Academic journal article Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice

The Sixth "P"-Politics

Academic journal article Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice

The Sixth "P"-Politics

Article excerpt

Invitational theory presents the concept of invitations as related to five factors: people, places, policies, programs, and processes (Purkey & Schmidt, 1990). In this article, I propose the addition of a sixth "P," politics. The assumption is that without addressing the political aspect of schools and school systems, success of the invitational model with the other five dimensions is undermined or negated at best.

In spite of reform movements of past and recent years the "deep structures of schooling," as Cuban (1990) described them, are unchanged. Schools remain characterized by balkanized divisions or departments (Hargreaves, 1989). Students are taught subjects, failed and retained in grades, or passed and graduated with little empirical support for either process. Likewise, students are "labelled, libeled, sorted and grouped" in contradiction to the findings of educational research (Purkey & Novak, 1984). Why, in spite of a plethora of change efforts over the years, are schools fundamentally the same as they used to be?

In The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform, Sarason (1990) answered this question by noting that "in education the mistakes in conception and action have been many, and almost all of them derive from an inability to comprehend the nature of the school system" (p. 27). Traditionally, school reform has focused on one aspect or another without looking at the school as a total system. It has ignored power relationships and until recently, failed to see schools as distinctive cultures. Fullan (1990) captured this idea:

   Our attention in policy, practice and research has shifted in
   recent years, away from preoccupation with single innovations
   toward more basic integrative, and systematic reform. Changes in
   the culture of schools, in the roles and relationships of schools,
   districts, universities and states, and in integrating teacher
   development, school improvement, leadership and curriculum toward
   more engaging learning experiences for students and teachers,
   dominate the current scene and will continue to do so for the rest
   of the decade. (p. 137)

At a recent presentation, a teacher of agricultural science in rural Pennsylvania explained the concept more simply. He compared the school to a spider web, which, when touched on one part, reverberates throughout its entire structure. Educational reformers who forget or ignore this concept do so at their own peril. The attractiveness of invitational theory is that it provides a philosophical and conceptual gestalt that allows leaders to address the entire school as an integrated system. Political behavior must be a vital part of this gestalt if change is to occur.

The term politics as used here is not intended in the conventional sense of back room deals, win-lose negotiations and situational ethics. Nor do I mean politics as a process of "exchanging gratifications in a political market place" (Burns, 1978, p. 258) as in "You scratch my back, I scratch yours." Rather, to act politically is to raise the aspirations of others through teaching, mentoring and coaching. The ingredients of this process are "honesty, responsibility, fairness, the honoring of commitment" (Burns, 1978, p. 258). As such, acting politically means building collaborative cultures through shared vision and shared decision-making. It means "doing with" as opposed to "doing to" people (Purkey & Schmidt, 1987). It means operating from an invitational stance of trust, optimism, respect, and intentionality. It also means effecting authentic change within complex organizations. The following are fifteen guidelines for thinking politically and incorporating the sixth "P" into the invitational process.

1) Dream with Your Eyes Open

Block (1987) in The Empowered Manager described a vision in the organizational sense as a dream with one's eyes wide open. This means starting with the end, the goal, in mind. …

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