close examination had unusually skillful and strongly motivated educational leaders who in collaboration with supportive teachers designed a performance evaluation system well-suited to the particular circumstance of the community and its schools.36 In short, well-run public schools are possible when talented, dedicated people are at work in sympathetic communities. It is good to know that this occurs; it is too much to expect that it will occur everywhere.
The people who work for government will always want the freedom to do their work without excessive constraints but they will resist efforts to evaluate and reward them on the basis of that work. This problem has become more acute of late with the recruitment of so many professionals and quasi-professionals into government service and the multiplication of legislative and judicial constraints on government work. As the tasks become more complex, workers will want more freedom; as the constraints multiply, they will be less and less trusting of their managers (who are in charge of enforcing the constraints) or of the political process (that has created the constraints).
When bureaucrats become defensive about or hostile to the pressures on them, politicians and interest groups confuse their defensiveness with timidity and their hostility with subversion, and so are tempted to engage in bureaucrat-bashing: deriding bureaucrats as narrow-minded, self-serving, or incompetent drudges. Naturally the objects of this bashing will resent it, not least because the caricature so often is untrue.37
The managers are caught in the middle between workers and politicians. The challenge they face and how they cope with it is the subject of the next chapter.