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I’m a teacher. I have tenure. This gives me staying power and job security. My job isn't supposed to be political - it's supposed to be about teaching student. For that reason, tenure is something I feel that I need in my profession.
Why? As a social studies teacher, I need academic freedom. It’s my job to expose students to a variety of mindsets, viewpoints, and a litany of issues that seem to perturb both the far-left and far-right. I want to open minds, and sometimes I have to fight past closed ones – especially those of parents.
I just finished my 8th year, but here are a few run-ins I’ve had with parents or witnessed with other teachers that I’m glad that teacher tenure was in place:
*In 2006, a male teacher I taught with was accused of having a relationship with a female, 9th grade student. The community vilified the teacher; he was guilty before he was presumed innocent. He had to do plenty of groundwork to clear his name and prove that the malicious story was nothing more than one jealous girl’s attack on another – which it was. Without teacher tenure, this man would’ve been fired on the spot.
*In 2008, I had a student whom I failed for the year. His mom accused me of being an overly conservative teacher of American government, and lacking empathy for students with diverse needs (like her son, who had a 504 Plan). She ran a campaign for school board, of which part of her platform included a plank on having me fired as the American government teacher. She finished 6th place (the top 4 became board members).
*In 2009, I taught about the Radical Republicans during the Reconstruction Era. It’s a vocab term in the textbook (and one that’s universally agreed upon by historians), but I still keep a copy of the email where the parent accused me of being a liberal hack who devalues the role of Republicans in American history by calling them radicals. He took this to the school board. I know, when I switched school districts, I must’ve completely switched political affiliations!
*In 2011, I had a pair of parents who said they were going to try to have me fired after publicly talking about how great a writing assignment was and not choosing it for a contest.
*In 2013, a teacher in a neighboring school district was accused of teaching a lesson on President Obama that a parent believed to be a politically slanted assignment. Never mind that it was a canned lesson from the New York Times, or that he didn’t even assign the homework (a different teacher did). Still, the parent wanted this teacher’s head on a platter.
Are there problems with tenure? Can there be reforms to improve it? God yes. But that doesn’t mean that teacher tenure needs to be completely scrapped. When the Civil Service Commission was established in 1979, it was to focus on placing quality government workers in place to do the job of the government outside of politics. Subpar employees are given more job security and opportunity to improve – of which many have and do – so that the government can continue without constant political upheaval. How is education any different?
Most recently, Sec. Ed. Arne Duncan has called tenure a “broken status quo.” Bill Gates, the Walton family, and all the other big money firms that throw their weight behind charter schools would love to see teacher tenure eliminated. What do you think about teacher tenure?