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Ordinary Theologies

Religio-spirituality and the Leadership of Black Female Principals


Arnold Noelle Witherspoon

Through narrative analysis, Ordinary Theologies highlights the intersectionality of gender, race, and religio-spirituality. It examines the relationship of past and current religio-spiritual leadership understandings that contest the status quo in U.S. schools. The historicity and analysis of gender and race contributes to reconceptualizing educational and leadership by emphasizing the voices of Black female leaders, voices that provide alternative understandings of schooling, stressing the importance of gendered and raced voices in administration, and questioning formulaic models of leadership and the research that reifies them.
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“Despite the constitutional separation of church and state, a concept understood differently by different Supreme Courts, there has been keen...interest in the matters associated with religion” (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1996, p. 9). That battle extends beyond the places of worship and a certain economy finds itself in public schools. Educational issues and religion and spirituality have engaged parents, students, educators, the media, and politicians on a grand scale. One characteristic in these issues is the notion that students, teachers, and administrators leave their personal beliefs at the schoolhouse door. This is an improbability at best. Moreover, dialogue concerning religion, spirituality, and education has largely been linked to “hot-button” issues such as the separation of church and state, evolution versus creationism, and instruction of religion in schools. By focusing on these few issues of faith and education, discussions are one-dimensional, corrosive, and unconstructive. Although there is a legal but ill-perceived notion of church and state, educational practice still presents itself through religious or spiritual activity and the personal faith of individuals posits itself in the everyday actions of school.

Engagement concerning religion, spirituality, and education only allows for partial exploration and ignores certain epistemological and ontological histories such as faith. When and if faith is discussed in ← 1 | 2 → schools, the dialogue is neutered and diminished to more acceptable concepts such as spirituality, ethics, or character development. Moreover, a binary between the spiritual and the secular is false at best (Lorde, 1984). In reality, the...

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