Heart and Soul: One Hit, One Miss

Article excerpt

Heart and Soul: One Hit, One Miss

Deal, Terrence & Bolman, Lee. (1995). Leading with soul: an uncommon journey of spirit. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Apps, Jerold. (1996). Teaching from the heart. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publ. Co.

At the dawn of civilization when formal education was born, educators divided into two camps. One camp, the Sophists, believed education ought to lead the student to material success, strengthen the ego, and provide the tools to further one's personal ambition. They taught rhetoric, their goal to win the argument whatever the cost. Their curriculum included science, language, and practical subjects. In the other camp sat the Platonists. Named for our friend Plato, they were truth seekers and taught the dialectical process. The purpose of the dialectic, borrowed from Plato's teacher Socrates, was to pose a series of challenging questions to an assertion in order to discover the truth of an issue. The Platonists believed that education should lead the student to discover the ultimate truth of all things so that humankind as a whole might be lifted a little closer to the light. They proposed a liberal arts approach to education.

One approach feeds the ego; the other feeds the soul. This has been the background for the debate in education for centuries. Today, the Sophists hold the reigns in education with objective testing, measurable outcomes, the emphasis on science, technology, and business curricula. Many practitioners believe something is missing, or has been lost in modern education, and in response to this emptiness, a few lonely Platonists are starting to appear on the horizon. Some educators in that vanguard are Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal with their book Leading with Soul, and Jerold Apps with his book Teaching from the Heart.

We first encountered Terry Deal and Jerry Apps at the 1998 Mountain Plains Adult Education Association Conference last spring in Colorado. Following their presentations, we eagerly purchased both books.

Leading with Soul

In their book Leading with Soul, Terry Deal and Lee Bolman try to apply ancient concepts of spirituality and morality to the current climate of the business world where Sophism runs rampant. Deal and Bolman, both authors, professors and consultants, do a great job of outlining the moral and spiritual vacuum in our society that prompted them to write this book. Their narrative device follows the traditional format of many parables of a mystical or spiritual nature - the conversations between a seeker and a sage. It is here, in our opinion, that the book fails.

The narrative centers on Steve Camden, a high-powered executive stuck in a traditional leadership role and up against a wall in his career and his personal life. Steve's boss sends him to meet with Maria, a mysterious person who had built a huge reputation for herself in the business world before becoming a mystical recluse. Steve's relationship with Maria is the journey that forms the core of the book as she prompts him to find himself and thereby revitalize his flagging company. At the heart of the seeker-meets-sage format lies the persona of the sage. Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan and the archetypal Sufi's teacher-on-the-road represent enlightened beings. The character of Maria falls short of that standard. She comes across more like a New Age psychoanalyst than an enlightened being. This makes the whole format of the book seem contrived and forced. We believe the authors were trying for Carlos Castaneda but unfortunately ended up with Jonathon Livingston Seagull. The dialogues sound the way we imagine two social scientists might imagine dialogues with an enlightened being, for example when Maria tries to show Camden "Leadership comes from the hearts of leaders":

Aren't you their leader?

He paused and scanned the snow-covered landscape.

See the branches sinking under the weight of the snow? he asked.

Yes. …