chapter  3
Western-Centric Perspectives on Values and Leadership Cultural Isomorphs of Educational Administration
Pages 16

One of the more attractive perquisites associated with a career as a professor of educational administration is the opportunity to work with school administrators from many countries. Such experiences reveal cultural isomorphs that occur within and among specific cultures. By isomorph is meant social conditions or value postures appearing to share the same shape or meaning from country to country but actually structured of quite different elements. For example, school administrators in countries such as the United States, Sweden, Canada, and Hong Kong are much inclined to profess a belief and commitment to democratic processes and democracy in general. Yet the nature of democracy in each country is clearly based on sharply contrasting notions of what constitutes free speech, social consensus, and appropriate political participation by the citizenry. A comparison of the acceptable standards of free speech in the United States and China is an obvious example. However, isomorphs can occur even within a single nation or culture, not just among nations. Consider how in the United States citizens are currently debating the nature of personal freedom in terms of the proper relationship between the right to bear arms and democracy. Some Americans view the private ownership of firearms as anathema to democracy, others as a prerequisite. Yet, both groups definitely consider themselves patriots of democracy. Isomorphs aside, such is the nature of ethics when they are adopted as guides to action. Transrational values of any sort are rather vulnerable to multiple interpretation in application from one context to another.