Lawrence Harmon (“Talent, not time, marks a teacher,” Op-ed, June 9) raises the specter of aging, poorly performing teachers keeping jobs from talented young enthusiasts, arguing that the unions are selfish to want to retain seniority. In fact, seniority helps our students.
First, the prospect of job security itself attracts talented, well-educated people to the profession, despite relatively low initial wages and stressful work. Second, after years of practice, people usually become better at what they do, not worse. I constantly learned how to become better in my 30 years of experience. Third, the alternative — to allow administrators to decide whom to fire — is dangerous. Teacher evaluations themselves are faulty, and there is a real financial incentive for administrators to retain lower-paid, younger workers over older teachers with higher salaries and benefits.
Are there underperforming older teachers and good younger ones? Of course. But the opposite is more likely to be true. The solution is not to eliminate seniority. If a teacher performs badly in the classroom, there is and should be a process for forcing him or her to retire.
Better yet, in order to make room for young talent, give our schools more funding. Pitting older teachers against young and teachers unions against students keeps the focus away from the true selfishness in our country — those who hoard their millions and are unwilling to pay their fair share of taxes for public services.
The writer is a retired professor of English at North Shore Community College.