Schools as Formal Organizations

Bureaucratization of Schools

The bureaucratization of schools has some advantages but has also led to the perpetuation of discrimination and an aversion to change.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the critical issues and historial origins of school bureaucratization, particularly in relation to educational reform and deliverance of service

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A bureaucracy is a large, formal, secondary organization characterized by a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labor, explicit rules, and impersonal interactions between its members.
  • In theory, bureaucracies are meritocracies that improve efficiency, ensure equal opportunities, and increase efficiency. In reality, some individuals benefit from structural privileges and social origins like a dominant race, language, or culture to which some other individuals may not have access.
  • The foundations of the current educational system originated in the Industrial Revolution. The school environment became structured around hierarchy, standardization, and specialization.
  • The bureaucratization of schools makes it difficult to instigate appropriate and immediate change when it is required by the changing needs of a society.
  • In a pluralistic society, disseminating the dominant culture through public education is a topic of heated social debate. Religious, cultural, and ethnic groups can feel marginalized and alienated when they are forced to conform to bureaucratic structures.
  • Advances in information technologies provide constant connectivity to the virtual world. Schools have begun to take advantage of these virtual tools as enhancements and replacements of physical school structures and face-to-face learning experiences.

Key Terms

  • “one best system”: The idea that there is one uniform, standardized approach that forms the best strategy to educate all children.
  • hierarchy: Any group of objects ranked so that everyone but the topmost is subordinate to a specified group above it.
  • Education reform: The process of improving public education.

A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a government or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution. In modern society, all formal organizations are, or likely will become, bureaucracies.

According to Weber

The German sociologist and political economist Max Weber (1864-1920) began to study bureaucracy and popularize the term in academic literature and discourse during the mid 1800s and early 1900s. Weber believed that bureaucracy was the most efficient and rational way of organizing. For Weber, bureaucratization was the key process in his theory on rationalization of Western society. Weber popularly characterized a bureaucracy as having a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labor, explicit rules, and impersonality.

Critical Issues of School Bureaucratization

There are several positive aspects of bureaucracies. They are intended to ensure equal opportunities and increase efficiency based on a meritocratic structure. Meritocracy means that hiring and promotion should be based on proven and documented skills, rather than on nepotism or random choice. For example, in order to get into a prestigious college, you need to perform well on the SAT and have an impressive transcript. In order to become a lawyer and represent clients, you must graduate from law school and pass the state bar exam. However, the theory of meritocracy becomes convoluted when it is applied to schools because some individuals have access to privileges that give them advantages over other individuals. For example, wealthy families can hire tutors, interview coaches, test-prep services, and consultants to help their kids gain the valued skills that will ultimately help them get into the best schools.

Despite good intentions and abundant rhetoric about “equal educational opportunity,” schools have rarely taught the children of the poor effectively. This failure has been systematic, not idiosyncratic. Talk about “keeping the schools out of politics” has often served to obscure actual alignments of power and patterns of privilege. For example, before the Emancipation Proclamation, many black people sought education through private, voluntary schools, which shows that they had a strong desire for education, generally believing that they could improve their social status through the equalizing power of schooling. However, they were excluded from the school system by segregation laws. Even after desegregation, black students faced intense racism in mixed schools, and minority students continue to face institutional racism and discrimination on the level of micro-interactions.

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Protest Against the Racial Segregation of U.S. Schools: School bureaucracies struggle with the political challenge of defining a valuable educational curriculum and regulating the constituency that has access to those educational opportunities.

Historical Origins of School Bureaucratization

In order to understand the bureaucratization of schools, we must understand the historical development of the school system. When the U.S. transformed into an urban, industrial nation, corporations flourished, potential employees needed an education for a decent job, child labor laws were enforced, and the urban school system changed. During the Industrial Revolution, bureaucracies developed alongside the educational foundations for the current school model. Young workers were trained and organizations were built for mass production, assembly line work, and factory jobs. In schools, students learned to value hierarchical command, standardized outcomes, and specialized skills. These needs formed the basis for school bureaucracies today.

Various interest groups have continually called for education reform. However, bureaucratic authority often perpetuates positions and outworn practices of bureaucracy at the expense of timely change and appropriate education for children’s needs. City councils, school boards, superintendents, principals, and government officials from different interest groups and standpoints disagree about the “one best system” for the reproduction of American society. Most critics of school bureaucracies do not question the aim of transmitting the dominant culture through public education, but some dissenters oppose this strategy precisely because they fear children will lose valuable cultural differences through their socialization in the American system. Immigration trends have posed serious concerns for public school education systems because immigrants often bring religious, ethnic, and cultural differences to the classroom that differ from the protocol and ideology of “one best system. ” School bureaucracies seek to assimilate foreigners by teaching them English, indoctrinating them in American civics, and providing them with skills and habits needed in the urban job market.

Modern Society and School Bureaucratization

The assumption that there is “one best system” for educating children has been especially problematic within the context of a pluralistic American society, a globalized world, and advances in information technology. Now, in the information age, this kind of rigid training and adherence to protocol can actually decrease both productivity and efficiency. The model of American education based upon the industrial factory is undergoing a revolution based upon emerging technologies that redefine school organization as a virtual as well as a physical learning environment. In the twenty-first century teaching, learning, and the educational system itself have been buffeted by forces that challenged the traditional bureaucratic arrangement of schools with tall administrative hierarchies, centralized decision-making, and tightly controlled structures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txMLMjwb4II

Towards the Virtual K-12 Educational Organization: An Emerging Framework with Technology: From this case study, researchers predicted that the educational system of the future will be designed around software capabilities that personalize the curriculum and make learning more meaningful to students. This case study outlines how one K-12 school district is managing change related to teaching, leading, and learning as it shifts to a more student-centered approach to education within a bureaucratic and virtually enhanced structure of schooling.

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Ford Assembly Line 1913: The Industrial Revolution altered the purpose of the education system. Young workers were trained and organizations were built for mass production, assembly line work, and factory jobs. In schools, students learned to value hierarchical command, standardized outcomes, and specialized skills.

Teachers: Employees and Instructors

A teacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the purpose and roles of teachers in society, as well as the objectives of teaching

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Teachers, like other professionals, may have to continue their education after they qualify, a process known as continuing professional development.
  • In education, teachers facilitate student learning, often in a school or academy, but also in other environments such as outdoors. A teacher who teaches on an individual basis may be described as a tutor.
  • The relationship between children and their teachers tends to be closer in the primary school, where they act as form tutor, specialist teacher, and surrogate parent during the course of the day.

Key Terms

  • primary school: The first formal, obligatory school. Usually begins with kindergarten or first grade and ends at fifth or sixth grade.
  • Professional Development: The means by which people maintain their knowledge and skills related to their professional lives.
  • lesson plan: A teachers’ document used to plan a lesson.

A teacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students. The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional qualifications or credentials from a university or college. These professional qualifications may include the study of pedagogy, the science of teaching. Teachers, like other professionals, may have to continue their education after they qualify, a process known as continuing professional development. Teachers may use a lesson plan to facilitate student learning, providing a course of study that is called the curriculum.

Objectives

Teachers facilitate student learning, often but not always in a school or academy. A teacher who teaches on an individual basis may be described as a tutor. The objective is typically a course of study, lesson plan, or a practical skill. A teacher may follow standardized curricula as determined by the relevant authority. The teacher may interact with students of different ages (from infants to adults), students with different abilities, and students with learning disabilities.

Perhaps the most significant difference between primary school and secondary school teaching in the United States is the relationship between teachers and children. In primary schools, each class has a teacher who stays with them for most of the week and will teach them the whole curriculum. In secondary schools, they will be taught by different subject specialists each session during the week and may have ten or more different teachers. The relationship between children and their teachers tends to be closer in the primary school where they act as form tutor, specialist teacher, and surrogate parent during the course of the day.

Education in the United States

In 2010, there were 3,823,142 teachers in public, charter, private, and Catholic elementary and secondary schools. They taught a total of 55,203,000 students, who attended one of 132,656 schools. In 2011, American teachers worked 1,097 hours in the classroom, the most for any industrialized nation measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They spend 1,913 hours a year total on their work, just shy of the national average of 1,932 hours for all workers.

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Teacher in Laos: Teacher in primary school in northern Laos.

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Teacher British Museum: A teacher and young pupils at the British Museum Duveen Gallery.

Student Subcultures

A youth subculture is a group characterized by distinct styles, behaviors and interests that offer an identity outside the mainstream.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the definition and purpose of a subculture, especially for youth in society

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The study of subcultures often consists of the study of symbolism attached to clothing, music or other visible affections by members of the subculture. It also studies the ways these same symbols are interpreted by members of the dominant culture.
  • The term “scene” refers to an exclusive subculture or faction. It may also be geographically based, i.e. the London punk scene.
  • Early studies in youth culture were mainly produced by functionalist sociologists and focus on youth as a single form of culture. In explaining the development of the culture, they utilized the concept of anomie.
  • Marxists of the Frankfurt School of social studies argue that youth culture is inherently consumerist and integral to the divide-and-rule strategy of capitalism.

Key Terms

  • faction: A group of people, especially within a political organization, who express a shared belief or opinion different from people who are not part of the group.
  • Marxist theories: An economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry centered upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis–critique of the development of capitalism.
  • Functional sociology: A framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability.

A youth subculture is group of young people defined by distinct styles, behaviors and interests. Youth subcultures offer participants an identity outside of that prescribed by social institutions like family, work, home and school. Youth subcultures that show a systematic hostility to the dominant culture are sometimes described as countercultures. Youth music genres are associated with many youth subcultures, and include punks, emos, ravers, Juggalos, metalheads and goths. The study of subcultures often consists of the study of the symbolism attached to clothing, music and other visible affections by members of the subculture. It also studies the ways these same symbols are interpreted by members of the dominant culture.

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Emo Subculture: Example of a participant in emo subculture.

The term “scene” can refer to an exclusive subculture or faction. Scenes are distinguished from the broad culture through either fashion, identification with specific (sometimes obscure or experimental) musical genres or political perspectives, and a strong in-group or tribal mentality. The term can be used to describe geographic subsets of a subculture, like the Detroit drum and bass scene or the London goth scene.

Theories about Subcultures

Early studies in youth culture were mainly produced by those interested in functional sociology and focus on youth as a single form of culture. In explaining the development of the culture, they utilized the concept of anomie – a lack of social norms. Talcott Parsons argued that as we move from the family and corresponding values to another sphere with differing values, we would experience an “anomie situation. ”

Marxist theories account for some diversity, as they focus on classes and class-fractions rather than youth as a whole. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson described youth subcultures as symbolic or ritualistic attempts to resist the power of bourgeois hegemony by consciously adopting behavior that appears threatening to the establishment. Conversely, Marxists of the Frankfurt School of social studies argue that youth culture is inherently consumerist and integral to the divide-and-rule strategy of capitalism.

Subcultures may also be seen as extensions of crowds. Certain crowds are found in many, even most, high schools across the United States, although the particular terms used by adolescents in them vary (nerds instead of geeks, goths instead of emos, etc.). Most of these can be found in other western countries as well, with the exception of jocks.

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Ravers: Ravers adorned in reflective Phat Pants.

Homeschooling

Homeschooling is the education of children at home, rather than in other formal settings of public or private school.

Learning Objectives

Examine the various reasons people homeschool children, as well as the pros and cons of choosing to homeschool

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Homeschooling is a legal option for parents in many countries, allowing them to provide their children with a learning environment as an alternative to public or private schools.
  • There are a few common reasons parents homeschool their children. Parents might be concerned about the traditional school social environment, they might want to provide a religious or moral education, or they might simply be dissatisfied with the academic quality of schools.
  • A homeschool cooperative is a cooperative of families who homeschool their children.
  • Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, gameplay, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction. This is a very controversial method.

Key Terms

  • homeschooling: teaching children at home instead of sending them to school
  • unschooling: a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, games, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum
  • e-learning: learning conducted via electronic media, especially via the Internet

Homeschooling

Homeschooling is the education of children at home, rather than in the formal settings of public or private school. Typically, homeschool instruction is delivered by parents, but sometimes tutors are hired for this job. Historically, before the advent of compulsory school attendance laws, most childhood education occurred at home or in the community. Today however, homeschooling is very much an alternative to attending public or private schools. Homeschooling is a legal option for parents in many countries. It allows them to provide their children with a learning environment if they are dissatisfied with offerings at public or private schools.

Motivations

Parents can have a number of motivations for wanting to homeschool their children. Among these, three of the most common are the following. Parents might be concerned about the traditional school environment, they might want to provide a particular type of religious or moral instruction, or they might simply be dissatisfied with the academic quality of traditional public or private schools.

Homeschooling may also reflect an individual’s parenting style. It can be used as a form of supplementary education, geared towards helping children succeed in specific circumstances. For example, children that attend poorly funded schools might benefit greatly from certain homeschool methods, like using the internet. In conjunction with this e-learning, homeschooling could theoretically be combined with a traditional school curriculum to produce more well-rounded results.

Homeschooling Communities

A homeschool cooperative is a cooperative of families who homeschool their children. These co-ops provide homeschooled children the opportunity to learn from other parents who might be more specialized in certain areas or subjects. Co-ops also provide critical opportunities for social interaction among homeschooled children. In these co-ops, children might take lessons or go on field trips together. Some co-ops also offer events like prom and graduation, to simulate certain seminal moments of a traditional educational experience. Through the use of the Internet, homeschoolers are beginning to simulate these cooperative activities online. Using social networking software, homeschoolers can chat, discuss threads in forums, share information, and even participate in online classes via blackboard systems similar to those used by colleges.

Unschooling

Unschooling refers to a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences. These methods can include play, games, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, and form a distinct alternative to a more traditional school curriculum. There are many who find this method of education controversial and potentially unethical. In unschooling, children are encouraged to utilize their own initiative to explore activities, with parental facilitation. The unschooling philosophy of education differs from conventional schooling because it believes that standard curricula and conventional grading methods are counterproductive to the educational growth of a child.

Comparative Studies

Numerous studies have found that homeschooled students, on average, outperform their peers on standardized tests. “Homeschooling Achievement,” a study conducted by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), an advocacy group, revealed the academic integrity of homeschooling. Among students who took the tests, the average homeschooled student outperformed his public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points in every subject. Importantly, the study also indicated that public school performance gaps, such as those between races and genders, were virtually non-existent among homeschooled students.

In the 1970s, Raymond S. Moore and Dorothy N. Moore conducted four federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies. They eventually published their findings in 1975, and concluded that, “where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten. ”

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Homeschooler with Project: Homeschooler challenging The Leaning Tower of Pasta project, to build a tower using only pasta and marshmallows and measure its height and strength.