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Justice in Search of Leaders

A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership

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Gloria Graves Holmes

Justice in Search of Leaders: A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership is a guide for educators who are committed to equity-driven teaching, leading, and policy-making, and would like to operationalize socially just school practices for all children. Moving beyond a heroes and holidays approach to addressing racism, bias, injustice, and a cluster of isms, it provides a deeper understanding of the causes of structural inequities in schools, and suggests approaches for deconstructing them. The book includes a frank discussion of race, racism, social dominance, and implicit bias, and encourages both objective and subjective analyses of how they infect school practice.

America’s ambivalent response to race, racial identity development, the nature of prejudice, and how humans form values and develop belief systems is explored in some depth. There is also a critique of Whiteness as a socio-political concept as it relates to power and privilege, and as a demographic reality as it relates to institutional discrimination in schools. The book is not a critique of white people, and it is important that readers make that distinction. This leads to a discussion of the tricky and challenging process of changing beliefs, values, and attitudes as they relate to school leadership and teaching, and how all of this is connected to the power dynamics in schools.

Justice in Search of Leaders: A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership encourages educators to acknowledge that we all have racial identities and biases that inform professional practice, and to reflect on the significance of this. It means thinking deeply about socially abhorrent subjects which make us uncomfortable and cause us to retreat to the safety of our comfort zones. This is necessary because for most under-served students, there is no retreat and no safety; there are only discomfort zones.

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Chapter 1: If Not Courageous Conversations, Then What?

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IF NOT COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS, THEN WHAT?

When leaders fail, people suffer.

—Michael Carr, Pastor Central Church

Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small spaces, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

—Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve asked myself many times why we need another book about social justice and multicultural education because the current market seems to be glutted with books on multiculturalism, human diversity, culturally responsive teaching, intercultural communication, cultural proficiency, etc. etc. etc. Since so much is already available, it becomes difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Of greater concern is a fear that the value, essence, and raison d’être that initiated and drove the debate, generated the interest, formulated arguments, established a rationale, created a context, and a sound ← 3 | 4 → philosophical foundation for multicultural education and culturally responsive practice, if not lost, are...

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