Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The K.C. Johnson Controversy

Months ago I reported here that Robert David "KC" Johnson faced the very real possibility of being denied tenure at Brooklyn College--in spite of having the best record of publication, and being the most popular teacher, in his department. At issue were concerns over his "collegiality," stemming from his participation on a search committee. Apparently he took issue with his chair’s demand that the department hire (in the chair’s own words) "some women we can live with, who are not whiners from the word go or who need therapy as much as they need a job."

This article from the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education recounts the whole story. Unfortunately it’s for subscribers only.

The good news is that Johnson won his battle, thanks in part to the enormous press and internet campaign that was waged in his behalf. This is good news for the historical profession. While Johnson is no conservative, he is an incredibly talented and serious historian; his victory is a triumph for all who believe that educators must be held to high standards of both teaching and scholarship.

Discussions - 3 Comments

"While Johnson is no conservative, he is an incredibly talented and serious historian; his victory is a triumph for all who believe that educators must be held to high standards of both teaching and scholarship."

Not to get overly nitpiky here, but how in the world does "tenure" encourage accountability?

While I understand the lifetime appointment of judges is supposed to take them out of "politics" and onto a much higher plane, I wonder if tenure really does the same thing (or let’s just quit kidding ourselves about this "standards" business). Maybe put another way, how much better would our public schools be today, were it not for unions?

I’m no great fan of tenure--though you might ask me again after I have it--but it is a fact of academic life. One might make an argument that colleges and universities would be better off without it, but conservatives are dreaming if they think that abolishing tenure would move academia closer to the mainstream. In any case, my point is that as long as the institution of tenure exists, we ought to applaud when the reward goes to the right people, and protest when it is denied them.

"I’m no great fan of tenure--though you might ask me again after I have it..."

Score one for honesty!

More seriously, how does this sound: Tenurism is fine for private learning institutions, let ’em have it and live with the consequences, good or bad. State sponsered, public learnin’ folks, on the other hand, must adhere to Jefferson’s maxim: A revolution of tenure every seven years! :)

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