The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Why do schools and school districts find so many decisions to be divisive and difficult?

Schools are designed to be political entities. These political entities utilize elected officials that work with hired school people to make decisions for the community.

All issues that schools face are essentially a tug-of-war between four terminal values.
1. Liberty - freedom, right to choose, privacy, individuality
2. Equality - equity, fairness, justice, tolerance, a level playing field
3. Community- sense of belonging, unity, togetherness, safety, security, social and moral order
4. Prosperity- value, profit, benefit, efficiency, return on investment, standard of living

Here are a few key points about these values:
1. No problem can be solved with only one value.
2. No value is always better.
3. We don't always choose the same value.
4. Decisions have to be made in context.

To see how this works, let's take a look at a common public school debate - school uniforms for students. Gary Schools recently passed a board policy requiring school uniforms.

There are three values involved in this issue; liberty, equality and community. If you clicked on the link and read the Gary article, you could probably identify the values the Gary school board utilized in making their decisions.

See the tug-of-war between liberty and equality? The more individual freedom you provide the more unequal things get. When you have no clothing rules, you are liable to get anything up to and including - no clothing! Throw in the sense of community and you will see that the Gary board is trying to provide a greater sense of community and equality by not allowing individual freedom of choice for student clothing. These values are inherently at odds with one another. If you lean towards more of one, than you must lean away from the other value on that issue.

Which is right? There is no one answer that is right for each community.

And that my friends - is the major reason why schools find change difficult. These values operate by-and-large, under the surface. Most people are not aware of their own position on these values. They just know what they think and that they are right. Then people take sides on the simple issue at hand, without examining why they think like they do.

This makes change difficult.

For the next few days I will present several common school issues that often divide communities. The next day I will post a few observations about the issue. See if you can identify the values tugging at you.

Here is tomorrow's school issue:

How do you feel about more choices in courses and programs at each school?

Tomorrow I will post a few observations about this issue.

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