School governors play an important part in the democratic governance of education in a number of countries and forming a middle tier of accountability between state and schools. They carry out their role in a voluntary capacity. School governors are drawn from a range of backgrounds, including parents, school teachers, local politicians, business people, and professional groupings. They have a variety of responsibilities, depending on the country in which they are based. Their responsibilities can include, among others: developing a strategy for the school, monitoring the school budget, setting disciplinary strategy, setting school fees. Some members of the school board are elected, while others are co-opted or serve in an ex officio function—for example, head teachers. Political, social, and economic changes—based largely on shifts to the political economy of capitalism facilitated via organizations such as The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the late 1970s—have resulted in changes across education systems, leading to the globalization, privatization, and deregulation of public policy as a whole, and have affected the role and competencies of school governors. This is particularly the case in England and South Africa.
Two of the most important works of Plato are The Republic and The Apology. In each of these writings there is an answer to a question such as “what can be said about the wisdom of those individuals who develop and create educational programs?” Plato offers two alternative answers to this question. In The Republic Plato clearly develops the notion that it is reasonable to assume that wise individuals possess valuable, important, and worthwhile information. On the other hand, in The Apology Plato explains that his teacher, Socrates, spent a lifetime trying to develop the complex notion that wise individuals become wise when they recognize that all human wisdom is worth little or nothing at all. Socrates can be viewed as claiming that all human beings are so fallible that they should not create educational programs that tell others what they should do during the school day. Further, schools that endorse the notion that wise individuals do not possess valuable knowledge suggest that all members of a school community (including teachers and students) are fallible authorities who need to have their power and influence significantly limited by a democratic process. Since the time of Plato many educators have endorsed the notion that they possess wisdom. Often the wisdom that educators assume for themselves translates into the notion that a school should teach a standardized academic curriculum. To be sure, over the ages many educators have disagreed with one another about what ideas, information, or knowledge should be included in a standardized academic curriculum. Yet the notion of a standardized academic curriculum is not often challenged. In fact, educational programs or schools that assume the desirability of a standardized academic curriculum have become the dominant alternatives in Western societies. Opposing alternatives, which are often ignored, are schools or educational programs that do not teach a standardized academic curriculum. Two schools that presently exist as pilot educational programs that endorse the notion of a non-standardized academic curriculum are Summerhill School and Sudbury Valley School. Summerhill was founded in the 1920s by A. S. Neill. Daniel A. Greenberg, a self-styled educational theorist, was one of the founding members of the Sudbury Valley School in the late 1960s. These pilot programs seem to endorse the view of wisdom that claims wise people are wise when they realize that their wisdom is worth little or nothing at all. The writings of Karl R. Popper provide an example of a 20th-century philosopher who tried throughout his life to revive the view of wisdom that wise people are aware of the notion that they do not possess true wisdom. Popper’s efforts to criticize the traditional view of wisdom and revive the nontraditional view help provide an intellectual foundation for schools such as Summerhill and Sudbury Valley. These schools function as liberal, democratic, self-governing communities where all school members are fallible authorities who are personally responsible for creating their own school activities.