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Victor A. Montemurro
Comprehensive Digital Portfolio
St. John's University School of Education

EDU 5420: Politics in Education
Professor Frank L. Smith, Jr., Ed.D.
July 2002

SJU Graduate Bulletin 2000-20
Examination and analysis of the political aspects of education in large cities and suburbs in a period of declining enrollments and resources; analysis of the conflicting political demands by community groups, students, ethnic minorities and organized teachers and changing pattern of policy-making and decision-making.


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course artifacts.



Politics in Education is a challenging study of political frameworks that influence organizations particularly schools. Major concepts foundational to an understanding of politics in educational communities and learning organizations are as follows:

  • political process
  • strategic representation
  • power
  • coalitions
  • self-interest
  • market versus polis
  • distributive view
  • policy-making
  • temporary resolution

Breaking Down the Stone: A Personal Discourse on Deborah's Stone's Policy Paradox; The Art Of Political Decision Making by Victor Montemurro














The key to understanding Deborah Stone's Policy Paradox; The Art of Political Decision Making is accepting and understanding her aims, premises, and definitions staked out in the "Introduction" and "Part One, The Market and the Polis," while forgiving her the facetious and playful tone she occasionally employs. I, for one, would rather read the authentic voice of a creative author/scholar rather than the dry, stuffy tone of an academic whose compulsion to objectify deadens the prose of his or her argument. Thankfully, Deborah Stone writes with none of the stuffy, professorial didacticism that might accompany such a text so chock full of comprehensive and challenging ideas. Her subject and argument won't allow for such boring writing; she is lucid, detailed and comprehensive throughout. And besides, what else should one expect from a text, originally published in 1988 now in a revised third edition, that includes cartoons?

The revised third edition(2001) includes new preface that begins with a personal story about a youthful experience that Stone identifies as her first encounter with a policy paradox. Does she continue to comply with the rules for safety and quiet during a school fire drill or does she speak up against an injustice, a prejudicial remark made to her African-American friend on the fire drill line? In this little story Stone exposes the heart of her argument throughout the text. Logic and rational thinking often fail to provide an answer or a plan in the face of an irrational conflict of not only values but policies for behavior and solutions to social problems. The third edition also includes a precise application of Stone's theory of politics and policy making. A final chapter is added that explicates the case of affirmative action in America, "Policy Paradox in Action."

Deborah Stone’s Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making offers a way to perceive the analysis of politics and policy that makes sense of the paradoxes that abound in communities and schools grappling with issues important to the interests of individual political actors and to members of the polis, a term she uses for the political community (Stone, 1997, p. 10). Stone argues that a rational approach to politics misses the point of politics, which is to engage opposing points of view that are contradictory and often cannot be explained logically. She asserts that a rational approach to politics, which she calls “the rationality project,” is an “impossible dream” (p. 7). From Stone’s point of view, attempts to view politics rationally look crazy and illogical. Politics becomes a sloppy mess that can’t be explained, let alone useful in developing public policy. A rational approach to politics sets up categories of logic. These categories of logic, used to make sense of things in the political world, are by nature, at least, subject to disagreement, can be confusing and ambiguous, and often paradoxical.

The rationality project seems to have the answer to understanding messy politics by asserting a better, more sensible way to judge what is valuable and important in the community or polis. The rationality project establishes a bias of logic that Stone deconstructs.  Political thought defies logic since essentially political thought is fraught with abstract notions with multiple meanings. The bias for the categories of rational political thought is exposed by Stone’s argument that “analysis is itself a creature of politics; it is strategically crafted argument, designed to create ambiguities and paradoxes and to resolve them in a particular direction” (p. 7).  Political actors present an analysis and argument that seems rational but actually is a strategic representation of a point of view designed to win the case.

Stone's political theory presents a rationale for making sense of politics in the real world where human actions are governed more by passion than by logic. Policy analysis, policy making, and policy solutions are intertwined with each other. Attempts to make one policy area distinct from the other is an attempt to strategically represent a position that often ignores underlying assumptions about values such as equity, efficiency, security and liberty. Stone makes a strong case for the paradoxical nature of human values and behavior as well as the importance of ongoing political argument. According to Stone, arguing for values that underlie policy making is a worthy and complex social process:

In the process of articulating reasons, we show each other how we see the world. We may not ever see eye to eye, yet there is a world of difference between a political process in which people honestly try to understand how the world looks from different vantage points, and one in which  people claim from the start that their vantage point is the right one (p. 380).

Course Assignments and Artifacts

The following course artifacts are hyperlinks to PDF files or image files. Use the browser's back button to return to this page.

Political Issue Study Essay:

Constructing an Analytical Model for Studying a Political Issue by Professor Smith

Political Issue Study Outline

Revision of Professor Smith's Stone Conceptual Map for Study of an Issue's Political Paradoxes

Notes on the Stone Framework and Political Issue Study

Notes on Chapter 14, "Rights"

Course Notes by Cohort Two Colleague Charles Bevington

Superintendent Search Scenario by Professor Smith

Superintendent Search Questions by Professor Smith

Superintendent Search Letter and Responses by Cohort Two Member Group

This coursework and the Stone text were perhaps the most challenging work of the program. In addition to Stone, the following texts were also used in this course of study:


Bolman, L. and Deal, T. (1997). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Carlson, R. V. (1996). Reframing and reform: Perspectives on organization, leadership and school change. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Shafritz, J. and Ott, J. (1996). Classics of organization theory (4th ed.). New York: Harcourt College.

Stone, D. (1997). Policy paradox: The art of political decision making (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton and Co.

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SJU School of Education Comprehensive Digital Portfolio Copyright 2004 by Victor A. Montemurro. All right reserved.