Here’s what in journalism would be called a “dog-bites-man” story: a study has found that somewhere, some long-term employees may not be pulling their weight. If this study were in any line of work but academia, it might not even be reported upon. But because it’s about tenured faculty, the story line gets taken that there is a direct relation between tenure and incompetence.
In the New York Times, University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Adam Grant has proposed “A Solution for Bad Teaching.” It’s yet another intriguing, provocative blaming of tenure for poor teaching. It’s also a prime example of having something outlandish to say (which the Times loves) but not actually saying anything important, or for that matter, logical: it begins with a faulty premise, uses outdated data, and comes up with a solution that in fact, has already de facto been implemented, but in fact does not address the problem how he’s set it up. Maybe the easiest way to consider this is to go from the conclusion, and work our way backwards. For this post, let’s consider Grant’s solution: multiple tenure tracks.