My high school experience is probably relatable to many: I had a few teachers that were role models, many more that were completely average and a few that I hated. As students, our reasons for disliking teachers vary greatly. Perhaps it is because a teacher is notorious for harsh grading, appears to favor girls, or cannot lecture comprehensively without rambling on about her cat.

I had one high school teacher who seemed to hold a grudge against the students, particularly those who excelled academically. Although our Advanced Placement (AP) European History class had some of the brightest history students in the school, only one student managed to eke out an A- average in this teacher's class by the middle of the year. Some students realized early the disadvantages of remaining in the class, and they soon dropped out. Others without such foresight, like myself, were forced to contend with the absurdity of this class for the rest of the year.

The teacher did things his own way: he refused to teach us the material that was going to be on the AP test, he could not lecture without berating students, and often he made his tests unnecessarily difficult. It was commonplace to find an exam question that asked minute details that were not only impossible to recall, but also completely irrelevant to the material we had learned. My favorite example is one question that asked students to remember the color printed on a bucket of paint from a black and white political cartoon that had appeared in one of the readings.

My experience in that class was not only painful for my GPA, but it was also largely a waste of time. At the semester's end, I rounded up many of the students that were taught by the same teacher in order to compile complaints from throughout the year. After meeting with the principal and discussing the matter, I was told that all would be done to remedy the situation. As time went on, however, it became clear that there was very little that the principal could do — this teacher held the immunity of tenure.

Academic tenure was originally implemented for reasons similar to those for judicial tenure, namely job security and freedom to teach without pressure to conform to a popular view. But the disadvantages of academic tenure are far more substantial. Teachers can become unproductive or careless and remain immune from being fired. Although it is still possible to fire a tenured teacher for adequate cause, it is a very expensive process involving the school board, unions, as well as costly judicial and legal fees. For this reason, the principal of my school was unable to do anything except prohibit the teacher from teaching future AP courses.

Although my experience is not necessarily commonplace, it reveals some of the dangers of assuming that a teacher's performance will remain steady as time goes on. The most obvious remedy is simply to amend the system. Even implementing a performance review every five or 10 years would be a dramatic improvement. Many universities in Australia and Europe have revoked the tenure track since the 1980s, but most North American universities and high schools have failed to follow suit. On the high school level, a strong teachers' union fights to maintain the status quo.

Obviously, many institutions, including Bowdoin, employ professors that are highly motivated and would not see tenure as a reason to lower their intensity. But, why take that chance? The teachers that would remain motivated would not be harmed by the installment of reviews, while others like my high school teacher would be required to continue teaching to the same standard required of them before tenure. Students deserve to have the best teachers available, regardless of how long they have been in their position.

Ryan Erskine is a member of the Class of 2012.