Ideology victims

7th November 1997 at 00:00
Given that Sheila Lawlor (TES, October 24) places such emphasis on subject expertise on the part of teachers, one might reasonably expect that she would do her homework properly when drawing on the academic discipline of sociology to bolster her argument.

Just for the record, Max Weber saw modern rational bureaucracy as the most efficient form of organisation; and as characteristic of modern industrial corporations not just of the state. And his worries about it related only to the extension of its power beyond its proper domain, especially into the making of political decisions.

Nor was he much concerned with "making room for individual needs", but rather with what would enable Germany to become one of the great powers.

Lawlor's spurious appeal to academic scholarship is on a par with the incoherence of the rest of her argument. For example, a central feature of most models of professionalism is self-regulation, so if Lawlor were really in favour of promoting teacher professionalism she would be recommending the abolition of the Office for Standards in Education. After all, it is a state-sponsored quango, and what could be more bureaucratic than its mode of inspection: how does that fit with Lawlor's argument that teachers must teach as they judge best for the varying talents of their students?

Her condemnation of bureaucracy seems highly selective, and her other proposals are unlikely to generate an independent profession but rather to increase the vulnerability of teachers to the power of others. What teachers have been victims of is not state bureaucracy but political ideology.

MARTYN HAMMERSLEY 118 Western Road Wolverton Milton Keynes

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