Friday, September 21, 2012

Jeffrey Mirel discusses teacher tenure on NPR's Marketplace

Tags: digital signage, history, k-12, mirel


Jeffrey Mirel was interviewed for a segment that aired on NPR's Marketplace on September 20, 2012. Mirel, an education historian, related his own first experience with tenure as a junior high teacher in the 70s. He goes on to discuss the origins of tenure for teachers.

Jeff Mirel taught junior high in a Cleveland suburb in the 70's. After three years on the job, he showed up at the school board meeting to hear his name ring out among the newly-tenured teachers. The union president laughed at him.
Jeff Mirel: And he said, “What do you think tenure is?” And I said, “Well, I have job security for the rest of my life." And he said, "No. What tenure does is it guarantees you have an orderly dismissal.”
That is, Mirel couldn’t be fired without a reason -- and a hearing. Now, he has the “lifetime guarantee” kind of tenure as a professor of educational studies at the University of Michigan. He says first grade teachers have tenure for the same reason academics do. It started in the early 1900's to protect teachers from being fired to make room for the superintendent’s nephew. Or, say, for teaching evolution in biology class.
Mirel: You know, it gave teachers some job security in a world in which political allegiances mattered more than what you knew how to teach and your ability to teach it.

Jeffrey Mirel is the David L. Angus Collegiate Chair, School of Education; and professor, Department of History, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

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