School administration is, in my opinion, a world unto itself. We aren't exactly a business, per se, since the market economy has less to do with our strategy than the mindset of our students, parents, and staff members. And we're not exactly a service industry, either, since we don't exactly pipe electricity into your home or pick up your trash. So when we visit the bookstore, we tend to stop at the shelf and a half of educational theory books that Barnes & Noble graces us with.
For some, however, that doesn't seem to be enough. Each school year our district management encourages us all to read a specific book, and it's usually one aimed at business leaders, not educators. Several principals in our district--as well as those in other districts, I'm sure--read business manual after business manual in an attempt to bring the next "new thing" to their schools. It never occurred to me to find the answers to Education's problems in business rhetoric (since our worlds are so very far apart), but the teetering stack of such books in their offices suggest that the business-flavored Kool-Aid tastes pretty good.
A lot of the language--the jargon, specifically, more and more of which seems to be invented with each new book--spills over into meetings and conversations as well. District Leadership Team meetings in the summer will begin with a "Grounding Activity." A school site's plan for some change or other must become a "Living Document." Everyone must have a stake in the "Mindshare" of the district. Sheesh. If someone asks me what I've got going on at work, I usually have to include brief definitions and descriptions of the educationally-related terms I'm using and tasks I'm describing--and that's without any of the business lingo.
So is there really not enough edu-speak out there that we need to co-op the crap they're spewing in the business world as well? Or is the self-esteem so low in Educational Administration that we must behave like Fortune 500 wanna-bes just to feel good about or productive in what we're doing? I know one thing for certain: I wouldn't get to complain about this if there were more books published for educators about education and educational administration.
And that's where the REAL problem is: EDUCATION IS NOT SOCIETY'S FOCUS. It's not even a priority. The business and computer sections of bookstores take up almost a third of each store; most education manuals have to be ordered. I would think that even the dimmest of business bulbs would be able to apply their own basic theories to society: if you sell a certain amount of product, you must re-stock your shelves; similarly, if you see any number of business, government, or societal eggheads retire or pass away, you must re-stock society.
DO THEY REALLY THINK WE CAN PRODUCE THE NEXT GENERATION OF OUR COUNTRY'S BRAINTRUST ON HALF A BUDGET?!? The school system we have now is the same school system that produced millions of people who thought sub-prime mortgages were a good idea. Clearly our educational institutions have issues.
Without well educated people, problems don't get solved. Education is probably the best preventative maintenance program for society's ills; if spend some money now, if we spend some effort now, if we focus our attention on young people now we may not have as many of these problems later on. If we turn the first ten or twelve or sixteen years of life into a maelstrom of growth and development maybe we don't have as much of a crime issue, or a poverty problem, or an environmental dilemma, or a health problem. Maybe--just maybe--we can produce a generation of people which is not only equipped to solve such complex problems, but can prevent them as well.
We need to do something. As a school administrator I can't keep reading books about "profit maximization" and expect to get anything out of it.