Late last year, I wrote a post titled The Arrogance of Bill Gates. It was a commentary about his attack on Diane Ravitch in Newsweek by saying that since she didn’t agree with him than she must be for the status quo.
He’s at it again.
Here are a few comments he made when he visited the Washington Post yesterday:
“There’s almost no profession that you could say that the 2011 practitioner may not be any better than the 1920 practitioner, and teaching I think is the only profession you can say that about. …
On tenure, Gates said he understood why it was needed for college professors. But he said he was perplexed by tenure laws and rules that provide school teachers with significant due-process protections in personnel cases after they pass a probationary period.
“The idea that this one shouldn’t be about what goes on with the kids always seemed a little unusual,” he said. “You know, maybe we should try tenure in other professions. Just, you know, mix it up a little bit. Pay newspaper editors by seniority. Have tenure for them and see how that works. Try it for hot-dog making or restaurants.”
It’s absolutely mind-boggling…
This is a guy who has donated more money to put poor kids through college than any 100 people might expect to make in 100 lifetimes. Typically people don’t spend a significant portion of their fortunes giving poor kids full rides to college because they’re arrogant buffoons who don’t care about education. He cares very much about education – his opinions on the subject differ from yours, yes, but that doesn’t make him arrogant.
I don’t understand what’s unreasonable, let alone arrogant, about Gates’ feelings. Admittedly, I quit teaching before being awarded tenure, so perhaps I’m missing out on how awesome it is to have, but I think job security must be earned by performance.
Admittedly, comparing teachers to hot dog venders is both dismissive and inapposite (and yes, perhaps a bit arrogant). But let’s make another comparison along the same lines, to my new profession of investment banking. Just as teachers’ data is often (partially) at the whim of factors beyond their control (children’s home lives and poverty levels and so forth), investment bankers’ returns are determined largely by forces outside of our control (market trends, legislative actions, etc.). But in the former case, teachers are insulated from the results of their performance by tenure, whereas if investment bankers fail to satisfy objective criteria for satisfactory performance, i.e. if we should fail to generate satisfactory returns for our clients, we could not expect to remain employed for long.
It is so unreasonable to compare teachers to investment bankers in this regard? Because that’s essentially what Gates is contending.
I know I’m a late to reading this, but I had to comment. I completely agree with the commenter above. I’ve taught before, and, although not still in the classroom, still work in K12 education, and my opinion of tenure is that it’s a joke. Great teachers should be rewarded greatly and poor teachers should be kicked to the curb. That’s how it is in the ‘real world’, so why not for teachers.
Bill Gates is arrogant?? The most arrogant thing in the whole blog post is “It’s absolutely mind-boggling…”. The assertion is that teachers not only deserve, but have the right, to tenure. Gates has it right.
Forgot to add a couple of things.
1. This blog post was filed under ‘school reform’. I think in most people’s minds, read not teachers, tenure has no place in school reform.
2. This just happens to be a subject that gets me a little riled up. I’m sure Larry is a very fine teacher, and I’ve found a number of great resources from this site, but the ‘we have to have tenure’ mantra that most teachers go on about boggles my mind. Great teachers don’t need tenure. Great teachers need merit pay; but that’s a whole other subject that most teachers don’t like to talk about.
Readers might be interested in this post to see a more positive view of tenure: