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Friday, July 21, 2017

CAUSAL CHARADES: organizational rituals of evaluation

"…the only measure of the efficiency of a cooperative system is its capacity to survive."
-- Chester I. Barnard, The Functions of the Executive, p. 44.
Any organization in which it is not clear what is being produced, or how what is produced is to be evaluated, will have someone whose job it is to whip up enthusiasm for the daily grind: e.g. provide “staff development” to obscure the indeterminacy of the goals pursued.
Lack of clear, widely accepted theory as to what causes what, produces play-acting and hugger-mugger: mysteries of "attitudinal adjustment," "leadership," or "conformity with policy." Or, even better, secrecies-acts and "classification" procedures to frustrate easy review of outputs. (See How Not to Develop Staff)

If part of my job responsibility is to sit and listen to some "expert" -- often not a technician, in any scientific sense -- expatiate about peripheralities and, especially, to invite me -- in some "humanistic" way -- to "commit to“ or "open up” and "reveal" how I “feel” about them; then, I, too, will likely sense a need to join in and pretend that that expert, too, is earning his keep.
  King Magic
The social dynamics of our "democratic" pluralism not infrequently produces exactly such obfuscatory processes in, for example, American politics and education at all levels. Veneers of consensus obscure uncertainties as to which goals are to be pursued, and how and with what rigor their attainment is to be evaluated. That an institution is considered to be a "tradition" is a strong indicator of uncertain productivity. Long survival invariably rests on muddled vision or sloganeering, e.g. "protecting American interests," "answering Society's needs," or "preparing for the future," which masquerade as descriptions of technical outcomes.

To examine these issues further in specific context, see Productivity, Politics and Hypocrisy in American Public Education

-- EGR