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Tenure, Brainpower, and Pillars of …?

Some insist that tenure’s the way expert faculty ensure free speech without fear of losing jobs. Others protest that tenure keeps ineffective people and blocks brainpower for new initiatives. With more campuses being sued, and relevancy questioned it may be time to take another look and what learners expect and what classes offer.

Today, for instance NPR showcased John Liechty Middle School in LA just lost all new teachers because of the budget crunch. Then older, tenured faculty and administrators, who likely will not invest in the new directions, but who were displaced from other schools,  filled in  spots at John Liechty.

The principal expressed devastation at the school’s loss, while people who support tenure, see this move as fair. Listen to NPR’s story where devasted principal lamented the loss, “I don’t know if I’ll ever see another group of educators that are so passionate and committed to the work that they are doing.”

What do you think?

Does tenure work, or does its job security tend to block learning and assessment innovation?

Pillars of pedagogy or props for privation?

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See articles below on learner brainpower, renewal, as they impact tenure issues at secondary and university:

1. No Brain Left Behind

2. Death of Education – Dawn of Learning

3. Brain Parts Promote or Stomp out Change

4. Secondary and University with Brains in Mind

5. Parents’ Brains Belong at Secondary School
6. Renew with the Brain in Mind
7. Call for Simplicity that Adds Intelligence
8. A Brain Based Dream
9. Talker or Brain Based Mentor at University?
10. Myths that Shape Secondary Schools (2)
11. Secondary Schools for Higher Achievement (1)
12. Move Brainpower into Reconfigured Learning
13. Expect Neuron Pathways to Dynamic Solutions
14. Question Broken Systems with Solutions in Mind
15. Universities in Crisis

16. Awaken Universities – with Learning at Center

17. Retention Lost in Lectures

18. Engage Voices on the Other Side19. Marks of Brainpowered Workplaces

20. Reinvigorate Brains for Learning Dividends

21. Move to Replace Broken Systems

22. Call for Simplicity that Adds Intelligence

23. Brainpower to Disagree and Prosper Peace

24. New Run ay Old Runways – Space for Renewal

25. Why Brain Based Approaches?


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11 Comments to “Tenure, Brainpower, and Pillars of …?”

It has never ceased to amaze me that it’s so easy to fall back on on a “sure thing” for ourselves and in this case it is tenure.If we do not have that crutch, we have to keep up with research about what is working effectively in a field.Business works that way.People who haven’t learned to use the internet effectively in connection with their work, would not keep a job.Yet, many tenured teachers today do not incorporate technology into their teaching tools.We need to find fair answers to this so teens’ brains are challenged daily in school.

Robyn McMasters last blog post..Making Changes

Interesting Robyn, as you hit on core brain equipment. Each of your examples draws into discussion the brain’s basal ganglia – which defaults to ruts – unless kept at bay.

Simply put, brains revert easily back to stagnation through their own equipment, without the deliberate prompts of applied innovations – which tend to activate the working memory for change and growth.


If I woke up tomorrow and tenure was removed, I would have to stop many of the activities that I do.Test prep activities would take priority.New activities that might not work would not be attempted.I work in a very play it safe system.Don’t do anything outside the norm, never take a risk, and if one parent doesn’t like it stop it immediately.For all of the negatives that tenure brings, if you hire the right people, tenure is like a flack jacket against traditionalists.

Interesting points here Paul, and what a vivid portrait of the other side. Many thanks for raising tenure’s core purpose with such clarity.

You speak for many when you show the reasons why tenure grew into a force to be reckoned with, especially in a tired and broken system.

As I reflect on your “play it safe system,” where people refuse to take risks or extend beyond the norm, I realize stagnation problems that plague already broken learning systems, will likely always be with us. Yet when leaders like you come along and offer refreshing new ideas there must be some assurance these can create improvements for learners.

Other compelling questions arise, for even more thought on a critical topic. You’ve certainly nudged the ideas into deeper water for another look! I hope your risks continue to work in learners’ favor and in yours!

From a parent who saw tenure keep older outdated teachers on staff; teachers who were burned out and quite evidently no longer really cared about teaching, I found it reprehensible.

Why should one class have this insurance policy. Do your job, work hard, show you care…and maybe like the rest of us, you’ll stay employed!

Hi Ellen;

Thank you for your provocative questions & for the opportunity to comment.

In many ways, ‘tenurism’ is like ‘unionism’ with both the advantages & the disadvantages of the latter community association approach.

I observe and, therefore, feel that in the schools with which I’m familiar the disadvantages greatly outweigh the advantages.

Since all tenured teachers at York University in Toronto, where I teach as Adjunct Faculty, and those at many Universities in North America, are members of very powerful unions, I wonder why tenured professors need the so-called protection they argue that tenure supposedly preserves?

I also find it interesting that the concept of “rugged individualism” seems to reign supreme in most areas of U.S society that I can observe from north of your border except among the group charged with the responsibility to educate the country’s future leaders.



Thanks Barbara, you speak for many people who look at the huge failing rate at secondary and university. Yet, the system itself works against renewal in core areas. Interestingly – so does some equipment (such as the basal ganglia) in the human brain. There are models that work far better – yet it take the will of leaders to allow these to reconfigure broken systems, that retain stagnated faculty. I am amazed at the extent to which innovative faculty go to improve learning for teens, and yet they too are held back by a system created by another generation, for a different era. Luckily neuro-discoveries open amazing new doors for another way:-)

Wow – Gary – this is a blog in itself. Powerful words — many realities! Let me think more on this and get back. You have articulated many of the underlying issues here as yet another view emerges.

I’m curious though. What do you see as the finest solution to problems you have identifiedat York and similar settings? Thoughts?

[…] 26. Tenure, Brainpower, and Pillars of …? […]

[…] 26. Tenure, Brainpower, and Pillars of …? […]

[…] no secret that some criticize universities focus as being more on bureaucracy of the university and tenure than on quality of teaching or on engaging anybody’s brainpower. Others argue there is too […]