It’s Not the Firing; It’s the Threatening
Peter Greene, for Huffington Post
Yesterday, Twitter blew up with responses to Whoopi Goldberg and The View having one more uninformed discussion of tenure (and, really, we need to talk about why, from Louis CK to Colbert to Goldberg, education discussions keep being driven by the work of comedians).
“#WithoutTenure I can be fired for….” was the Tweet template of the day, and even though I rode that bus for a bit, it occurs to me this morning that it misses the point.
It’s true that in the absence of tenure, teachers can (and are) fired for all manner of ridiculous things. That’s unjust and unfair. As some folks never tire of pointing out, that kind of injustice is endemic in many jobs (Why people would think that the response to injustice is to demand more injustice for more people is a whole conversation of its own). That doesn’t change a thing. Firing a teacher for standing up for a student or attending the wrong church or being too far up the pay scale — those would all be injustices. But as bad as that would be, it’s not the feature of a tenureless world that would most damage education.
It’s not the firing. It’s the threat of firing.
Firing ends a teacher’s career. The threat of firing allows other people to control every day of that teacher’s career.
The threat of firing is the great “Do this or else…” It takes all the powerful people a teacher must deal with and arms each one with a nuclear device.