Letter to the Editor: Tenure promotes discourse among students

Michael Tompkins

For years, the debate on granting tenure to teachers has gone back and forth and is still unresolved. Opponents of tenure often suggest that tenure protects teachers with poor performance, and that alone seems to be their argument.

That may be true in some instances, but for the most part, teachers still have a job to do and are held to some performance standard that they must regularly meet. Granting tenure to teachers – especially the new and young ones – is truly important – now more than ever.

Often overlooked is the fact that tenure protects a teacher’s ability to teach and say things that may be unpopular or controversial in the hope of advancing a conversation among their students and peers; tenure allows this to happen in an environment without the threat of unnecessary consequence. This freedom gives teachers and their students the opportunity to learn from multiple perspectives, not just a single point of popular view.

Removing tenure would negatively impact students and truly do them a disservice. Students who learn from teachers with tenure learn how to appropriately deal with individuals and viewpoints they disagree with.

This helps to prepare students for what lies ahead in the “real world” and is ultimately the goal of education. As many of us know all too well, the “real world” is a harsh one, full of adversity and differences of opinion, that if not handled effectively, can cause real problems. The ability to deal with those of differing opinions is a skill that teachers with tenure can teach in the safety and security of the classroom.

Perhaps most importantly, taking tenure away from teachers would threaten the very institution of education as we know it. We would potentially be left with “cookie-cutter” individuals teaching our students and only teaching those ideas which a committee has decided must be taught, a curriculum based solely on overall popularity or political correctness. Clearly this is not ideal, but it could very well become a reality.

If we take away the protection that tenure provides and remove the freedom to discuss or teach unpopular ideas, would it be a surprise to anyone if there are then no more individuals willing to take on the risk of becoming a teacher?

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Michael Tompkins is a guest columnist, contact him at [email protected]