Saturday, January 29, 2011

School Reform: High Cost, Low Yield. Why is this?

“..the formal structures of many organizations ... dramatically reflect the myths of their institutional environments instead of the demands of their work activities.” -- Meyer, JW & Rowan, B*

It is what people expect, with good reason or not, that influences their ideas about schools and school reform. Lack of knowledge or competence has seldom been a barrier to participation in school reform efforts.

This is not so strange. Most people who drive cars cannot explain why they work the way they do. Some imagine that just using higher octane gasoline will give them better performance. Others scream at their car when it doesn’t do what they expect. But unlike many a would-be school reformer, few of these drivers imagine they are competent to redesign automobiles just because they can find fault with their own.

Why does the discrepancy persist between the way schools actually work and how they are generally expected to work? Because our expectations line up with how we pay for schools and whom we give the big bucks to.

Basically, in education, as in corporations, government and, to a scary extent in the military, we bribe those higher up in the chain of command to pretend they know what they are doing. It not only helps us keep calm in times of distress, but saves us the trouble of getting too involved ourselves.

To examine these issues further, see Controlling the School: Institutionalization

--- EGR

*Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony Am. J. of Soc. 83, 2 p.341

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