Remove Managerialism from the Classroom

Managerialism is the idea that quantifiable administrative approaches are the correct way to run institutions. Efficiency is all and it can sometimes be value free in that what works becomes more important than what’s right. Employees become pawns in the game of delivery and the idea of management as neutral and post-ideological holds sway. The sociologist Max Weber referred to this idea as the iron cage of rationality, where measurable control of goals shape the lives of people and institutions. The use of technology, bureaucracy, and targets ensures all become slaves to the machine with the manager, their flow chart and tick box being the lynchpin around whom all must be busy.

Managerialism is an ideology that pretends not to be one and although a maverick leader might say they are not interested in such things they often put in place people who are wedded to efficient processing as important parts of their leadership teams.

Weber thought the iron cage was the inevitable result of enlightenment thinking that greater wisdom and freedom will result from rationalisation, he wrote that:

For the “last man” (letzten Mensches  of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialist without spirit, sensualist without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of humanity (Menschentums) never before achieved”  (1904)

Disempowered individuals become cogs in the machine. In schools these cogs are pupils and staff and, indeed, leaders. The questions to ask are: Is managerialism the main way schools are run? If so, at what cost? Are there any alternatives? What different way could schools be run?

My answers to these questions would be a resounding yes to managerialism being the default mode of school leadership and that this is at a cost to those who work and study in the institutions and also to the qualitative experience of studying itself. Yes, there are alternatives, and that amongst these alternatives is the need for the experience in the classroom to be one where the study of the subject reigns supreme rather than the needs of the bureaucracy. The pursuit of wisdom through the art of learning about the best that has been thought and said should be paramount and any managerialist desire to infect that is a breaking of the spirit of education.

14 thoughts on “Remove Managerialism from the Classroom

  1. Much apprecitaed. Thank you. But I do hope that we will be able to differentiate the musical canon in resisiting managerialism, and embrace the most culturally significant musical practices of the past and present.
    By the way, I did enjoy Trivium. Most intriguing was the very sophiticated pedagogy that you developed as a drama teacher. The outline provided suggested a very fine grained form of dialogic practice. It would be exceptionally valuable if it could be thickly documented. Or will this be another case of lost pedagogy?

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  2. Hi, I think this is beautifully put “The pursuit of wisdom through the art of learning about the best that has been thought and said should be paramount”

    Best, Rufus

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you wont mind me responding to the question. If you are able to access Biesta, G. (2004) Education, accountability, and the ethical demand: Can the democratic potential of accountabiliy be regained? Education Theory, 54 (3), 233-250 or his book ‘Good education in an Age of measurement’ (2010) the question is addressed.


  3. …and it is worth noting that academically successful independent schools, so lauded and imitated by wannabe academies, have a culture far removed from the managerial, data driven, dog and pony show that drives so much educational thinking at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Based on a false dichotomy, I think, in which means are seen to be independent of ends. Managerialism is not just top-down, it is what does on inside the classroom in which legitimate instructional objectives are delivered at scale.


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