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Keeping the Promise

Essays on Leadership, Democracy, and Education


Dennis Carlson and C.P. Gause

This volume raises critical questions about the qualities of democratic educational leadership during a time when the promise of democratic education and public life risks being abandoned, forgotten, and emptied of meaning. A diverse chorus of scholars in education take on this issue by analyzing the cultural context of educational leadership in the age of No Child Left Behind, by offering democratic counter-narratives of educational leadership, and by deconstructing popular culture representations of educational leaders. In doing so, they re-situate leadership within a political context and link it to struggles over social justice and human freedom. The contributing scholars also radically re-think educational leadership in ways that include teachers, university-based educators, and scholars as leaders.

«…This book addresses the crisis of democratic public education and public life in America. The authors focus on how dominant leadership models have failed schools and universities, and discuss the kind of democratic leadership needed in unsettling times in America [in order to] reclaim the notion of «the promise.» In this case, the promise has to do with public education that levels the playing field rather than reproduces inequalities, that recognizes difference without «othering» it, and that establishes the condition for a democratic habitus. This book…provides a set of recommendations and analyses that [are essential] for those interested in progressive educational change, and in nurturing responsible, honest, and enlightened educational leadership in our schools and universities.» (Carlos Alberto Torres, Professor, Social Sciences and Comparative Education; Director, Paulo Freire Institute, University of California-Los Angeles)
«It is not often recognized that school leadership was a central, explicit concern in the first graduate program in social foundations of education at Columbia Teachers College in the early 1940s. This book, more than any other I can think of, brings together social critique, democratic theory, and school leadership practice in ways that extend that original agenda. Each well-chosen chapter makes a valuable contribution to addressing the central questions posed by the editors: ‘In an age when the democratic promise of public education is «at risk,» what is the responsibility of educational leaders? To whom and for what are they responsible?’ Every school leadership program in the nation should be addressing these tensions, and this volume is unique in its ability to help them do so.» (Steve Tozer, Professor and Coordinator, Ed.D. Program in Urban Educational Leadership, University of Illinois-Chicago)
«…Up to this point, if I wanted my graduate students in educational leadership to learn about different conceptual and epistemological perspectives on education, I sent them to professors in curriculum and instruction. Now we have this outstanding collection of chapters, authored by scholars who cut across disciplinary boundaries, to help us rethink educational leadership in an age of accountability. Because notions of leadership should be of concern to all educators, regardless of position, this book should be required reading not only in every educational leadership program in the country, but in every education department. It moves beyond simplistic critiques of accountability and leadership, and deftly reveals the complexities of leadership in ways that will enrich students’ conceptual thinking and push the bounds of their own research and practice.» (Colleen Capper, Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin-Madison)