Why Tenure Harms Education

American Thinker | by Bernie Reeves | Feb. 13, 2010

As Ohio State University President Gordon Gee realizes in his recent call to study whether or not tenure should be modified or abolished, a guaranteed job for life for academics annoys most people. This negative feeling has been exacerbated in the last thirty years during the rise of the radical scholars in liberal arts departments in most colleges and universities. Once ensconced in their ivory towers, tenured activists are granted a free ride to propagandize students and make public pronouncements behind the skirts of the university. The Ward Churchill scandal at the University of Colorado is a sadly common example of professors politicizing and poisoning the commonweal.

But it is within academe and outside the glare of the media that radical scholars do the most damage. In case after case, qualified scholars are either refused tenure or never hired because they do not adhere to the leftist party line. At Duke in the mid-’90s, an American history professor — who served in the Army in Vietnam — assumed that his academic career was solid until the agitprop started to deny him tenure.

Radical professors set out to destroy him with innuendo, whispering that he was a chauvinist, a racist, homophobic, and imperialistic — the codewords that strike fear in university administrators. There was no proof that he deserved any of these labels, but the damage to his reputation became permanent as the drums grew louder. The professor picked up on the slander and decided to accept a position offered from the University of Kentucky to remove himself from the machinations of the Duke apparat.

Undeterred, the radical scholars intensified and transferred their campaign to Kentucky. With anonymous phone calls and unsigned letters, they mobilized their comrades in the Bluegrass State to vilify the professor. The president of the University of Kentucky capitulated, and the job offer was withdrawn. The professor finally found a position at West Point.

When radical scholars run off colleagues they don’t like, it advances their cause, but even more effective is the campaign to block potential heretics from entering the teaching ranks at all. This happened to a Harvard history genius who earned his Ph.D. at U.K.’s Cambridge University (where, by the way, there is no tenure), making him imminently qualified with enviable credentials. He applied to Georgetown and the Air Force Academy for an entrance-level teaching job, only to be told he “just wouldn’t fit in” — the euphemism adopted by the radical scholars that actually means “you are not one of us.” He now teaches at Marine University, and two schools lost the services of one of the country’s top military scholars.

Duke has allegedly weeded out some of the most pernicious of the radical scholars that infiltrated the school in the ’80s and ’90s, including the notorious radical Stanley Fish. But during the Duke lacrosse incident, a group from the remaining leftist culprits publicly attempted to destroy the reputation of the five team members by signing a newspaper ad as part of the now-discredited Group of 88 that allegedly represented the views of the Duke academic family. Thus, despite the effort at cleansing, it is clear that the school remains stuck with a phalanx of politically correct professors who hide behind tenure to affect university and public policy.

Professors are realizing the radical scholars are jeopardizing their cozy life sinecures, but it could be too late for them. The public is outraged at their antics and appalled that graduates from top-tier schools are functionally ignorant of the world around them. Instead, they have been inculcated with warmed-over anti-American and Marxist platitudes due to the intrigues of the radical — and often tenured — scholars who still hold sway in the liberal arts.

Gordon Gee’s courage to broach the subject is commendable. However, he does not mention that the concept of tenure reaches deep into the academic establishment to public school teachers. In my home state, a teacher is automatically extended tenure after only three years on the job. It is nearly impossible to remove bad teachers, and good teachers lower their standards and accommodate their often vociferous coworkers to protect themselves from attack.

It is no wonder that teacher unions have enormous sway. The mediocre gravitate to solidarity to mask their incompetence. And teacher unions are rarely interested in improving academic performance, instead focusing on legislative lobbying to increase salaries and benefits totally unrelated to educating kids.

HT: AmericanThinker