No Tenure for Teachers

“The [New York State teachers’] unions late Tuesday were successful in banning student performance in the classroom from the tenure process.”

Say what?! News stories like this drive me nuts. There should be no such thing as tenure for teaching faculty who are not also professional researchers. The latter need tenure to protect them from malicious firing related to unpopular research topics, methodology, or results. Educators who exclusively teach should be held accountable for how well they do their jobs, just like anyone else in any other job. If you are a poor teacher who fails to adequately educate children, your boss should have the right to fire you. Period.

On a tangentially related note, I hate the idea of closed shops. Unions should have to compete with other unions and individual workers. A monopolized workforce is as bad as a monopolized industry.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

9 thoughts on “No Tenure for Teachers

  1. howard


    Coming from a union job where tenure doesn’t exist, I kind of see where you’re going with that, but I’m wondering how much direct experience you have with unions after reading that last paragraph.

    A closed shop doesn’t preclude other unions (or no union at all) from doing away with the current union in any particular shop. With the current state of domestic labor relations, it might actually be easier on balance to decertify a union than it is to certify one. It’s as democratic a process as our electoral system. Actually, moreso.

  2. Funky Dung Post author

    When was the last time you actually heard of one union displacing another? Besides, deposing one union to empower another isn’t the point. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing situation. Employers should be free to hire any mixture of union or independent workers.

  3. gbm3

    I’ve worked at union and non-union shops. I’ve been on both sides (engineer and in a union).

    The unions I’ve worked with/for have been good. It seems the larger shops/institutions had the more powerful union because management was more powerful (my management wasn’t that powerful). And no, there was no democratic choice of unions, just elections every couple of years.

    As far as tenure for teachers, I agree with you FD. No tenure for HS teachers! (I was one.) They need to make the grade too.


  4. howard

    there is a democratic choice as to who, if anyone, represents workers. Should a majority of the workers wish to change representation (or do away with it altogether) decertification is an option.

    you shouldn’t confuse the frequency of decertifications with the ease of carrying them out. The simple fact is that most union workers, whatever qualms they may have, prefer their union representation to the alternative.

    As far as your philosophical problems with the structure of a union shop, the laws governing that are also subject to the democratic process. If a significant segment of the population shares your misgivings, I’m sure something can be done about it.

  5. Funky Dung Post author

    “you shouldn’t confuse the frequency of decertifications with the ease of carrying them out. The simple fact is that most union workers, whatever qualms they may have, prefer their union representation to the alternative.”


    “As far as your philosophical problems with the structure of a union shop, the laws governing that are also subject to the democratic process. If a significant segment of the population shares your misgivings, I’m sure something can be done about it.”

    I’d like to think so, but unions are powerful lobbying forces to be reckoned with.

  6. Pingback: Ales Rarus - Evil or Stupid?

  7. howard

    “I’d like to think so, but unions are powerful lobbying forces to be reckoned with.”

    Yes and no. They do have political action committees to which members can contribute (on a strictly voluntary basis), but the funding for those committees is far outweighed by corporate PAC money. A union’s political power is largely in the number of members and other people who sympathize with its position and voice their sympathies. In other words, organized labor’s power is pretty much limited to the number of figurative boots it can put on the ground.

    There are wide-ranging and lavish efforts by those who oppose unionization. Folks like Rick Berman and mark Penn have made signigicant fortunes lobbying for such efforts. So while the union movement does have some lobbying power, it may not be the political behemoth it once was (or that some believe it still is).

  8. Funky Dung Post author

    “A union’s political power is largely in the number of members and other people who sympathize with its position and voice their sympathies.”

    Most of the Democratic Party supports or at least pays lip service to unions. I can’t recall ever hearing of a major union endorsing a Republican or other non-Democrat. Perhaps it happens once in blue moon, but it’s either the exception to the rule or Democrats have done a good propagandizing the notion that unions monolithically vote for Democrats.

  9. howard

    Out here in the eastern part of PA, our Joint Council and my local union have endorsed many Republicans at the state and local levels the past ten years. Of course, it would be difficult to find an example of that on the national level, probably because the national Republican Party is loathe to nominate anyone to a higher office if they support union positions in any demonstrable way. Hence, the unions aren’t going to endorse such candidates. That said, I would still say it’s a boots on the ground issue more than a sheer money/lobbying issue.

    But to dig a little deeper into what you wrote, “lip service” is an apt term for what happens much of the time. For some voters, lip service does the trick, because they aren’t paying attention to the actions. Bill Clinton was a perfect example. Unions and those who side with them gave tremendous support to Clinton in 92, after which Clinton lobbied hard for NAFTA. Without getting into the pros and cons of NAFTA, it clearly was not a union-endorsed policy.

    The later 90s and early 00s resulted in a lot of unions (mine included) widening their focus as to whom they might endorse.

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