Academic Freedom, Professor Tenure and the Common Good of Society - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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I look back on the education I received in my younger years as a college student and I now see great value in it. The degree i earned which was a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science was from a public university with plenty of tenured professors. My math and computer science departments had a very high attrition rate where many students simply washed out of the math and computer science program and those students, upon seeing how tough math and computer science was, would switch majors or simply fail out of school.

I chose to hang tough but I was not a good student at the time. I did manage to graduate and I was one of the first to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in my family. I also did not have the advantages of many of the other fellow students who did graduate and performed better academically than myself. I also had to work while in school and the college courses were extraordinarily demanding which harmed my GPA.

Still, I didn't give up even when faced with bad grades. I just sort of dug in my heels and wanted to show the professors I wasn't a quitter. Which they respected that when I finally graduated. They saw I had some odds stacked against me and that despite facing many set backs I just didn't give up and kept coming back for more punishment until I finally graduated.

I look back on those years with great pride and I see my professors were doing a very good job of educating me too. I have tremendous respect for their profession and their work. I also see now the value of tenure for professors. I remember I used to complain about tenured professors and the fact that they had tenure and "couldn't be fired." My professors would fail whole classes sometimes and back then I thought they were being too difficult and too harsh but now I see, it was because the whole class really did deserve to be failed. This really wasn't uncommon back then. And professor would wear it as a badge of honor when they had to fail students and now I understand why.

Now that I am older and wiser I have read about some professors who encountered political interference from their college when they failed a whole class. They got so upset they left the college. But I understand why they are upset too. One of the first things i learned from my professors is that failure is part of life and if you want to get somewhere you are going to fail and you just have to dust yourself off and keep going. Everybody fails at some point or another. The second thing I learned is nothing in this world is free and nobody is going to give you anything. The third thing I learned from my professors is that there are no "participation trophies" in life. The fourth thing I learned is that the educational outcome rather than the grade or GPA is far more important. I learned many other things from my professors too, but those were some of the first lessons I learned as a young college student.

I see an assault on higher education here recently where college and universities are trying to save money and cut back on tenure professors. This is a big mistake and will harm education. Our country needs to fund higher education more and do a better job of promoting tenure for professors. Professors need protections to be able to teach controversial topics that are necessary for the common good of society. Plus, they need to be able to fail students without interference; some who might come from wealthy and powerful families who have considerable influence.

This enables professors to teach without interference and for students to learn without interference. Tenure protects those professors whose research findings (or teaching methods) are contrary to popular opinion or the settled dogmas of the powerful. It protects freedom of thought and inquiry by insulating the scholar both from angry mobs who don't like what the professor is teaching (though they are doing a legitimate common good for society for what he is teaching) and from group think and orthodoxy within a university, college or academy.

Tenure is does not protect professors who commit crimes or break the law or plagiarize their research or who fail to live up to their contracts. But tenure does protect academic freedom, the freedom for students to learn without interference and ultimately it advances to the common good of society. You have to consider, would you want a doctor operating on you who got his position because of political interference during his education? Or do you want a doctor who operating on you who legitimately earned his education and position? Would you want an engineer designed bridges that your car drives on who got his engineering position due to political interference during his education? Or do you want an engineer who earned his degree and was graded really hard and tough by his professors designing the bridges your car drives on?

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