Chapter 7: The Changing Organization of Schooling
From traditional to legal authority
Pre-modern schools were small and informal. Educational authority was highly
decentralized. Lessons were taught without formal guidelines. Schools operated via what
max weber called “traditional authority” (institutions derive their legitimacy from a belief
in the sanctity of tradition)
Teachers were proclaimed to be, along with religious authorities, moral trustees of
Over the course of the 20 century, as sense of citizen duty to obey authority figures and
institutions gradually weakened. In its place, more contractual understandings emerged.
In weber’s terms, modern schools have gradually altered their relations to students and
families, embracing a more “legal-rational” authority.
Public education is hailed less as a vehicle to pass on traditions and more one to build
nations and develop economies.
Course material was selected less according to humanistic ideals and more according to
pragmatic visions of personal, societal, and economic development.
New modes of authority also changed the governance of schooling. Administration
became centralized, with power moving up to board and provincial levels and moving
down to parents and students.
The role of the educator shifted from providing moral leadership towards diagnosing
particular learning difficulties and recommending solutions, akin to how a doctor or
lawyer works with clients
Modern schools became more like Weber’s ideal typical bureaucracy except for the fact
that is not necessarily organized to be efficient or effective.
It has been found that, the number of students per educator has become smaller. However
the size of the schools themselves have increased in terms of number of students
Institutional theory: Schools as loosely coupled bureaucracies
Though schools may appear to have a factory like organization, its outputs and inputs are
different. For instance, the various inputs of parents’ socio economic status, cultural
capital, and level of education are different from that of a factory’s any given single
input. Outputs of schools are hard to measure.
Institutionalized features of modern schooling: similar school types across provinces
(elementary, middle, secondary) and similar number of students in each type of school John Meyer describes schools as “loosely coupled”: their formal structures are highly
rationalized but their technical activities-instruction are not. This loose coupling ensures
that schools are bureaucratic, but not always in an efficiency-seeking fashion
Institutional theory builds on loose coupling to reveal a key trend: schools have become
“isomorphic” over time. Isomorphism refers to the process by which organizations
become more similar in form over time.
Isomorphism is a product of this organization reality: a series of factors encourage
schools to appear legitimate by rationalizing their formal structures, conforming to
standardized expectations, rather than by rationalizing their technical processes, as would
a true factory.
Schooling as work: Motivating students
Schools have a hard time in motivating students as they can’t use any assertive measures
Schools sometimes try to nurture intrinsic forms of motivation
Progressive Pedagogy in the Mainstream: less structure is better
Progressive education: a pedagogical movement associated with john Dewey and often
contrasted to traditional philosophies of schooling, it emphasizes student-centred
learning, les structured curricula, and critical thinking.
o Many educators following the pioneering work of Kilpatrick, advocate for forms
of de-coursing and the project method to promote a greater integration among
o Beginning substantially in the 1960s, progressives called for schools to be less
regimented, arguing that strict rules and procedures could stifle rather than focus