by Seth Batiste, Ph.D. President, Texas Association of College Teachers
Greetings TACT Members:
Many people say that K-12 and higher education are different beasts; that higher education does not have the same issues as our K-12 counterparts. CRT, DEI, and tenure are primarily higher education concerns. I beg to differ. Higher education and K-12 mirror each other. I will venture to say they always have.
CRT or Critical Race Theory can arguably be said to have had roots in at least some major school districts before it landed at higher education’s doorstep. There were issues with books, both from a race and gender viewpoint, by Boards around Texas for years before Austin began its intense rhetoric and now legislation on the race and gender issues.
Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) were integrated by some districts into issues of race as they seemingly always have. Diversity has grown in recent decades to cover more than just race and ethnicity. It includes gender, disability, thought, and many other categories and subcategories.
Finally, I am baffled with anyone who does not pause a moment to consider tenure issues as solely a higher education issue. Perhaps the most recent issues of tenure in Texas universities, some more public than others, have always been on the radar of associations to some degree – but not with this much attention in recent years. Professors have been fired from some well-known Texas institutions, some long-standing entities. There are instances where professors have been relieved of duty without any conclusive investigation. Some refer to this as “guilty before being proven innocent.” One might be prone to say this is exclusively a higher education problem, and higher education must go at it alone. I disagree.
Universities do have tenure processes that are quite comprehensive. Community colleges often have a process that might include multi-year contracts. In K-12, there is no such mention of tenure when it comes to faculty. Where is the common ground you ask? I am glad you asked. Right now, the laws that support less due process protocols for faculty at 4-year institutions impact 2-year institutions, as well as K-12 entities. Recently, the largest school district in Texas has come up with a plan to rate K-12 teachers and fire them if they fall below a certain rating. The rating is left up to the building principals. “Medium” to “high” must be the rating to be considered an effective teacher. Though teachers at all levels do not necessarily have tenure, it is safe to say that faculty have enjoyed some semblance of the due process that is tenure. I have always appreciated what faculty do at every level as I have essentially taught at each of these levels. Teaching the next generation has certainly changed. As we sort out this and that difference, I fear the monster we create for those that follow. Join me. Join us. Join TACT (www.tact.org) today to help us reform the beast.
Seth Batiste, Ph.D.