Tenure, Entitlement, and the Children Hurt

As I watched the superb documentary, Waiting for ‘Superman,’ it occurred to me that there is a deeper philosophy, a deeper ethos, at work in the harangued “broken public schools” situation.

Director/co-writer Davis Guggenheim identifies a big part of the problem: tenure for underworking, overpaid teachers. These teachers don’t cover classroom material but can’t lose their jobs. It’s a nationwide boondoggle.

But, in cataloging the problems of public schools and the families they hurt, Superman doesn’t go any deeper than the fact that teacher tenure is a sign of bloated bureaucracy. Surely, there must be more to it than that.

The scene showing Washington, DC, School Superintendent Michelle Rhee’s showdown with Washington Teachers’ Union drove it home: tenured teachers think they’re entitled to something. They think that their coursework in college entitles them to a lifelong job. They think that their breath deserves pay, no questions asked.

So the problem is deeper than tenure and bureaucracy. The problem is entitlement. The problem is that we as a country think we deserve something we haven’t earned. We take everything for granted. The problem is pride, and pride is sin.

Guggenheim narrates, “It wasn’t about the children at all; it was about the adults.” Pride says “I am more important than you,” and God is not even in the picture. Pride thinks more highly of itself than it ought to (Romans 12:3 warns against this). Pride always counts itself more important than those it is called to serve.

Teachers are called to serve students, parents, and communities. Of all professions, teaching, good teaching, at least, may require most selflessness. Good teachers put in long hours, think hard thoughts, plan hard, teach hard, and love unconditionally. Tenured teachers, however, tend to do the opposite.

So let’s put it plainly, teachers: you don’t deserve anything out of your job after the pay. Anything after the pay is a bonus, a gift, an act of grace. When you begin to see this, you will look at your job, your students, and your life very differently.

Your pride, your sense of entitlement, your tenure is only hurting your students. They need you to be a motivated, skilled, passionate teacher; not some educated bum waiting for a paycheck.


About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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