Sunday, August 15, 2010

The case for getting rid of tenure. - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine

I have a good friend who is trying to get tenure right now at a Canadian University, so this article was of interest. In principle, I'd say I support tenure - but in practice, I'm not so sure it's the right way to protect and promote academic freedom and discourse. The article does a good job (to my mind) of laying out the various arguments, although with a bias towards doing away with the practice.

Here's an excerpt:
The most common pro-tenure argument is that it protects academic freedom. Once a professor gains tenure, the thinking goes, he or she can say anything without fear of being fired. Academia thrives on the circulation of dangerous ideas. The problem is, for every tenured professor who's liberated at age 40 to speak his mind, there are dozens of junior professors terrified to say anything the least bit controversial, lest they lose their one shot at job security for life. Academia relies on young scholars to shake things up. Yet tenure incentivizes them not to. Instead, it rewards students who follow in the footsteps of the elders whose favor they will require when the day of judgment arrives.
I have a feeling this debate is going to become more vocal, especially as the current "old guard" continue to retire and new talent assumes the senior positions.

The case for getting rid of tenure. - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine:

PS - I found this via @dbarefoot on Twitter, who says to be sure to read the comments on the article.