Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Leadership Standards: Marginalizing Diversity

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Leadership Standards: Marginalizing Diversity

Article excerpt


This article adopts a macro perspective on the role of leadership standards to comment on the sociological impact of their implementation. Where the growing diversity of learners in Canadian schools has invited a pluralism of ideas, research methods and approaches to learning, leadership standards induce increasingly homogenized responses to complex learning environments. Using a Constructionist theory of knowledge and Foucault's conceptualization of power, this article asserts leadership standards subordinate the agency of educational leaders. This article will be of interest to educators and educational leaders who must balance administrative priorities with increasingly diverse learner needs.

Keywords: leadership; diversity; leadership standards; organizational theory

1. Introduction

"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly by the chain of their own ideas" (Foucault, 1979, p. 102). This is a paper that works to establish how diverse individual understandings that contribute to pluralism in research are overwritten by the normative influences of leadership standards. The scholarship and theory in Educational Administration (EA) ought to be what advances the practice of education administration in schools, because at its best it is a collection of competing lenses that have a pervasive impact on how educators see and frame problems. Schools are complex, and when competing methods of enquiry are harnessed to support contribution to practice, they help develop another generation of leader-citizenry. However, the conduct of education is also subject to ideological influence, and I believe leadership standards represent a particularly insidious form of interference. This observation is a statement not only of my own perspective and paradigmatic commitments, but also the methodological biases my particular forms of enquiry construct and insistupon. When ideology subverts experimentation and responsible risk-taking, and where reasonable people mimic the actions of others instead of openly debating ideas on merit, I suggest that leadership standards will have achieved their purpose.

2. Metaphor Shapes Perception and Practice

A metaphor or theory of schools has a profound impact on what we look for and how we see them. Sergiovanni (1994) challenged us to think of schools as communities rather than simply organizations. If we think of schools as organizations, it is understandable because as the author reminds us, that is where "educational administration borrows its fundamental frames for thinking about how schools should be structured and coordinated, how compliance within them should be achieved, what leadership is, and how it works" (p. 215). An industrial framework will provide one understanding of motivation, conflict and collaboration, and community another. The author cautions that applying a frame of 'community' onto something that is understood underneath as an organization is different than originally framing it as a community. English (2008) asserts these 'linguistic conceptual systems' are critical to our individual understandings based within culture. He cited work by Lakoffand Johnson (1980), and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, as ways to understand how culture and language construct reality, impact cognition and reinforce previously established worldviews.

The impact of metaphor is not limited to our conception of schools, but instead actively shapes our worldview in all that we do. "Such metaphors profoundly, and often unconsciously determine our attitudes to the world, to people, to events and to actions (Bates, 1982, p. 13). English (2008) describes how language, causality and context are self-reinforcing, and the "external world is 'trimmed' to 'fit' the 'worldview' of the perceiver" (p. 54). Although a cliché to frame human cognition in a computer metaphor, our cognitive patterns might be thought of as an operating system running certain software. …

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