We've all heard it. "People in other jobs don't have tenure. Why should teachers be any different?"
There are three parts to my answer.
The first part you can already write yourself. Tenure is not "a guaranteed job for life." It is not a get-out-of-anything-free card for every bad teacher out there. It is a promise of due process. It is a promise that I won't be fired because I gave the wrong kid a bad grade, benched the wrong kid in a sport, refused to go out with a board member, reported an administrator for a contract violation, dug in my heels over a professional matter, or belong to the wrong political party.
Behind every bad teacher who didn't get fired, there is an administrator not doing his job. Tenure should not protect the worst examples of people passing themselves off as teachers, and the rest of us don't want it to. Seriously. You know who suffers worst from an incompetent in a teacher's job-- okay, second worst, behind the students-- the people who have to work with him. We will be happy to see Mr. McBubblebrain out the door. We just want to see it happen by the book.
But everyone already knows that argument, and it won't get us past "Other people work without that kind of protection, so why should teachers?"
Well, first, you must remember that teachers don't have to be teachers. I think lots of folks forget that, perhaps because we identify ourselves as teachers, and so they assume we can't do something else. But we can. Teachers don't have to be teachers. Schools do have to work to recruit and retain (just like businesses). "We will pay you mediocre wages, we will give you little autonomy, and we will treat you like a child," make a bad start for recruiting. Throwing in, "AND we will give you no job security at all" does not make for a winning pitch.
This is one of the stupidest things that management overlooks. You can't get the best for free, but you can get them by adding things that don't cost you a cent. A promise of due process is dirt cheap.
And second, the formula cited above is a disservice not just to teachers, but to everybody else. It assumes that those other people are getting no more than they deserve.
So I submit that the whole statement is backwards. Here's what we should be asking:
"Teachers work with the assurance they will not be fired for foolish and arbitrary reasons, so why shouldn't everybody else?"