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Tenured Teachers: Shape Up or Ship Out

Regarding the opinion-page article "Don't Eliminate Tenure Just to Trim Deadwood," Feb. 22: The authors are concerned about the fate of tenure. Here's a reform that would help save tenure from being dismantled:

Make grants of tenure for a limited period, say five years. At the end of that time, evaluate the tenured individual's public pronouncements on controversial topics. If the individual has not raised a ruckus, then tenure could be terminated on the grounds that the individual has no need for it. The tenured post could then be passed on to someone else, in hopes that better use would be made of the protected free speech it is designed to enable.

This arrangement might urge tenured laggards to action. Those who viewed tenure as a way to become deadwood would have to consider shaping up, or risk being shipped out. Activists who used their tenure to challenge the community would doubtless keep files of the activities to support their request for continued protection. The review would be conducted on the basis of the exercise of free speech, not the quality of teaching. This could be handled in other ways, such as those the professors suggested (e.g., merit pay).

Perhaps this idea should be tried at a few institutions to see how it works out.

John H. Tanton

Petoskey, Mich.

Why drug use is on the rise

The opinion-page article "Preventing Teen Drug Abuse," Feb. 27, is a classic example of the old axiom, "When something isn't working, do it harder." More than a decade into the war on drugs - an effort marked primarily by bureaucratic empire builders squandering billions of dollars while trampling civil rights - drug use is on the rise. Rather than urging us to "enhance the work that's already been done," Bob Dole should instead ask, "What's so wrong with our reality that tens of millions of citizens attempt to escape it through the use of illicit (and licit) drugs?"

A quick look around gives some answers: crumbling cities, diminishing resources, collapsing ecosystems, lack of meaningful work, a growing gap between rich and poor, and a rapidly growing world population.

The fact is that the future of our kids, and that of our planet, depend on addressing the issues of population, poverty, inequity, environmental destruction, and injustice. Drug abuse is a symptom, not a cause. Until Senator Dole and his fellow politicians acknowledge this reality, they're just blowing smoke.

John Goekler

Lopez Island, Wash.

Thumbs up for 'Mr. Holland's Opus'

We seldom go to the movies anymore because of the violence, crime, sex, and general immorality they so often seem to portray. Recently, however, someone recommended "Mr. Holland's Opus." Having read the article " 'Mr. Holland's Opus' Champions Key Issues With Syrupy Screenplay," Jan. 22, we were hesitant about going. However, we found it to be one of the most heartwarming, refreshing movies we have seen in a long time. We are disappointed to see a review which discourages people from enjoying a film which has so much to offer on the positive side. A movie with a sense of goodness and strong morality should be encouraged.

Patti and Gary Sigurdson

Western Springs, Ill.

The path to a more rewarding life

Regarding the article "Small Is Beautiful - The Old '70s Idea Sounds Good Again," Feb. 15: Our organization has been tracking new thinking and real-world projects inspired by E.F. Schumacher (who coined the above-mentioned phrase), among others, for the past 16 years. The number of people who have reservations about traditional economics are growing at an extraordinary rate - even among academic economists.

History and all of the great religious and philosophical traditions have warned against excessive materialism for centuries. Thanks to Schumacher and a number of other socioeconomic inventors, the various paths to a more balanced and rewarding life in cooperative societies are well marked.

Creative thinking and problem solving by thoughtful people in small groups, neighborhoods, and communities are already demonstrating that things can change for the better if we stay focused on the real world.

John Applegath

West Swanzey, N.H.

Founder, The Society for Human Economy

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