Saturday, February 13, 2010

Democracy & Educational Leadership

What is it that makes an effective educational leader? Of course we need leaders who can help reform and enrich education --- but to what end? NYTimes columnist Bob Herbert may have some answers.

There's one major problem with Bob Herbert's perspective on educational leadership. He assumes that public eduction exists to advance our country's international economic prowess ("In Search of Education Leaders," Dec 5, 2009). Alternatively, public education exists to cultivate democracy.

A vibrant economy is certainly a worthy goal for any society, but it is democracy that helps individuals make smart choices that advance the common good---both locally and globally. This lesson can be learned at home and in our schools. Yet public education should represent our civil commitment to a democracy that fosters liberty and equality. Worthwhile educational reform requires leadership that is guided by such a democracy.

As Ariel Sacks writes, we should also be careful about programs for educational leadership that are not explicitly linked to classroom teaching. Teachers make hundreds of decisions that help students navigate the complexities of democracy, i.e. the aligment of personal liberties with social equality. Without this direct experience of teaching and learning, what kind of reform can educational leaders provide?

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