On The Nature of Schools

Schools can only be understood as multifaceted organizations, and the decisions that are made and the actions that are taken within them and the conclusions we draw about them only make sense if we are clear about how we are defining schools at the moment. Consider this incomplete list:

  • Schools are political organizations. Public schools are generally governed by elected officials, and they are accountable only to citizens for the decisions they make. Powerful stakeholders in the community can exert pressures on those who govern schools, so they can be reorganized or restructured to match their desires or whims.
  • School are hierarchical organizations. Individuals hired by the governing bodies have different levels of authority. Some individuals have authority to make far reaching changes in school operation, and those that do not comply may be faced with disciplinary action.
  • Schools are technological organizations. Each part of school operation is comprised of subsystems, and changes in how one operates influences how the others operate. Sometimes these effects are much less predictable than leaders admit.
  • Schools are pedagogical organization. Because schools are maintained for the purpose of facilitating learning within the students it enrolls, school operations must adapt to and reflect the realities of human brains (even if those realities complicate other aspects of school operation.