Volume 32, Issue 1, Spring 2018
Robert Boyd Skipper
Education and Bureaucracy
I argue that bureaucracies, as described by Max Weber, have essential characteristics that clash with basic educational values. On the one hand, bureaucracies, because of their divisions of labor, inevitably narrow all those who participate. Bureaucracies also, because of the need for impartiality, inevitably dehumanize all who participate. On the other hand, education aims to broaden and humanize those who participate in it. This tension between bureaucracy and education makes bureaucracy an unsuitable mechanism for delivering an education. Bureaucracies are often the best ways to accomplish large tasks involving many people; however, the task of educating all humanity is not one of those tasks. Problems in education can only be exacerbated by “fixing” the bureaucracy, because efficiency, the greatest bureaucratic virtue, is harmful to education. While I offer no solution, I share some thoughts about how a humanizing, broadening, and suitably inefficient education might look.