Alpha Alternative School is publicly funded school offered by the Toronto District School Board to provide a school based around democracy (O’Rourke & Nash, n.d.). As such, the administrative practices of Alpha Alternative School vary greatly from the traditional classroom. This postmodern school is built on what Simon (1976) described “organizational loyalty”. Organizational loyalty can be supported by an organization offering “training [that] prepares the organization member to reach satisfactory decisions himself, without the need for the constant exercise of authority or advice” (Simon, 1976, p. 13). As such within an organization founded on the principles of democracy, training is essential. The administration at ALPHA alternative school trust staff to provide students with the agreed upon “Non-Coercive, Holistic, Learner-Centered Education” built on the motto of “shared education” (O’Rourke & Nash, n.d.). As a result, “ALPHA students exercise genuine choice in matters important to them” which supports a positive learning atmosphere (O’Rourke & Nash, n.d., para. 7).
ALPHA academy clearly states within their philosophy that “ALPHA respects children’s desire to become competent and participate in the greater world” (O’Rourke & Nash, n.d.. para. 3). Participation is a key aspect of a democratic society. The administration of ALPHA alternative school supports participation of both staff and students in the decision-making processes. As Follett (1973) acknowledged, administrators can get participation from members of an organization, “In three ways: by an organization which provides for it, by a daily management which recognizes and acts on the principle of participation, and by a method of settling differences, or a method of dealing with diverse contributions of men very different in temperament, training, and attainments” (p. 178). The ALPHA alternative school identifies all three aspects of participation in their philosophy. Participation and democracy within the construction of such an organization need to be established within the organizations’ policies and documents as well as supported in the daily management.
One critique I have of the ALPHA alternative school is based on how the administration suggests decision-making is conducted. ALPHA Alternative school states that it values the “Importance of consensus…The goal is not compromise but refinement of a proposal until everyone can live with the decision” (O’Rourke & Nash, n.d., para. 13). I would argue that the goal of ALPHA is to provide the opportunity for decision-making to reflect integration rather than compromise. As Follett (1973) noted, “by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish” (p. 178). However, as Simon (1976) argued “all decision is a matter of compromise. The alternative that is finally selected never permits a complete or perfect achievement of objectives, but is merely the best solution that is available under the circumstances” (p. 5). As such, I would disagree with their statement because even within consensus or integration there is a relative element of compromise.
ALPHA Alternative school is grounded in the organizational theory of living systems. The motto of “shared education” supported by ALPHA alternative school supports how Burns described the “contributive nature of special knowledge and experience to the common task of the concern (Burns, 2007, p. 105). As well, Burns (2007) acknowledged that within an organismic system “knowledge may be located anywhere in the network” (p. 106). The ALPHA alternative school supports this philosophy by promoting a “learner-centered education that sees a child’s curiosity as the primary driver for knowledge acquisition” (O’Rourke & Nash, n.d., para. 3). According to the information published online, the living systems theory appears to be how this particular school has been constructed. In conclusion, what I think would be interesting to research is whether the theory presented online is actually being implemented in practice at ALPHA alternative school? As well, I would be curious to learn about whether the construction of the school would be effective as a board-wide initiative?
Burns, T. (2007). Mechanistic and organismic structures. In D. S. Pugh (Ed.), Organization theory: Selected classic readings (5th ed.) (pp. 99-110). London, UK: Penguin. (Original work published 1963)
Follett, M. P. (1973). The psychology of consent and participation. In E. M. Fox & L. Urwick (Eds.), Dynamic administration: The collected papers of Mary Parker Follett (pp. 175-194). London, UK: Pitman. (Original work published 1927)
O’Rourke, D., & Nash, C. (n.d.). Philosophy. In Alpha Alternative School. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
Simon, H. A. (1976). Administrative behavior: A study of decision-making processes in administrative organizations (4th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.