We examine the social context of current school reform efforts, focusing specifically on the interrelated areas of management and instruction. We maintain that in order to reform schools significantly, we must consider the various constructions of students in the popular culture and educational community and their implication for school management policies. We believe that the intended modern school curriculum, which is designed to produce self-motivated, active learners, is seriously undermined by classroom management policies that encourage, if not demand, simple obedience. We advocate that a curriculum that seeks to promote problem solving and meaningful learning must be aligned with an authoritative management system that increasingly allows students to operate as self-regulated and risk-taking learners. We note, however, that the analysis of management systems is only a small part of a set of complex and interrelated factors (e.g., testing policies, in-service mandates, curriculum content) that should be considered in any attempt to change schools. Our review indicates that too many reforms (e.g., more homework) are undertaken for political rather than educational reasons; hence, most reforms are irrelevant or self-defeating because they are symbolic and expedient.
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