Educational Leadership for Social Justice: Enhancing the Ethical Dimension of Educational Leadership

Article excerpt

Much criticism has been levied in recent years on professional preparation programs in schools of education offering the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree. This article chronicles the attempt of one Jesuit university to respond to that criticism in designing a professional degree with an ethical focus on social justice.


"Leadership stands at the crossroads, broadening individual aspirations to embrace social change and building a society that responds to human wants, needs, and values" (Burns, 2003, p. 147).

The recent debate regarding the nature of university educational administration programs has indirectly addressed the issue that Burns described above. For example, Levine (2005) and Young, Crow, Org, Rodney, and Creighton (2005) write about concepts of effective school or school district leadership that are related to successful performance outcomes for all students. Certainly such outcomes have equity implications. Nevertheless, the emphasis of these discussions had more to do with the technical nature educational leadership development and less to do with "embracing social change and building a society that responds to human wants, needs, and values" (Burns, 2003, p. 147). Recently, a number of scholars have addressed directly the issue of social change in educational leadership, as well as the need to emphasize social justice in leadership preparation programs (Andrews & Grogan, 2002; Brown, 2004, 2006; Cambron-McCabe McCarthy, 2005; Larson & Murtadha, 2002; Pounder, Reitzug, & Young, 2002; Starratt, 2003). The emphasis can be on both. This paper is about Saint Louis University's (SLU) redesigned doctoral program in education (Ed.D) that includes an emphasis on social justice.

Though this paper focuses on a program that is, as Shulman (2004) defined, a professional doctorate, the description of its technical approach to leadership development is not the purpose here. Such information is available elsewhere (Everson et al., 2004; Murphy & Vriesenga, 2005).


The purpose here is to describe how the faculty members who have developed the new program are working to expand its emphasis on social justice as well as on other moral and ethical leadership concepts in order to increase and enhance the students' understanding of and focus on their ethical role as educational leaders. The paper offers a rationale for embedding ethical and moral issues in leadership education programs, some program implications, and an approach to assess the understanding of social justice and social actions of the program's graduates.


Saint Louis University is a Jesuit, Catholic university ranked as a Carnegie research institution. The university has more than 11,800 students, of which more than 7,000 are undergraduates and 4,000 are graduate students, including medical and law students. Students come from all 50 states and more than 80 foreign countries. Founded in 1818, SLU is the oldest university west of the Mississippi and the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. A second campus is located in Madrid, Spain.

One of SLU's graduate departments is the Department of Educational Leadership and Higher Education, located in the College of Public Service. The department offers a master's degree and two doctoral degrees: a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). The Ph.D. is a traditional program that is designed to prepare researchers, scholars, and academicians. Currently, approximately 25 students are working actively on their Ph.D. degrees in educational leadership.

The Doctor of Education program focuses on preparing students for professional leadership positions. This program has grown significantly over the past 10 years, since the advent of the cohort structure. The majority of students complete their program together in 3 years, including work during 2 summers. …