Sunday, March 04, 2007

To Tenure or Not, that is the question

One of the authors of "Freakonomics" suggests getting rid of tenure, at least for economics profs. These discussions pop up every so often, but I don't recall some of the more interesting points mentioned here. Basically, that schools could rid themselves of tenure, increase faculty salaries, and thereby kill two birds with one stone by attracting the best and dispensing with the worst.

I've seen some of the worst abusers of tenure, but I also see that it actually protects some appropriately. Part of the problem is that Universities are somewhat dysfunctional with power spread in a strange way among the faculty, administrators, the boards, and perhaps the state legislature, if public. The spread doesn't serve to check any one faction, but instead to politicize the whole process. [Insert Uncle Al's damnation of the whole higher ed system here]

And as to the issue of tenure in grades K-12, I really have no clue why it's there or how it got there. Boggles the mind, it does.

Anyway, I've worked hard for my tenure and I don't think I'll be given the option anytime soon of either keeping my tenure or getting more money per year. But as Dr. Seuss asks at the end of "What would you do?"


Uncle Al said...

The $55.1 billion California 2007 education budget grants Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) $0.0495 billion or 0.09%, less than a tenth penny/dollar. 7% of total K-12 student population of 6.2 million qualifies, or

($49.5x10^6)/(434,000 Gifted)/(178 days) = $0.64/kid-day above general education.

682,000 cripples, retards, and behaviorally dysfunctional turds average 15.7 times the funding/kid-day as normal students. 10% of California high school seniors fail the 8th grade-level exit exam.

Behold the cacastocracy! Faith-based initiatives, anybody?

Oldprof said...

As for the question of tenure in K-12; the Commie scare of the 40s-50s saw many people losing careers just because someone smeared them as "Red"--often without evidence. The custom continues because, despite the exponential increase in the size of academic administration, principals and superintendents (more often than not) have no idea which teachers are working well and which are not--especially when the teachers are not given supplies or proper support.

As for tenure overall, re-check your labor laws please. Most corporations have employee tenure policies that apply to everyone below middle management; once past the probationary period, a corporation may not dismiss or demote any employee except for documented cause (or R.I.F. or similar extra-employment issues).

The difference is that the typical probationary period for academe is 6 years or so; a typical corporate probationary period is six to eighteen months.

We should also note that academic salaries, on average, are far below typical corporate middle-management packages--so the analogy holds up.