Scenes From The Monkey House: A Job For Life

Just back from another captivating Board of Education meeting in my work district, and what a pleasure it was.  Typically rote by most standards, but I was struck by one passing moment.  In his response to the questions raised by the public in the "public be heard" section, the president of the BOE referred to the granting of tenure to a teacher as a "job for life." Granted, the gentleman in question is not super up to snuff on all things education related.  Still, I have to hope that he was just being politically devious in his classification, trusting that the public did not know enough to know that he was, in fact, talking shit.  It's a crappy thing to do, but  the alternative cognitive option is that the president of the BOE, arguably the most important "civilian" in the running of a multi-million dollar, taxpayer funded, educational venture actually thinks that tenure is a "job for life."  And if that's the case, than may non-existent god help us all.

Of course, tenure is not a "job for life."  It is simply a guarantee that an individual will be granted a right to due process of law before being fired from a job.  It stems from an educational climate that really has disappeared in these comparatively more enlightened climes of the country, one where teachers were made to sign loyalty oaths to the nation before being hired and female teachers were fired the moment they became pregnant.  Those days no longer exist around here, but there is no guarantee that a particular administration still will not be staffed by lunatics who decide that a given teacher should be cast out not because of how they teach, but because of how they think.  In this way, tenure protects academic freedom.  To call it a "job for life," is asinine and typical of how the more ignorant sector of the public thinks.

It is actually quite easy to fire a tenured teacher, as long as a district has actual cause as established in the laws of the state, and has followed the correct procedure.  While I have not ever seen a tenured teacher fired, this has always been due to a lack of aptitude on the part of the district, and not to any sort of tenure-based immunity from prosecution.  Consider the following example:  I come to work tomorrow, sit at my desk and begin to inject illegal drugs in to my arm.  A student from the class that I am teaching at the time comes up to inquire as to what is going on, only to be forcefully injected with same drugs by me.  I then take a rather large textbook and smack a second student with it squarely in the face...

...Goodbye "job for life."  This example may seem extreme, but that is only because I have a colorful imagination.  A tenured teacher can be brought up on charges for much lesser infractions.  Simply doing something that you have been explicitly told not to do by the administration qualifies as "insubordination" in the legal eyes of the state.  This carries with it the threat of a hearing, though districts are admittedly less than eager to spend a legal fortune on what are typically trivial offenses.

Of course, I am not surprised that the BOE president was so thoughtless in his speech.  In fact, over the course of the evening, the gentleman in question "axed" several people various questions.  Fortunately, this did not cause any bleeding.