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Any Resemblance to Living Principal Is Purely....

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However unpopular school administrators may think they are in the real world, their situation seems to be worse in the realm of fiction.

They are, according to a study of 50 American novels written since 1940, bureaucratic, coercive, and more interested in their jobs than in people. Rarely are they portrayed as heroes.

"The School Administrator in the American Novel," a paper written by Theresa May Smith at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, concludes that authors who portray school administrators in their books do so in a very negative light.

Ms. Smith, who conducted the study based on the belief that "fictional writers mirror society and, adversely, affect society," studied books that featured public- and private-school principals, assistant principals, superintendents, and college and university deans and presidents.

Most administrative characters in the books exhibited "a high concern for task and a low concern for people," Ms. Smith found.

Public-school administrators fared the worst, Ms. Smith found. They were depicted most often in tense interactions with pupils and staff.

Private-school administrators and college administrators fared slightly better; they were sometimes seen in community and school leadership roles.

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