Putting tenure on trial

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Dec 30, 2005 12:05 AM
An ongoing problem I have is that I am, at heart, a crusader, but, by temperament, a couch potato. To be really good at altering the status quo, you have to be ready to join with others in a mission, and I don’t happen to like group activities. Even when a group consists of people I like as individuals, as soon as they organize, some bossy person is handing out marching orders, and somebody else is putting me to sleep reading the minutes of the last meeting.

Ideally, the way it should work is that I come up with great ideas and then get to lie down on the sofa and take a nap while other people run off and do the heavy lifting.

My latest campaign is to do away with tenure. If there’s a dumber idea floating around than the guarantee of lifetime employment I’m not sure I want to hear about it. A person can take only so much stupidity in a single lifetime and I believe I’ve just about reached my quota.

So far as I’m aware, the only two groups that receive tenure in our society are Supreme Court justices and teachers. The theory is that these people need to be protected from undue political pressure. Well, these days, as we’re all very much aware, there is as much or more blatant politicking involved in a Supreme Court appointment than in a presidential election. For the life of me, I don’t see why a duly-elected president can only serve eight years, but a justice can serve thirty or forty.

It makes even less sense that professors are guaranteed a job for life. Guys on the assemblyline don’t have tenure. Gardeners and waitresses don’t get tenure. Why should professors who already work short hours for good money be treated like English royalty?

I have heard the argument that, without such guarantees, they might be fired for political reasons. The fact of the matter is that, as more and more colleges and universities are infested with leftwing radicals, professors are far more likely to be hired because of their politics.

As for the risk that a professor of any political stripe might be shown the exit because the administration disapproves of his leanings, the question should be moot. Even if his field of study happens to be history, philosophy or even the Republican party in the 21st century, no professor worth his salt has any business dragging his own politics into the classroom. But suggest that to a leftwing academic, and he starts yelling about censorship, as if the job description includes proselytizing.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: those who can, teach; those who can’t, indoctrinate.

Instead of tenure, I’d give these academics with their childish Che Guevara posters the gate.