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Argument against Megan McArdle’s Article Essay


The article “Tenure: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone” by Megan McArdle argues that the tenure system, which is employed by many colleges in the country, has little merit and should therefore be done away with. The author, who is a holder of an MBA from the University of Chicago, is well versed with how the system works.

She argues that the tenure system is an old system that guarantees jobs after a brief probationary process to university and college tutors whose contribution in the institute is sometimes minimal. I disagree with the claims made by McArdle that the tenor system is wasteful and has outlived its usefulness.

In this paper, I will highlight the points made by the author which I do not agree with and proceed to support my stand on the issue so as to demonstrate that the tenure system is still relevant today.

McArdle argues that tenure results in a lack of accountability since once tenure has been obtained; the need to be competitive in teaching is removed since there is a job guarantee.

She further demonstrates that professors who receive tenure are at liberty to indulge their intellectual interests and this has a negative impact on the students under their charge since the professor dedicates most of his time to his interests.

This statement by McArdle is a generalization which may not necessarily be true for all tenured staff. It is true that some professors get carried away by their intellectual pursuits and contribute little knowledge to their students, but this are the minority.

Majority of the tenured professors involve their students in their intellectual pursuits as student research assistants and help to further the knowledge of the students.

I feel that McArdle presents an inadequate argument when she asserts that the quality of scholarship produced as a result of tenure is only valuable to a handful of scholars in the same field. McArdle seems to suggest that research and scholarship should have a wide consumer base so as to be regarded as valuable.

The fact is that many tenured personnel in universities are experts in very specific fields. While their research work can have applications that are valuable for all humans, their research works and publications can only be understood by scholars who are competent in the particular field.

The fact that only a handful of scholars can appreciate the research therefore does not diminish the value of the work done by the tenured staff as the author suggests.

McArdle also states that tenure is a wasteful system since the costs of maintaining the system are very high. While it is true that tenure system has a high monetary cost, the academic institutes which make use of the system do so willingly because they see its advantages.

Tenure enables academic institutes to attract and retain the brightest minds that would otherwise be pulled by the big pay that private sector industries offer.

While there are other means of attracting first rate minds to educational institutes, this means are very expensive since they require sufficient financial incentives to compete with the private industries. The system also makes the tenured staff loyal to the institute because of the job security they have.

McArdle also argues that most of the scholars who are protected by the tenure system are old academics who are not producing any worthwhile research. The author declares that the people protected by tenure are old (in their sixties) and not producing any ground breaking new research.

She therefore argues that the young people who are capable of coming up with ground breaking research are denied the tenure that would assist them to work with relative freedom. This statement is misleading since to begin with, the author acknowledges that most academics get tenure between the age of 30 and 40 years.

At this age, the academics are able to produce path-breaking new research that can have many positive impacts on the society.

McArdle questions the scholarly competence of the individuals who acquire tenure. She states that tenure results in incompetent tutors being maintained by the institute in spite of their poor performances. I disagree with this view since tenure is given to members of staff who demonstrate strong academic capabilities and a deep commitment to their subjects.

This is evident from the stringent requirements for tenure such as getting published in a credible journal. In many universities and colleges, there is a rigorous method for identifying candidates for tenure which ensures quality of scholarship.

McArdle herself admits that the stakes for tenure have been raised and employees are vetted very carefully before being given tenure. Scholars who are incompetent are therefore likely to be identified and removed from the tenure track.

McArdle states that while the tenure system is supposed to be preserving the spirit of free inquiry at our nation’s college, it is not fulfilling this purpose since the tenure process removes radical elements and instead gives tenure to those academics who show scholarly commitment to the department.

This assumption is wrong since tenure is offered to academics on merit and not as a result of their allegiances to the department.

From the very beginning, the tenure system was created to ensure individual security and enhance a freer intellectually creative atmosphere by protecting competent staff from dismissal and reducing their accountability to the institute.

In this paper, I set out to argue that the arguments given in the article “”Tenure: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone” by Megan McArdle are wrong since they fail to fully illuminate the topic. I began by noting that while the author is in a position of authority to write on the subject, she fails to make a strong argument for her case against the tenure system.

Through this paper, I have provided my views on the topic and defended the tenure system. The tenure system still remains to be one of the means by which academic freedom can be preserved in our educational institutes. This system which has been in existent for decades is very important and its existence should be protected.

Works Cited

McArdle, Megan. “Tenure: An Idea whose time has gone”. The Atlantic. 21 July 2010. Web. <>.

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