Humanism in the contemporary theory of educational administration

Wayne Myron Borgwardt, Marquette University


This study was prompted by ongoing strife evident in discussions about theory in educational administration since the mid-1970s. Perhaps a paradigm shift is underway in which a resurgent humanism is challenging the dominance of naturalistic science, which has been associated with logical positivism and with the theory movement within educational administration. These views--the humanistic and the scientific (or natural)--constitute two of the three major modes of thought in western civilization. The third, the transcendental (or theological), is inconsequential in contemporary administrative theory. The hypothesis, proposing an association between the theory of educational administration and the theorist's view of the human dimension in organizations, prompted a major research question: Does the literature since mid-century in educational administration indicate that viewpoints regarding educational administration vary with an author's perceptions regarding the human dimension and its importance in organizations? Relevant to the study was the modern rift between science and the humanities, the advent of existentialism, and the development of the paradigm concept, the latter two with humanistic overtones, Positivism and humanism were observed in four contrasting trends in twentieth century educational administration: scientific management, human relations, the bureaucratic movement, and open systems management. The literature of theory in educational administration provided data. Daniel Griffiths was selected as exemplar for detailed analysis in view of his long and notable service. Andrew Halpin and Egon Guba were chosen as defining figures. Three themes provided focus for data selection: (1) response to the theory movement, (2) related but broader concepts of art/science, and (3) advocacy of language reflecting scientific or humanistic presuppositions. The findings suggest that a resurgent humanism helps explain the decline of the theory movement, with three writers showing an increasing humanistic focus with varying emphases. Paradigm diversity is apparent; humanism has not provided the consensus current during the theory movement. Such contrasting paradigms carry implications beyond these writers. Additional study could test the hypothesis among other leaders and its application to the research and practice of educational administration.

Recommended Citation

Borgwardt, Wayne Myron, "Humanism in the contemporary theory of educational administration" (1991). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9133787.