In defense of public school administrators

It seems like I hear a story every so often about some administrator at a high school or junior high who's done something foolish. Thrown a kid out of school for a basically innocuous message on his t-shirt or some such thing. My first reaction is always to think that the principal must be a domineering jerk or PC avenger. There he is, zealously interpreting the school rules to make life as bland as possible for his students.

It occurred to me recently that maybe I ought to stick up for the guy next time I hear a story like that. After all, he's probably under a lot of pressure from his students' parents. His only fault may be an unwillingness to risk his job over an offensive t-shirt. He may be saving himself from the oversensitive, moralizing hordes.

They're out there, and they're mad as hell. They are inside the gates. They're after all our vices (and our fun). They're fundamentalists.

Next time a kid gets away with wearing a t-shirt with a risqué message on it, some sheltered and confused students will mention it to their parents. Their parents—Bible in one hand and flaming sword of righteousness in the other (leaving Dr. Dobson's hands to cover the kids' eyes)—will bring the pain down on the administrator who let it all happen in the first place.

The message is, most principals are probably cooler-headed and thicker-skinned than we think. We should also keep our eyes on those authoritarian parents.

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Many government

Many government bureaucracies, like schools, are intended to benefit society. In such organizations, there are two main types of people - those who live for the bureaucracy, and those who try to benefit society in spite of it. I've known principals who fit both types. They're stuck between a whole bunch of groups with competing agendas - kids, teachers, other staff, parents, and higher-ups - and they're trying to make education happen.

Your first instinct was

Your first instinct was probably better. Principals are (almost necessarily) lifelong education bureaucrats who have been feeding at the public trough for decades. They almost surely deserve all the scorn we can heap upon them.

He may be saving himself

He may be saving himself from the oversensitive, moralizing hordes.

They’re out there, and they’re mad as hell. They are inside the gates. They’re after all our vices (and our fun). They’re fundamentalists.

Then these school administrators ought to stand up to them and tell'em to screw off (in diplo-speak, of course). Bending over and becoming part of the fundies' toolkit isn't going to help stem their stifling morality from intruding further. Besides, any school administrator or someone thinking of becoming one probably knows ahead of time the kinds of pressures he or she will face in the system; this isn't some sudden assault wave of lawsuit-waving parents. The oversensitive have been doing this for decades.

Public school administrators

Public school administrators aren't any different from the rest of us. If you want to guess which kind of person one of these principals in the news is, see how passionate or judgemental their arguments for busting up some poor kid are. If they sound half-hearted and weak, or bureaucratic, then Randall may be right.

Your first instinct was

Your first instinct was probably better. Principals are (almost necessarily) lifelong education bureaucrats who have been feeding at the public trough for decades. They almost surely deserve all the scorn we can heap upon them.

Eh. It's too early for this cynicism.

Yes, there are some bad principals who're bureaucrats and want to ruin everyone's fun and kill small cute things and whatnot. But there are many, many school administrators who actually care about their jobs and the effor they put into them. If schools were private, we'd still have people who'd want to teach. So saying that all or most educators (which all principals start out as) are selfish pork feeders is presuming a lot. We heap scorn upon them because they're the face of the giant machine that is public schooling, instead of focusing it on those who merit the scorn: angry, heartless parents who're smothering their kids and trying to impose their uptight will on the school.