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Justice in Search of Leaders

A Handbook for Equity-Driven School Leadership


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 5: Social Dominance Orientation (SDO): Implications for Equity-Driven Teaching and School Leadership


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Implications for Equity-Driven Teaching and School Leadership

Like implicit bias, the concept of Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) focuses on social inequities and biases, and this chapter explores the impact of SDO in schools. Understanding both concepts, and how they can complement, reinforce, and sustain each other, is important because teaching and school leadership that is uninformed by a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of social dominance and implicit bias is complicit in maintaining unequal academic and social outcomes for students who are already chronically underserved by society. In addition to an examination of basic SDO theory and research, the chapter shows how understanding SDO can help educators understand the intersectionality of the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of individuals, social groups, and institutions in terms of how they interact to establish, entrench, and maintain systemic inequality in schools and in the overall educative process.

Keywords: social dominance orientation, implicit bias, institutional discrimination, systemic inequities, prejudice, oppression, legitimizing myths, busing

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

—George Orwell, Animal Farm

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes …

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