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Legitimating Myths and Educational Organization: The Relationship Between Organizational Ideology and Formal Structure

David H. Kamens
American Sociological Review
Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 208-219
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094601
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Legitimating Myths and Educational Organization: The Relationship Between Organizational Ideology and Formal Structure
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between ideology and formal organizational structure in American higher education. To do so, we develop an argument predicated on the idea that colleges and universities affect individuals and the society by: (1) creating membership categories, e.g., "college graduate"; (2) legitimating the social rights and meanings attached to these groups; (3) ritually certifying individuals as members. These processes occur independently of any impact schools have on students. As a result, colleges must create and validate myths concerning the intrinsic qualities graduates possess that derive from the college experience. Organizational structures dramatize the symbolic redefinition of students and legitimate the idea that important changes actually have occurred during college attendance. The effects of given organizational arrangements are established by accepted educational theories and conventional wisdom. It is argued that organizational structure must conform to schools' self-presentation and their advertised effects on students. Schools whose structure and ideology do not match may be under pressure to change or suffer the fate of nonconformity. On the basis of these ideas, we develop a typology of symbolic definitions colleges construct about graduates and discuss how particular organizational features are used to legitimate different conceptions of "student." Data from comparative organizational studies are used to illustrate these arguments and to indicate substantive conditions that limit the applicability of this argument.

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