March 17, 2005

Not Irish. Not Catholic. Not Interested.

Plus it's snowing, I gave up alcohol for Lent and I've never been a fan of green beer anyway, leprechauns suck, clover holds bees that can end up squished between toes and fingers (voice of hard-won experience here), Lucky Charms cereal tastes like crap and I'm sleep deprived.

And so help me God, if one person tries to do the whole "you're not wearing green so I'm going to pinch you" thing to me--you'll draw back a nub. That's all I'm saying.

So, as I'm feeling particularly obstreperous today, here's an op-ed calling for the abolishment of tenure. I'm thinking such a move wouldn't necessarily change the face of the sciences that much--they're accustomed to continual cutthroat competition for research grants. But it might have a very interesting effect on the humanities.

Full disclosure: I would really enjoy sipping from my giant cup of schadenfreude while listening to humes folks squeal about the unfairness of having to actually justify their theoretical flights of fancy with, you know, "real" scholarship. Because I'm evil. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Update: I have now edited this post about 6 times. Perhaps I should add "illiterate" to "obstreperous" and "sleep deprived." Seriously, I can usually spell words like "schadenfreude" and I usually know the correct form of "abolish" to use in a sentence.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at March 17, 2005 10:33 AM

It would have some impact on the sciences: every department has few washed-up researchers who couldn't or wouldn't move with the times and consequently have no grant money for RA fellowships or equipment repairs. If grad students are savvy, they stay away from such profs, so those grad students they do attract are limited to the politically obtuse and the about-to-flunk-out.

Such professors serve the purpose of teaching most of the classes that the research profs don't want to teach (and that includes some of the grad and all of the undergrad courses at most large research universities).

Posted by: John at March 17, 2005 10:41 AM

John -

I wonder if a side-effect of abolishing tenure would lead to a subset of folks who were kept around for the express purpose of teaching the weeder courses? Or the expanded use of adjuncts or grad students?

In the latter respect, it wouldn't be much different from what we're already seeing in terms of "adjunct abuse."

I doubt we'll see the abolishment of tenure, because one of the rewards for doing all that hard slogging for little to no pay early on is the job security, but it's interesting to explore the possibilites.

Posted by: BAW at March 17, 2005 10:45 AM

Well, my Uni did keep someone around just to teach Gen. Chem in huge, 200 person lectures. He was a raving loon and had a Ph.D. in Education as well as chemistry, so he confused the living crap out of the students. I had to unteach his lesson on Quantum completely just so my recitation secitons could do the problems in the book.

But you're right, if tenure goes away and they can fire the deadwood, it'll just mean more adjuncts. And really, the skill sets of good researchers and good teachers only occasionally and accidentally overlap anyway.

Posted by: John at March 17, 2005 10:58 AM

You're suggesting abolatry.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at March 17, 2005 02:53 PM

Faith and Begorrah!

Don't be slandering the Lucky Charms, now!

Posted by: Sigivald at March 17, 2005 03:18 PM

I believe that tenure is a good idea, but the way it's done is wrong.

Tenure should be like my hubbie's certification. He proved himself at the start, got the certification. Then every 5 years he has to demonstrate that he hasn't lost his skill set. The recert isn't as difficult as the original cert, but it isn't a blow-off either.

Why can't we check in with profs and teachers to make sure they're still paying attention?

Posted by: di at March 18, 2005 07:32 AM

We do. Or, at least, we claim to. Ostensibly, that's the Emerald City that paper trails like the FCQ or course/instructor evaluation lead to: a place where even tenured faculty remain part of a system of checks and balances that gives the students a forum to provide anonymous feedback on how much they learned and administrators a springboard tool to help improve the quality of teaching. Unfortunately, as we've seen, this paper trail leads not to the Emerald City but someplace quite different.

Posted by: Ph.D. Mama at March 18, 2005 11:47 AM

I'm familiar with the feedback process and it's destination.

I've always wondered if it would be possible to have "secret students" - like secret shoppers - for the post-secondary level. Just like the shoppers go into a store and evaluate their shopping experience, hire some "students" to take a class or two and evaluate their learning experience.

Have no bright ideas for elem/secondary ed right now. Wish I did cuz then maybe I could have done something about a K teacher who told my son she didn't like him and because of that, he couldn't have a good part in the class play. She even told me she snubbed him whenever he asked her for help.

Geez, when a 50+ year old woman has a problem with a 5 year old, it sure as hell ain't the kid's problem.

Posted by: di at March 18, 2005 02:44 PM