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Organization and Bureaucratization: Strengths Weaknesses and Risks

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Running Head: Organization and Bureaucratization: Strengths Weaknesses and Risks

Organization and Bureaucratization:

Strengths, Weaknesses and Risks

The organization of schooling in the United States has been a topic of great controversy for many years. We compare ourselves to other nations weighing the pros and cons of alternative organization of education. We see the benefits of the centralized school system used in many developed European and Asian nations, but we are hesitant to move from the decentralized school system we currently have in fear that we will change elements in our system so that, "the cost of remedying the weaknesses of U.S. Education may be in the risk of undermining what have been historically regarded as it's greatest strengths" (Hurn, 1993, p.29). I will discuss the strong and weak components of a decentralized school system like that of the United States and its differences from a centralized school system. Furthermore, we evaluate the diversity in education within or own nation. Our schools as organizations are bureaucracies. Bureaucratization of American schooling began in the nineteenth century (Ballantine, 1993, p. 159). Although Bureaucracy can be described as "a rational, efficient way of completing tasks and rewarding individuals based on their contributions" (Ballantine, 1993, p.154), Bureaucracy has its weaknesses. Urban Schools are suffering under this organization of schooling, and "sick bureaucracy" (Ballantine, 1993, p. 161) is emerging. The hierarchy and rules and regulations of a bureaucracy are often mistaken as the same idea of centralization. However, centralization is only one component of a bureaucracy that may or may not be present within the organization. It is the great diversity in our schools that perpetuate the grand debate about schooling and education as a bureaucracy in the United States.

Decentralization vs. Centralization

One of the ways that schools in the United States are different than much of the rest of the developed world is the decentralized nature of American Schools (Hurn, 1993, p.22). Hurn describes the locus of control and difference of priorities within schools to differentiate between centralized and decentralized education, stating, "elementary and secondary education in the United States remains locally controlled to a high degree, compared to much of Europe, Japan and the soviet Union" (1993, p.22). Although state and federal funding may be present as in the case of the decentralized United States, it is the local school board, administrators, and community that impact decisions in school organizations (Hurn, 1993, pp. 22-23). Consequent characteristics emerge from the centralized or decentralized organization of a school system. "Diversity of American Education, a diversity that is reflected in large differences between communities in what schools teach, how students are evaluated, and the status and qualifications of teachers" (Hurn, 1993, p.23) is the result of decentralization of American Schools. Teachers in the decentralized United States are subject to moral and political scrutiny of the local community (Hurn, 1993, p.23). The result is lower status of teachers than found in centralized nations (Hurn, 1993, p.23). Another profound result of decentralization is that it has "shaped the distinctive character of American Curriculum" (Hurn, 1993, p.23). A lack of national examinations and uniform curriculum, and "U.S. high schools where vocational and practical subjects have long enjoyed far more support that what are often seen as the dry or abstract subject matters of the traditional disciplines," has resulted in a very diverse education system (Hurn, 1993, pp. 22-24). In addition, "American education is relatively unselective" (Hurn 1993, p.22) because "lack of national examinations in the United States makes it extremely difficult to compare students with one another" (Hurn, 1993, p.26).

Unlike American schools, much of the industrialized world uses a centralized school system (Hurn, 1993, p. 22). Many differences separate centralized nations from decentralized nations. Centralized nations exercise a "central state control" (Hurn, 1993, p. 22). For example, most European nations create an environment for teachers in which they "are not at the beck and call of local community opinion because teachers are not paid by the local community" (Hurn, 1993, p.23). Teachers in these nations are employees of the state and therefore receive equal pay and work under the same conditions in the workplace (Hurn, 1993, p.23). Teachers are "insulated from community politics" (Hurn, 1993, p.23), and "teachers who find themselves unpopular with local community opinion can often transfer elsewhere" (Hurn, 1993, p.23). A value for uniformity and national culture are factors that influence the centralization of schools (Hull, 1993, p.23). Uniformity is also reflected in the curriculum of centralized school systems where, "all children of the same age study a uniform curriculum throughout the country are evaluated by the same national examinations" (Hurn, 1993, p.23).

Hurn explains that "the distinctive organization of U.S. schooling shapes its educational outcomes" (1993, p.27). Opportunities for a diverse population of students, teacher freedom in the classroom, and range of subject matter are a few of the strengths that can be evaluated in the decentralized school systems of the United States (Hurn, 1993, pp.27-28). However, diverse opportunities, teaching methods, and curriculum can contribute to less desirable traits in our school systems such as de-selective nature, incomparable grading, promotion, and college acceptance standards, and lower expectations for many students (Hurn, 1993, pp.27-28). Decentralization is a reflection of one of our counties greatest values and strengths, "an emphasis on equality of opportunity and educational equity" (Hurn, 1993, p.22). However we do recognize weakness in our school system including, "students spend less time studying" (Hurn, 1993, p.28), and "evaluation tends to be shaped by the actual achievements of the majority of the student body" (Hurn, 1993, p28). These weaknesses do undermine the effectiveness of school learning, but to change our school systems to centralized organizations would undermine the values and priorities on which our nation is based.

Bureaucracy and Bureaucratization

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