Ron Scapp. (2006). Managing to Be Different: Educational Leadership as Critical Practice

By Stelmach, Bonnie L. | Canadian Journal of Education, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Ron Scapp. (2006). Managing to Be Different: Educational Leadership as Critical Practice


Stelmach, Bonnie L., Canadian Journal of Education


Ron Scapp. (2006). Managing to Be Different: Educational Leadership As Critical Practice. New York: Routledge. 154 pages. ISBN 978-0-415-94862-3 (hardcover); 978-0-415-94863-0 (softcover)

Admittedly, the dedication page is an atypical starting point for a review; however, in the spirit of Scapp's Managing to Be Different, the reader might consider the following as an appropriate prologue to a book that casts critical pedagogy as the sine qua non for philosophically rigorous educational leadership practice:

For all those many awful meetings, the people who refused to listen, the really bad decisions that were made ... and to all who have had to endure such leadership.... (frontispiece)

Though tongue-and-cheek, the above excerpt exemplifies well the candid approach Scapp takes in arguing for educational leadership as critical practice. By the time the reader thumbs to the last page of Scapp's introduction, she or he will have been shaken from the somnambulance endemic to educational leadership practice that has increasingly been informed by a corpus of what Scapp has coined "celebrity leadership" (p. 2), a genre of self-congratulatory evangelism propagated from the boardrooms and benches of elite CEOs and sports arenas.

The growth of trite aphorisms such as "there is no 'I' in 'team'" (p. 2), Scapp argues, has been grafted onto educational leadership literature; the reference to cliche rather than theory and praxis is the pestilence that has "worked against education as the practice of freedom" (p. 10). The emancipatory agenda of education, championed by Friere, forms the backbone of Scapp's argument. Citing the ideas of Bourdieu, hooks, and Giroux, Scapp challenges educational leaders to engage in critical pedagogy by confronting neoliberal logic and the ideology of fatalism.

The goal of social justice is the idee fixe of the six key chapters that constitute Managing to Be Different. In the first chapter, Scapp identifies educational administrators as part of a "circuitry of power" (p. 21), a realization made during his first experience as an educational administrator at LaGuardia Community College in New York. He unabashedly recounts his trepidation and disillusionment experienced during that administrative post, emphasizing that negotiating and navigating power relations for the sake of social justice are inherently central to educational administration. Advocates of social justice and those well-versed in critical theory may at first be impatient with Scapp's treatment of Chapter 1, for he dedicates much of the chapter to tracing his cyclic path from administrator to academic and back with relatively brief interjections of key theorists such as Bourdieu and Fraser.

Read another way, however, Scapp cleverly works the double entendre of the book's title into his introduction. Admitting that as a neophyte administrator, he conflated this role with "being a representative of bureaucracy in general" (p. 25), Scapp uses Bourdieu's notion of disposition to demonstrate his eventual understanding of educational administration as way of being [italics inserted] shaped by the intellectual, historical, social, cultural, and even corporeal. In this way, Scapp cleaves existing literature that reduces leadership to a checklist of habits, best practices, or characteristics, and offers an organic conceptualization of leadership. At the same time, Scapp invokes the connotation of management by suggesting leaders must "manage" disposition--as Bourdieau described it--through disciplined reflexivity and constant modification of one's assumptions. Considering Scapp's philosophical acumen, it may be somewhat disappointing that he does not immediately plumb the conceptual depths of the ideas that frame his book; yet, one can appreciate the invitational tone of this chapter, especially for practitioners who are interested in self-exploration but do not have a background in philosophy or sociology.

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