Stage 6.5.1  Regenerating The Authority


Acquiring Long-Term Legitimacy

"Authority" for change can come from many sources. "Mandates" of all sorts have been popular with politicians in the last 40 years because of the belief that change or the appearance of change can be brought about without public expenditure. Public education has been seen as an easy target for mandates, i.e., “No Child Left Behind”, because of its relatively low power and the generally low esteem with which it is held by the general public. Such mandates often work, at least as a catalyst for change, but there are also many drawbacks including heightened resistance to change. No change agent wants to be seen as the police or even as the agent of a policing authority. If that authority is seen as relatively remote and unable to enforce its mandates, the foot in the door provided by that authority may be nearly useless, especially when it comes to the second round. Thus, one important task in moving toward renewal is to localize the authority basis of the change activity. This means gaining support from the local school board, the superintendent, the principal or principals, and even the teachers to the extent that they have authority over the sphere of the classroom.

It is also important to move away from mandates as the basis of legitimacy as soon as possible. In other words, try to go from mandates to voluntary acceptance and from acceptance on to commitment and embracement of specific changes and the change process in general.

We have spent considerable time discussing consensus building throughout the Guide: reaching out, including more people, getting more people to participate in decision making, and so forth. The reason to spend so much time and effort on such things is the need to broaden and strengthen the authority for change activity, starting with the invitation to be there in the first place and going on to the point where the system has embraced a change philosophy and an on-going, workable, self­-renewing capacity.