African American Perspectives on Leadership in Schools: Building a Culture of Empowerment

By Tate, Kevin | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

African American Perspectives on Leadership in Schools: Building a Culture of Empowerment


Tate, Kevin, Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


African American perspectives on leadership in schools: Building a Culture of Empowerment

Foster, L., & Tillman, L. C. (2009). Lanham, Maryland: Rowan & Littlefield Education.

Introduction

Tillman and Foster's (2009) African American Perspectives on Leadership in Schools: Building a Culture of Empowerment is an edited volume that pulls together a wide range of historical, philosophical, pedagogical, cultural and data-driven viewpoints in a discussion of the ways schools can better educate African American students through a culture-centered, systemic approach to community-based empowerment. I think that this book may become a central source on this topic given its broad coverage and treatment of the subject matter. I read this book with "fresh eyes" so to speak, as this was a new paradigm for me. I also read it through my position as a White male, so it also had an affect on my own self-concept as a future counselor educator. From my perspective, this book did an effective job of balancing abstract notions of culture-centered education with practical examples of how this approach to education works. Even for someone like myself who does not focus their work on the field of educational administration, it follows a logical progression from historical context, to practical research, to theories of implementation. Although there are limitations in terms of the research included, I believe it will likely be an invaluable source for anyone who wants to understand or approach education and educational leadership from this perspective.

This book is comprised of three sections and 11 chapters. The first section covers the foundations of the African American approach to empowerment through leadership in the school setting. The second section presents series of qualitative studies that highlight how this approach relates to school leadership. The third section offers ideas for how to implement this approach in a systemic fashion. Although each chapter has a unique approach to the subject matter, the book has a natural progression and there are several themes that cut across all of them, all of which addressed the means by which African American perspectives on school leadership can lead to building a culture of empowerment.

I will communicate my review of this book by discussing three major themes of this volume: critical analysis and awareness, systemic involvement and leadership, and culture centered education, and will highlight specific examples of each theme. However these examples in no way cover all of the ways in which these themes appear. The examples were chosen as a way to clarify the overall foundation upon which this book is built. Additionally, I will provide a critique of these themes, discuss its limitations and offer recommendations related to this book.

Critical Analysis and Awareness

The foundation used by all of the authors in this book is a critical analysis of the history and current conditions that exist for African Americans in their K-12 educational experience and the leadership practices that improved these conditions. I found the historical contextualization to be a very effective way of showing that this approach is not an innovation, but rather an approach that is rooted in generations of transformative educational leadership practices in the African American community. The historical context highlighted in this book was initiated by telling the stories of two very successful African American educators--Ethel Thompson Overby and J. A. Mitchell (Chaper 1). Each of these pioneers recognized the power that education held to overcome the overt systemic oppression that was the norm for African Americans in the early 1900's. Both of them attained graduate degrees despite the systemic barriers, and imbued their practice as leaders with a belief in the inherent potential for African American students to achieve lofty academic goals. By giving this context and showing how these pioneers were successful in making meaningful changes, as well as describing how these narratives have been largely excluded from the literature on school leadership, an effective case is made to step back and critically analyze the assumptions on which leadership in K-12 schools is based. …

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