on the absurd. It also relies on a degree of mass delusion, or alternately a very narrow definition of “most.”

        4b. The average linebacker at South Alabama or Kent State isn’t being juked out of a paying gig. He’s being juked out of having to pay for his own college, with the added benefit of getting to play a game in front of thousands of watchers a week. Move up the chain, to a more major school, and it’s closer to 100,000. Move down the chain, and the luckier they are to be playing in front of crowds at all.

        4c. Move from football to track, and you don’t have the crowds and everything kind of changes again. But the kids sign up to do it for a reason.

        Report

      • athletics is freakishly useful as far as recruitment tools go in the d2 and d3 sectors, despite having no scholarship hook on the lowest rung.

        Hells, yes, with one caveat.

        When I came to my D3 institution, we were at 950 students. One of the first actions of our new president was to build a hockey arena. We now have 5 hockey teams (3 mens [NCAA D3; ACHA D1 and D3], 2 womens [NCAA D3 and ACHA]) and synchronized skating. That’s around 100 athletes; students who otherwise wouldn’t have come. or, over 10% of what our student body once was.

        Hockey arenas are obscenely expensive to run, but not as expensive as losing students at a tuition-driven school, as most small private schools are. One well-regarded small school in Michigan has dropped from 2,000 students to <1300. Athletics are critical to these schools' survival.

        The caveat is that the "no scholarships" business is really just a bit of a paperwork trick. All these schools have their list price and the prices they really charge various students. There are a variety of scholarships that are technically non-athletic, but that can be applied to prospective students who just happen to be wanted by a coach. How do you get good hockey players? Make an international student scholarship and give it to that kid who grew up looking at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena from across the river.

        Report

      • Notably, at the highest level, the NCAA looks pretty closely at all non-athletic scholarships to athletes. My alma mater had a case a couple years back where we were a scholarship short. One of the players felt that they could line up an academic scholarship because he was a National Merit Scholar, he ended up having to pay for the first semester himself out of pocket because the NCAA didn’t approve it in time. And this is a school that is extremely generous with National Merit Scholars.

        Report

      • Jerry Pournelle had something similar, called the Iron Law of Bureaucracy

        Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

        First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

        Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

        The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

        Report

    • Agreed. Adjuncting foreshadowed the rise of the “gig economy”. Some people have swallowed the Kool-Aid and think it is great, others not as much. But I guess I am behind the times man and totes uncool with believing there was good in the old system of rising through a company instead of making lateral move after lateral move and always being an independent contractor.

      Report

  5. Here’s an analogy that might make sense of the tenure issue. THere was a time when professional baseball players’ contracts (rights, as it were) were held unilaterally by ownership. THen came free-agency, and everything turned upside down. ANd for the better wrt output and end-product: it would encourage teacher’s to teach better and researchers to research better all the while according universities more flexibility in tailoring faculty requirements to student needs and overall departmental and/or university goals.

    Course, profs who are already tenured would be disinclined to favor dismantling the system as is, but maybe they could be grandfathered in by granting them a no-trade clause or something.

    Report

    • Another way to say the same thing, I guess, is that insofar as a college or university views a particular Prof as a shining star, they could offer that person a lifetime contract to (try to) lock them up, while still according that prof the right (and opportunity!) to seek a better gig elsewhere. But the idea that a prof ought to have unilateral power to determine his or her own future employment prospects seems pretty dang hard to justify from anything other than a pure self-interested perspective. Much like baseball ownership back in the day.

      Report

      • I would argue that baseball is a wrong analogy because there much fewer players and probably much more stars. Yes there plenty of journeymen professional athletes who will never be famous but the Derek Jeters are able to make higher demands and always have been. IIRC professors are supposed to be if not quite owners, at least managers of the university and this has changed with the rise of admin positions.

        It seems that getting rid of tenure has not quiet worked out for professors yet unless we consider having everyone be an adjunct as desirable

        Report

      • Or another way to say it: if the institution of tenure so obviously increases total educatative utility (heh) it’s demise in a post-tenure world will quickly be corrected by universities offering shining star profs the equivalent in contract terms.

        Report

      • Perhaps something similar could work. I think one issue with taking your plan verbatim is that the issue doesn’t only pertain to shining stars. My wife is not a superstar professor, but she still has options. A university would want to try to retain people like her rather than solely the top few people.

        Report

      • Vik, well, running with the analogy a bit more, professors could unionize to establish a minimum salaries for adjuncts along a sliding scale of university size or whatnot and etc. Also, a quality program isn’t comprised of only superstars. Shining stars are pretty in demand as well, and as you probably know, the candle power emanated by any particular prospect varies depending on the institution. What Mesa State views as a bright light might not even register for Harvard.

        Report

      • Side-note rather than contradiction:
        There are a lot of unionized faculties out there now under the AAUP (American Association of University Professors). I have to admit ignorance as to how much they’ve improved the lives of adjuncts, but I think it is fair to say that it isn’t considered a solved problems at unionized schools.

        Report

  6. higher ed is a curious place – there are very few places institutions have to pick someone to have employed for potentially the rest of their natural lives, and remain largely unfireable sans some kind of gross misconduct.* it is a strange place.

    the thought in some quarters is turning off the phd spigot will change the fortunes of those already in the game. i don’t think that will turn out as such. there will always be monomaniacs, and if there’s one profession which doesn’t understand (but deeply cares about) what the public thinks of them, it’s would-be professors. phrases like “the plight of adjuncts” hit most ears like “the plight of the 1%” hits ears here.

    to explain to such souls that the public’s bag of f’s is entirely empty as far as they’re concerned; that on tuesday nights cafes around america are filled with people who wanted to be rock stars; that when i was five i wanted to be darth vader…

    to explain the reality of the world to such people, were so many of them not so incredibly arrogant, would be a painful thing to do, like breaking a puppy upon the wheel.

    they were like junior traders but with no money, hopes, or prospects, but the same sense of entitlement.

    http://chronicle.com/article/Average-Salaries-of-Tenured/145283/

    * banging undergrads is not generally considered a firing offense, even now. that is messed up. no one employed by an institution – staff, faculty, admins, ground crew, etc – should be banging undergrads.

    Report

    • Re: Banging undergrads

      True. Interestingly it seems like professors are more likely to get in trouble for sleeping with graduate students than they are with sleeping with undergrads. I suspect this is because sleeping with graduate students is more likely to disturb the politics and power structures of the department.

      Though every college does seem to have a scandal or five about a professor who sleeps with the undergrads. There were certainly professors at my alma mater who divorced spouses to marry former undergrads. One professor in the math department had a reputation for sleeping with a new student every semester.

      Report

      • Interestingly it seems like professors are more likely to get in trouble for sleeping with graduate students than they are with sleeping with undergrads.

        Random thought — graduate students are more likely to be employees and the professor in a supervisory position. Lots of potential for lawsuits and sizable payouts there.

        Report

    • no one employed by an institution – staff, faculty, admins, ground crew, etc – should be banging undergrads.

      I’m not objecting to this as a rule, but questions to consider:
      1. What about grad students? Many of them are technically employees serving as a “research assistant”. I was one.
      2. What about people recently hired from the undergrad population? If you’re a senior dating a junior and then graduate and are working for the university, should you be required to end your relationship?

      Again, I’m not objecting to the notion, but those are some things to consider. The thing I find most objectionable though are faculty-student relationships. Too much potential for abuse of power.

      Report

      • Yeah, no kidding. I worked part-time for my department as an undergrad–should I have not banged any fellow undergrads during that time period?

        I like rules that prevent teachers from sleeping with their students, but I also like those rules to be limited to those situations only where the sort of power dynamics that make a teacher/student relationship so problematic actually exist.

        Report

      • 1) if they’re teaching, no. ta’ing, no at least for the classes they’re ta’ing (no t+a for ta’s?)

        2) maybe some kind of disclosure form like when someone’s aunt wants to become a vendor? again presuming they have no direct supervisory contact. and perhaps that’s the most sensible line.

        this sort of thing is rife in small town schools, and while the senior/junior (senior graduates and gets a job in dept etc) thing happens, there’s also the dude in early 30s going after sophomores thing.

        but for the most part i feel ok with the no-no rule. surely true love is worth quitting or moving?

        Report

      • “[Cough] I’m not sure that’s the primary driver operating in these situations.”

        love is a many-splendor’d thing, vikram. it exists across a wide spectrum of timeframes.

        don’t hate. :)

        Report

      • I think the key question would have to be about whether one person would wield, or could potentially wield, any official power over the other. During my undergrad career, I worked at the on-campus day care. I took a full-time position after graduating. Had I been dating someone who was still enrolled, I don’t think there would have been anything inappropriate about us continuing to date seeing as how there was zero capacity for me to have any officially sanctioned power or authority over her. Were she to become a work study employee of the day care, that would have changed things.

        Report

  7. How do you square your fears about the effects of a single state* eliminating tenures with the quality of teachers in independent schools, very very few of which offer anything even approaching tenure**, and the quality of which is at least on par with their public school colleagues.

    Disclaimer: I am an independent school teacher who thinks himself pretty dope.

    * I recognize the argument shifts if states do this en masse and/or it happens nationally.
    ** I know of one school whose teachers were unionized and even there I don’t think they had tenure, but rather collectively bargained benefits.

    Report

    • Excellent question! I don’t have an answer, but I have a few hypotheses. Pick one!

      1. Independents simply put more time into finding candidates. Perhaps if they can’t find a hire they will simply wait a year.
      2. Tenure isn’t actually as big a draw as people might otherwise think, so independents aren’t that worse off for not offering it.
      3. As far as jobs go, a prospective teacher considering a stable independent might feel relatively sanguine about their longevity there even absent tenure.
      4. Teachers at independents aren’t actually better and you are just an outlier. (Or you have an inflated view of yourself?)
      5. The public hiring process is controlled by administrative checklists and completed training rather than anything actually indicative of teaching quality. Independents are not so restricted.
      6. Teachers prefer independents since that is way to make sure they don’t get truly awful students, most of whose families won’t be paying for tuition.
      7. Teachers at independents are better than the average public school teacher but are not better than the average teacher at a reasonably good public school. Thus, independents only excel when you also count teachers in really bad districts.

      Report

      • Thoughts on your thoughts and then thoughts of my own…

        1) Not really true. I’ve seen schools make bad hires over letting positions stay open because you need (at least) a warm body in most situations.
        2) Probably very true. At least for some. If tenure matters, you likely don’t look at independents. I tend to say tenure, on the system as a whole, as a negative. I would be very frustrated working among sub-par teachers whom the school could not get rid of.
        3) I don’t have numbers to back me up, but this is probably true. The costs (financial and otherwise) that go into hiring a new person means teachers aren’t subject to the same threat of firing as other professions. An oft-cited statistic used against tenure/unions says something like 1% of public school teachers are fired each year. While the number is greater than that in independent schools, it ain’t by much.
        4) I didn’t say better. And, if I did, I misspoke. I think independent schools are involved in some self-congratulatory masturbation when they take it as a given that their teachers are superior. On the whole, I’d say neither group is demonstrably better or worse than the other.
        5) This is probably true but I’m not sure it relates to tenure. It might relate to qualitative differences between the groups of teachers, but I’m not prepared to say that is necessarily real and/or universal.
        6) Definitely true for some, perhaps many. As far as student populations go, independents are generally seen as “easier”. This is often balanced against other things, e.g., higher expectations for involvement with parents, more responsibility related to curriculum design and development, but not necessarily in a purposeful way. Comparing publics to independents isn’t quite apples-to-oranges, but it is at least Granny Smiths to Fujis.
        7) Related to #4, we could slice up the populations to show what we want but I don’t think that is necessary. As no major differences (seem to) exist, we can reasonably assume that tenure isn’t alone responsible for major successes or failures on the public end.

        The reality is that there are pros and cons to working in independents and pros and cons to working in publics. The existence of tenure is interesting in that it might be perceived as a pro of the publics by some while others (e.g., me) consider it a con. Individuals are going to do their own calculus on the pros and the cons of each situation based on their own preferences and needs. I tend to think that eliminating tenure would be in the long-term and big-picture best interests of our education system, but there would be a difficult transition period during which accounting for the loss of tenure could lead to disastrous results. You might lose the “coasters” but you risk filling their seats with even worse teachers. Or needing to make other concessions in order to fill those seats that have ripple effects elsewhere.

        I feel that addressing tenure is part of the solution, but is not a solution unto itself.

        Report

      • I agree. It is exceedingly rare for a simply policy change to magically fix things. Broken things are often broken in many ways so that fixing one thing doesn’t actually produce any noticeable results until you also fix several other things.

        Granny Smiths to Fujis

        Totally stealing that for real life.

        Report

    • My uncle, who spend many years teaching at a public school and now teaches at a catholic girls school, put it roughly like this:

      -His on-paper salary is about 15% less than it would be if he were working at a public school
      -He teaches an extra class period each day, and the extra pay makes up that 15% difference
      -The amount of extra meetings and paperwork he’d have to do as a public school teacher that he doesn’t have to do as a private school teacher are about equivalent to the time he has to spend on that extra class period.
      -His students are vastly more pleasant to teach than those at public schools.
      -He gets a free admission (or a very deep discount, I forget which) for his own daughter to attend the school.

      TLDR: For my uncle, private school is same amount of work for same amount of pay, less stressful in many ways, and lets his daughter attend said elite private school on the cheap.

      I’m not really surprised schools like that attract such wonderful teachers.

      Report

      • That makes sense. I’m not that surprised but a little disappointed that I only guessed at the second to last one, “vastly more pleasant” students. The sad thing is my wife would get free tuition for any theoretical children she might have, so I really don’t have much of an excuse for not at least having guessed that one.

        Report

      • I’m not that surprised but a little disappointed that I only guessed at the second to last one, “vastly more pleasant” students.

        Cherry-picking is a huge plus for private schools. Makes life a lot easier for everyone involved. Which is pretty much why private schools can’t run as a model for public ones, except perhaps at the edges. Public schools have to take everyone.

        Report

      • I get bored if I have a class of perfectly pleasant, highly teachable children. I enjoy the challenge of ‘misfit toys’. Now, I’ve had a whole class of ‘misfit toys’ and that is frustrating, in large part because I simply couldn’t serve all of their needs and felt like I was perpetually letting them down. But I’m probably weird in this regard.

        I’m actually a firm believer in public education and sometimes am disappointed in myself that I don’t put my skills to use in that arena. The primary reason I haven’t is that because of the micromanagement of teachers in the public system, many of my skills would be neutered. I would not be able to teach the way I believe is best and the way in which I am most effective and, thus, the impact of my presence is greatly reduce. I’m hoping this changes soon.

        Report

Comments are closed.