A New Perspective
Appendix A: Contracting in Schools
WHY DO CONTRACTS IN SCHOOLS MATTER? One of the central arguments in the text is that members of school communities engage in transactions about who is going to do what; more speciﬁcally about how actors such as teachers and students will use their ‘intangible property’ – their ‘property rights in labor’ – to carry out their respective tasks of teaching and learning. The nature of the transactions between actors in schools varies from quite formal ones, like the employment contracts of teachers and other staff, to semi-formal ones, like written statements whereby parents agree to various rules and obligations established by the school, to the most informal bargains and ‘deals’ having to do with highly subtle arrangements between people. These last can be as amorphous as a teacher talking with a student about making more of an effort, or speaking up more in class (the quid pro quo being the implication that the teacher will give approval and perhaps a better grade). Or it could be a parent agreeing to let a student have more television rights if homework is completed beforehand. Such transactions have a powerful inﬂuence on how actors perform tasks leading to the co-production of learning. What do we mean by contracts? Economist John R. Commons considered that the transaction is the most basic unit for analyzing the economics of organizations (Commons, 1934). Commons’ view of transactions ‘began with conﬂict of interests, then took into account the evident idea of dependence of conﬂicting interests on...
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