Analyzing Problems in Schools and School Systems: A Theoretical Approach

By Alan Kibbe Gaynor | Go to book overview

11
Conclusion: Problem Analysis as a Hermeneutic Process

Theoretical Bildung goes beyond what man knows and experiences immediately. It consists in learning to allow what is different from oneself and to find universal viewpoints from which one can grasp the thing, "the objective thing in its freedom," without selfish interest.

-- Hans-Georg Gadamer ( 1975, p. 14)

Although it presents a conceptual framework for problem analysis and a theoretical approach to analyzing the causes of organizational problems, all of which may be thought of as decidedly abstract, this book is essentially pragmatic in nature. Systematic problem description and theoretical analysis are valid precisely to the extent that they are seen as useful in raising good questions and in guiding data collection and analysis toward wise decision making. As Stephen Toulmin said in a televised interview in the course of a program titled "A Glorious Accident" (National Public Television, 1996), "Theory has to be justified as a form of practice. It isn't that practice has to answer before the high court of theory."

From the very beginning of the problem analysis process, problems are defined in relation to values. Within the system of analysis presented in this book, you embody your values in the standards of comparison against which you define the problem. Inescapably, you specify the indicators of the problem in relation to the values you hold dear and which you perceive to be violated in ways that you characterize as problematic. Later, you hypothesize the causes of the problem, intuitively at first, then systematically in relation to theories that seem relevant to the problem situation.

Interesting is the extent to which problem analysis turns out to be a hermeneutic process. Treating the organizational situation as a kind of text, you examine it progressively in circular fashion. Initially, you sense that something is wrong in the situation, and you list examples, both anecdotal and statistical, of the intuitively perceived problem. Having identified the major qualitative and quantitative dimensions of the problem, you then examine more systematically what standards of

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