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ADMINISTRATION SHORTAGE?

4/6/01

    There is an absolute panic in our country over what is termed a shortage of administrators. Whatever will we do if the number of administrators in our schools dwindles? The predictions by the shortage mongers would have us conjure up nothing less than the end of American civilization. Sadly, there are even teachers who, while they should know better, have joined the panic stricken, quivering in abject fear at the thought of not having a complex hierarchy of bosses telling them how to do their work. Just a few weeks ago such a craven individual became almost convulsive at my suggestion that rather than lament the dwindling ranks of administrators, we think of how we might organize schools differently. "Who would put us in our place if we got out of line?" I was asked.

    Can anyone imagine physicians, lawyers, tenured college professors or dentists making a similar statement. What is it about public school teachers that makes them so generally accepting of the administrative status quo? Why do they find it so difficult to imagine schools in which they determine what good classroom practice is rather than someone who abandoned teaching years ago, either because they didn’t like the work or they wanted to make more money or both? Does anyone seriously think that the same degree of idealism that draws many to the ranks of teaching pulls teachers toward administration? Frankly, from my vantage point, many entering administration today appear to do so for the worst of motives. They seem to seek power not because they have some vision of how to make things better for students and staff but simply for what appears to be an almost erotic pleasure in being able to push people around. As one of these pathetic fools said to a building rep recently, her finger in the rep’s face, "I can do anything I want." That’s what passes for educational leadership today.

    There is growing sentiment in our country that too much of our education budgets at every level of government fund unproductive bureaucracy rather than student achievement. Our school districts are structured on an industrial model which most industries have long ago abandoned as too hierarchical and inflexible, too stifling of innovation and creativity, a system in which people are under-supervised and over scrutinized. Looked at carefully, the unstated goal of our schools seems to be the infantilization of both teachers and students.

    Rather than lament the unavailability of administrative applicants, why not rethink the way schools are organized to accomplish their mission? Why can we not accomplish at least some of the tasks heretofore done by administrators by utilizing teachers creatively to do the work more efficiently, more cost effectively while additionally empowering them to take greater control of their professional lives? Why can’t we build a school management model that fosters cooperation instead of obedience, altruism rather than selfishness and learning rather than grade grubbing.

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