Thanks for your eloquent Viewpoint calling for a change in the public-school tenure system which protects lousy teachers, even “several math teachers at Palisades High School who have made students’ lives hell.” But until that utopian change happens, I have a suggestion which might get some tenured teachers fired or, at the very least, should light a fire under this issue.
Some years ago, our daughter Tracey, age 9, reported that one of her school teachers frequently unleashed insults, abuse and insane rants against individual students and the entire class. I found this hard to believe, but told Tracey, “If you’re telling the truth, how’d you like to get this teacher fired?” Eyes gleaming, Tracey, who’d been raised to have a strong sense of justice and to take guff from nobody, eagerly replied, “Okay, Daddy. Let’s do it.”
I gave Tracey a small tape recorder and showed her how to use it. The following day, she hid it under her desk and flipped it on as soon as the teacher, a music teacher who should have been filling the classroom with melody and beauty, went on a shrill rampage. Tracey returned home and triumphantly presented me with the tape recording of a toxic tantrum:
“How can you ask such stupid questions? How stupid can you be?” the educator shrilled, like the witch in a Disney movie. “I’m a songwriter. Oh, God. I can’t waste my time on morons.” And on and on.
A day later, I played the tape for the school’s principal. His face mottled. By day’s end, the witch was gone. Permanently. Granted, all this happened at the private Village School, not a public school with their shameful tenure system.
The legitimate purpose of tenure is to protect teachers against summary dismissal without just cause, not to protect the incompetent and the unhinged. If enough parents armed their kids with concealed tape recorders against academic monsters, we might see more firings, tenure or no tenure.
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