Organization and Bureaucratization:
Strengths, Weaknesses and Risks
The organization of schooling in the United States has been a topic of great controversy for many years. We compare ourselves to other nations weighing the pros and cons of alternative organization of education. We see the benefits of the centralized school system used in many developed European and Asian nations, but we are hesitant to move from the decentralized school system we currently have in fear that we will change elements in our system so that, "the cost of remedying the weaknesses of U.S. Education may be in the risk of undermining what have been historically regarded as it's greatest strengths" (Hurn, 1993, p.29). I will discuss the strong and weak components of a decentralized school system like that of the United States and its differences from a centralized school system. Furthermore, we evaluate the diversity in education within or own nation. Our schools as organizations are bureaucracies. Bureaucratization of American schooling began in the nineteenth century (Ballantine, 1993, p. 159). Although Bureaucracy can be described as "a rational, efficient way of completing tasks and rewarding individuals based on their contributions" (Ballantine, 1993, p.154), Bureaucracy has its weaknesses. Urban Schools are suffering under this organization of schooling, and "sick bureaucracy" (Ballantine, 1993, p. 161) is emerging. The hierarchy and rules and regulations of a bureaucracy are often mistaken as the same idea of centralization. However, centralization is only one component of a bureaucracy that may or may not be present within the organization. It is the great diversity in our schools that perpetuate the grand debate about schooling and education as a bureaucracy in the United States. Decentralization vs. Centralization
One of the ways that schools in the United States are different than much of the rest of the developed world is the decentralized nature of American Schools (Hurn, 1993, p.22). Hurn describes the locus of control and difference of priorities within schools to differentiate between centralized and decentralized education, stating, "elementary and secondary education in the United States remains locally controlled to a high degree, compared to much of Europe, Japan and the soviet Union" (1993, p.22). Although state and federal funding may be present as in the case of the decentralized United States, it is the local school board, administrators, and community that impact decisions in school organizations (Hurn, 1993, pp. 22-23). Consequent characteristics emerge from the centralized or decentralized organization of a school system. "Diversity of American Education, a diversity that is reflected in large differences between communities in what schools teach, how students are evaluated, and the status and qualifications of teachers" (Hurn, 1993, p.23) is the result of decentralization of American Schools. Teachers in the decentralized United States are subject to moral and political scrutiny of the local community (Hurn, 1993, p.23). The result is lower status of teachers than found in centralized nations (Hurn, 1993, p.23). Another profound result of decentralization is that it has "shaped the distinctive character of American Curriculum" (Hurn, 1993, p.23). A lack of national examinations and uniform curriculum, and "U.S. high schools where vocational and practical subjects have long enjoyed far more support that what are often seen as the dry or abstract subject matters of the traditional disciplines," has resulted in a very diverse education system (Hurn, 1993, pp. 22-24). In addition, "American education is relatively unselective" (Hurn 1993, p.22) because "lack of national examinations in the United States makes it extremely difficult to compare students with one another" (Hurn, 1993, p.26). Unlike American schools, much of the...