Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Does the business world see the education world as lazy?

Today was a great EdChat on Twitter. These chats are on Tuesdays from 11 am - 12 pm CST on Tuesdays and hosted by Jerry Blumengarten, Tom Whitby and Nancy Blair. Today was a very interesting conversation centered around the topic of "Business people & politicians insist on comparing schools to business. Are bus.strategies applicable in lrng environments"

What made this discussion so great is because there were some contributors who felt that education can learn a lot from the business world while others felt that business' influence on education was creating an environment that needed to be focused on profits over learning. This led to the question of how do you define profit in education? It is test scores? It is how much students have learned? Is it creating productive citizens? Responsible citizens? A steady workforce?

These were great questions that were discussed. Some of the tone of the discussion brought me back to my Organizational Theory class and the concepts of Theory X and Theory Y for managers in business. If you need a refresher:

Theory X:

"management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, employees will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can" (Wikipedia -- see link above)

Theory Y:

"management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. According to them work is as natural as play[1]. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions, theory Y managers believe that employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed" (Wikipedia -- see link above)

Specifically, the EdChat discussion got me asking the question if the business world sees the world of education as lazy...if politicians are the ultimate policy creators for education, I think we can safely associate them with the management of the education system.

When people are quoting economic theory that competition will improve the education system with the concepts of vouchers and charter schools, I feel that it comes from a theory x perspective. Even the ideas behind the Common Core and the new NCLB assessments (either PARCC or Smarter Balance) add to this thought. Is this the public view of education? Especially when you make it "education" as opposed to a specific school/set of teachers? Do the vast generalities presented in new blurbs and political speeches perpetuate this because it is an easier message to spread?

Working in schools, I know that most teachers, administrative teams, grade level teams, etc. are focus on preparing students for the world that exists, or will exist, and will do whatever they can to help students grow, mature, learn, and even be protected.

Is there an inherit conflict between the management of a system and the education that occurs within that system? Aaron Ross asked about the role of the CEO vs Executive Director of a school. I responded that a Superintendent is more of a political position than an educational position. With Aaron working in a private school, he responded that his school has both an Executive Director and a Principal (to provide a separation of the management from the education). When I asked him what happens when there is a disagreement between the two, he responded that is where tensions rise.

Businesses can be great partners with schools, but do they need to remain silent partners as to not exert undue influence on the public education of all students?

Lot's of questions, great discussions. Comment on the blog to add your thoughts!

Final addition: A great tweet from PJ Caposey -- Twitter Tip - Follow someone you disagreed with. Divergent thoughts will help you grow as a professional

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