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3 Comments

  1. win wenger said,

    March 14, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Centralization v. autonomy: an important educational issue that you, John, mentioned to me a few days back….

    Overall, I’ve not examined this side of the educational situation directly and formed an informed opinion on that issue. However:

    I do see three considerations impelling strongly toward decentralization, to offset the economies-to-scale which tend to favor centralization – – –

    (1) Large, consolidated schools and school systems tend, I believe, to have inactive PTAs. You’d think that in the larger systems more people would be at hand and so it’d be easier to find SOME parents who are involved and engaged. But in the big institutions and systems, it is hard for an individual’s efforts to make a meaningful difference. The same considerations pertain to individual teachers and administrators within that larger school administration, who might otherwise be reform-minded.

    (2) There is a greater distance between the decisions and choices being made, and the people who in fact bear the effects of those choices and decisions. That is unfortunate, going and coming.

    (3) Information technology and teleconferencing, which allow specialized needs and interests to be accomodated over wide areas which ordinarily would be impractical to provide for. However, this doesn’t much help athletic team sports – and this consideration appears to have been a major driving factor toward ever bigger and more consolidated schools. While much more physical activity is needed for today’s children, not only for reasons of health but because that improves brain function, one has to wonder if the drive to size advantage in major athletic sports fully justifies the scale of today’s schools and school systems.

    I’m hoping that your blog will be a good forum for examining such issues and seeking a positive consensus based on their actual merits. There is so much that education is in apparent need of, and of course so much depends upon good education. Thank you for creating this blog, and my thanks to those who are now using it in these exchanges. ….win

    • intellteacher said,

      March 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

      You make a number of key observations that frame the situation nicely. Just from my experiences I add to what you have all ready noted.

      Dr. Win Wenger: (1) Large, consolidated schools and school systems tend, I believe, to have inactive PTAs. You’d think that in the larger systems more people would be at hand and so it’d be easier to find SOME parents who are involved and engaged. But in the big institutions and systems, it is hard for an individual’s efforts to make a meaningful difference. The same considerations pertain to individual teachers and administrators within that larger school administration, who might otherwise be reform-minded.

      The above seems to hold true across organizations in general. Pareto’s Principle rules and the larger the organization the more glaringly obvious becomes the split between those that do and those that simply ride along. Certainly individual effort tends to get lost in the mix when it comes to large organizations. Maneuvering through the virtual labyrinth of the bureaucratic model is a daunting task on any scale as the model possesses tremendous inertia is order to preserve the status quo.

      Having said all the above the best I can come up with at this point in time is to take my lead from Dr. Margaret Pastor who assumes the position that being a bright spot on an otherwise dark and bleak landscape is often times the best a person can do. In my mind, the “trick” then becomes how best to inspire, motivate and or enable those so inclined to become a bright spot. Back to my string of beads analogy on this one.

      Dr. Win Wenger: (2) There is a greater distance between the decisions and choices being made, and the people who in fact bear the effects of those choices and decisions. That is unfortunate, going and coming.

      Agreed and I do not see any way to resolve the issue on a whole sale level as it appears to me to be an inherent part of such systems. With this in mind, decision makers making a decision is one thing … successfully enforcing it is quite another. I’m inclined to opt for some form of civil disobedience as a potential means of combating bad decision making. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) continues to endure because the “talking heads” and brain dead politicos have seized the majority of information sources that speak to the general public. Spin Doctors are on call 24/7 and the public buys into the hype, lock, stock and barrel. Until such time as educators jettison their long standing reluctance to engage in the political process they will continue to suffer in silence and their complaints be lost in the wind. The NEA has been co-opted as a tool of the Democratic Party and as such is bound by party politics. NCLB traces directly back to LBJ’s failed War on Poverty and the NEA voiced absolutely no objection to the committee formed that created NCLB did not include so much as one in the classroom teacher.

      IMO, much like Art and politics, education and partisan politics is a toxic mix to be avoided at all costs. Again, I think it resolves down to a systemic matter and until such time as the potential major players cease to function as cogs in the machine there is not much reason for hope of change on a wide scale basis. Stringing together bright spots seems to me to be the best option at this time.

      Dr. Win Wenger: (3) Information technology and teleconferencing, which allow specialized needs and interests to be accommodated over wide areas which ordinarily would be impractical to provide for.

      And I think the incorporation of technology needs to be pushed to the maximum where ever applicable. As a life long athlete I fully support athletics for all the good they do. However, it appears to me that organized athletics are thriving and therefore not a proper consideration at this time. As for the physical state of today’s youth I think the problem can be very quickly and effectively resolved. Having been in several Physical Education classes at various schools in Carroll County the problem is one of curriculum design. Pavel Tsatsouline, Scott Sonnen and some others have resurrected several tremendously effective, low cost, and time efficient methods of whole body exercise. Rather than have Children walk – run – jog around a track for 20 minutes it would be far more beneficial across all parameters to have them engage in 20 minutes of Kettlebells one day and 20 minutes of Clubbells the next adding in 5 – 10 of joint mobility and or dynamic flexibility at the end as a cool down and full range of motion promoting activity. PE today is often times nothing more than hang around outside and socialize or is so rule laden that by the time the teacher is finished going over the rules very little time exists for doing an activity.

  2. win wenger said,

    March 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I’d be pleased to hear here from some educators who have recently been involved in some of the pros and cons of centralization and decentralization. It looks like both our arguments here are tending pretty easily toward the idea that decentralization is better, even though economies-to-scale would argue for centralization. If others who have recent or current experience with such matters could share their observations with us here, I could trust better whatever conclusions we come to. ….win


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