What Is Leadership?

I spent the better part of two days watching the Global Leadership Summit at a satellite location. I have three reflections. 
  1. I am not sure that we should abstract leadership as something to study. Everyone that spoke had a different measure of what made great leaders. No theme became evident. Having been to the summit before and read several books and articles in the last couple of years on leadership, to me no unifying theme has emerged. One feeling has emerged. I am less and less confident of my leadership ability the more I hear about leadership. I should probably stop learning about leading.
  2. Emerging from the mire is this:
  1. Leaders learn. Mostly by listening and other less important means.
  2. Leaders do something. The something is probably new in their environment and based on their learning. There are not certain outcomes.
  • My best thoughts after the summit circle around values. I think I am merging thoughts from Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni.  I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what simply stated core values inform all our decisions. I have spent more time thinking about how we communicate them to the community. We have core values that guide most of our decisions, but they could be clearer. I also woud like to see us empower more people to use simply stated core values to make decisions. I have also been noodling around about my own simply stated personal core values.
  • I am ready for there to be more people around so I can listen to them. Then I can do something.

    Functionalism And The Least Of These

    There is no quick fix to the problems facing people who do not start on equal footing in this world. As someone who believes we are all neighbors, and who believes that each of us was created with something to offer the body it is essential that I try first by loving my neighbor.

    I am not sure that functionalists would agree. Everything is about the individual and what the individual can achieve. Even when placed in a group the individuals status as a group member is what makes it important, not the group itself. This view of the world rings false.

    People in very different spots in life from myself have offered much to me, if only I listen at accept them as my brother or sister. If I create a space people will open up to the depth that all people are created for, a depth that reflects the love that created and redeems each of us. The best I can do for my students is bring them into community with this truth as well.

    How do you show students justice your context? How do you bring your students into relationship with the least of these? Do you think it important to relate your students to the broader context of the subjects you teach? As a science teacher I was taught about interacting with concepts, inquiry, experimenting. How should I apply these concepts to teaching my students about how physics should impact their treatment of everyone on Earth? Am I having the interact and explore how to me more just members of the world with their knowledge? I hope so.

    Segment Four Reflection

    Henry Giroux, Education Incorporated?
    I think there is one largely overlooked piece that corporate America underestimated on its way to dominate schools: that information finds a way. Open source brings the power of the crowds to bear against the power of many corporate interests. The wikipedia, moodle, blogs, and RSS stand as a bastion of freedom against product placement, textbook publishers and those who would control our kids and their education for their profit.

    Competitiveness rather than community; commodification of knowledge rather than coherence and creative synthesis: these are fruit of an evil spirit. In what concrete ways might your school demonstrate, in the “nuts and bolts” of the teaching-learning process, fruit that grows on the tree of the Holy Spirit?
    I think my school has done a ton to emphasis community. The next thing that they could attack to reducecompetition is change how we sasign grades. This needs to be based less on two things: work done and big stakes tests. It needs to be based more on what student understand. In our school one of the ways we are moving towards this is with one to one laptop program. It allows you see deeper into what kids are thinking and their participation in what happens. It allows you to work together and evaluate individually.

    Jean Anyon, The economic is political.
    Poverty is real in America. For many years I have attended a church with great economic diversity. I quickly learned that no one works harder than the poor in America. Often with two jobs per adult (if there are two adults) and childcare and other pressures there is little time or money for involvement in any community. I remember once sitting in a council meeting discussing how the church council did not represent all incomes in the church. Later that night I was tired, I had worked 10 hours at school that day and the council meeting was going on into its fourth hour. As we discussed nominations for council time after time people who worked two jobs were taking their names out of the running. They could not meet in the evenings, they worked. I wondered to myself if I had put 80 hours in at a manual labor minimum wage job if I would even want to be at a 4 hour deliberative council meeting. My answer was obvious. I work a 56 hour a week classroom and desk job. I could not handle 4 hours.

    Education is a piece of the answer. Being deliberative and discerning are skills that we should teach. I worry though that the skills that need to be taught are exactly the skills that politics is demanding we not teach. Politicians rarely want thinking voters. That is why the push for standards that teach facts and algorithms instead of thought and discernment. Being thoughtful about time and money are things that can reduce dependence on two jobs.

    Are these concerns too political for schools to address? Or is it also to take a political stance to refuse to address them?
    Yes to both. Sitting pat is a political skill and tactic that is used incredibly effectively in America. Earlier we read an article that showed us that you cannot teach without values. This truth lead us to know that you cannot teach without a political value coming through. I think this has a ton to do with the push for standards. No one want to loose the battle for the perspective that things are taught from. Unfortunately we then land on our students only getting the least common most agreeable facts. This is politically expedient because it leads to non-understanders, who vote the way the best media tells them too.

    Must matters of social justice await consideration until the later levels of schooling, because they require developed cognitive capacities? Or, touching affective, evaluative, and discerning capabilities, should they be addressed at all levels, by seeking to inculcate tendencies, habits, dispositions, or virtues that are life-enhancing?
    I think that all issues should be address at all levels. I think that as long as you interesct with the subject at all you will be developing a sense of the justice issue. Take you five year olds to the mission. Allow your students to hear from other cultures and continents. That alone will expose students to the learning about justice that you want.

    Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed, 180-200.

    “Knowing the world in love is the only viable alternative to a knowing aimed at objective mastery. But such knowing is never divorced from doing” (p. 196). What are the implications of such an “epistemology of love” for curriculum, instruction, assessment, etc?

    There are two parts that work in contrast to each other. How we treat others and how we are treated. Right now in schools we need to treat our students right. This is doubly difficult because society as represented by our politicians is trying it hardest to destroy schooling. By destroy I mean make it as cheap and generic and ineffective as possible.

    “Biblical wisdom is the tracing of the divine wisdom of creation. Such wisdom—such an understanding of things in their interrelatedness—is in short supply in [our] fragmented culture….” (p. 198). How may your curriculum be structured so as to better reflect this interrelatedness?
    We have to go beyond the basics and look at much more and look at it from every perspective in the room. No options, even if it seems ineffective or ridiculous.

    Jeannie Oakes & Martin Lipton, Policy and law, 429-457.
    What is the impact in your own school setting of the spirits and forces Oakes and Lipton discuss?
    We feel pressure from ACT, SAT and AP more than NCLB. However it rarely drives our curriculum. Our students can get through the Michigan standards pretty quickly and move on to the real stuff of teaching and learning.

    Whether or not Kimberly Min’s third grade students knew what her question about “science” meant, her claim that “an inclusive curriculum” is a social justice issue deserves consideration. (In a Christian school, this extends to the question of how one includes a Christian perspective in a skewed or crowded curriculum; for a Christian teacher in any setting, it is the question of how one respects the interrelatedness of creation that displays God’s wisdom.) Taking your cue from her example, what are some steps you have taken and could take to make your curriculum more inclusive?
    I have been adding a lot of talk of energy on the grand scale into physics as we talk about it on the micro level in the book. I am not sure that this matches the genius of Ms. Min. I am also always seeking to mkae students more aware of the digital literacy that they need to be aware of as we use online resources and engagement.

    Segment Three Reflection

    Segment Three Reflection

    Nicholas Wolterstorff, The world for which we educate.
    I really like this statement, "Christian education is to equip and energize our students for a certain way of being in the world, not just a way of thinking... not one of your standard American ways of being."

    In what ways might giving students access to a range of symbol systems or literacies also be thought of as attuning them to and empowering them for the demands of justice?
    I think that anything we do to help our students see the world from another perspective is excellent teaching.

    Edmund W. Gordon with Carol Bonilla-Bowman, Equity and social justice in educational achievement.
    I wonder this in the context of 2010: are we undermining even the modest goals of becoming middle class by our societal trend of degrading the achievements of the middle class? What good is schooling to a student if it leads to jobs that the politicians accuse of being filled with lazy and overpaid people? In my context this is less of a problem because there is an appeal to Christ who expects us each to draw nearer to Him and not avoid improving as we do that.

    John Rawls. Rawls’ theory is founded on two principles. The first states that,
    Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all”
    the second holds that:
    social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they both (a) are to the greatest benefit to the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality and opportunity.
    How well do you think Rawls’ view comports with a biblical perspective on justice?
    I think that it gets close. I think that the only part missing is some individual choice. I think that one of the hardest things for Christians to deal with is that Jesus loves everyone. Jesus gives his love to people who will spend their whole lives in luxury and to those who will live on less than a dollar a day. This often does not seem fair to either group, nor any of the groups in between. So I think that part (a) stick out as a non-equality. Everyone, no matter their position, deserves the best education.

    What difference should the biblical concept of “will” make to the goals and practices of a Christian teacher?

    I think it allows us to understand that each student make s a choice to follow us or not. Since we know this is part of who they are we can and should prepare for it and not be surprised by it.

    What opportunities and constraints do you see in your own environment in terms of meeting these goals?

    I do not think that the tests can measure what we are teaching anymore. Our goals go so far into creativity and discernment and other muddy messy areas where there is no right answer but discussion and thoughtful response. I think this is the real tragedy of the tests, they do not measure anything important.

    David Tyack & Larry Cuban, Policy cycles and institutional trends. In Tinkering to Utopia, 40-59

    Schools will never arrive because before some schools have ever gotten the memo about reform others are out front doing the next thing. A second problem for schools is that they are one of the main drivers of society and culture. There will always be a fight over their control and direction because of this. That means that as the political wind blows so will the goals of schooling, making for new target all the time.

    Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire, 216-219.
    "And if their imagination is shaped by the life of that community, its literature, poetry, music and art -- and most foundationally, its subversive narrative of a kingdom that turns the value of the empire on their heads -- then that liberated imagination will, we pray, engender a liberated child." (page 217).

    You are all teachers. How would you answer the question of why you are “playing the educational game of schooling?”

    I teach to bring the type of education engender in the quote above to the learners around me each day. This type of education is offered nearly nowhere else. It is an education I cannot offer to my children in every area, so I call on other teachers, in a school with those goals, to influence my children in areas outside my expertise. I call on them as well because they beautifully grow the community my children grow up in.

    In their conclusion, Walsh and Keesmaat acknowledge that schooling will continue; what in their critique of current practice and their convictions about the proper goals of education can you take on board in your own professional setting? What would you reject?

    I take the goal of making kingdom builders and creative thinkers. I take the goal of guiding creativity instead of producing workers. I love what they had to say beyond this: there is a point at which I cannot do all this myself because I simply do not know enough. My children will have to hear this from others who are trying to make them into the creative people God would have them be.

    Eric Schaps, Victor Battistich, & Daniel Solomon, Community in school as key to student growth: Findings from the Child Development Project. Articulate the philosophical commitments underlying the project, summarize the research findings, and reflect on the implications for your own school setting. Consider in particular the significance of academic achievement as a measure of success in the context of other goals that schools should have as prime socializing institutions.
    The underlying philosophies of community education emphasized in this article are:
    1. Respectful, supportive relationships among students, teachers,and parents.
    2. Frequent opportunities to help and collaborate with others.
    3. Frequent opportunities for autonomy and influence.
    4. Emphasis on common purposes and ideals.
    They obviously consider academic achievement important but it is not fundamental to what they are doing. They think that if you teach content in the context of these philosophies then the content will be learned better and students will achieve other more lasting benefits from the education. They also backed this up with research and following students for many years afterwards. I think ideas one and four are essential for a Christian school, in fact I am not sure you can have one without those benefits. In the end each Christian school should at some level have Jesus and a common ideal. Any school that is chosen by parents and teachers (and in most cases sacrificed for) will have a good shot at good relationship between these elements. Two and three are much less common, but are an endeared species other places in education. These are choices that a school has to make. In our school we have a one to one laptop program because of the ability to collaborate and individually and creatively respond to learning.

    Segment Two Reflections

    Segment Two Reflections

    Can faith in education literally, and not merely figuratively, be considered an idol? (And could it become an idol even in the Christian school?)

    I think the question was answered before it was asked with the great phrase, "where there is not faith in God, a substitute will be found." I think it is the nature of life to have fundamental beliefs. Many educators of many faith backgrounds feel called to the profession. If you are not grounded in one faith you will find another, an idol, to replace what God would have you believe. 

    Stanley Hauerwas, Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: Schooling the heart in the heart of Texas. As you read, think about how his general claims about American society and the church’s relation to it, as well as his specific claims about the goals and shape of the university curriculum, might apply in your own school situation.
    Hauerwas sets up the conundrum that all Christians face. How do each of us use the gifts and talents given to us by God in gratitude for what God has done? He gives an answer in the context of Butler, and in general which is: stand for something. I think we should stand for something. I also think that humans are each given vastly different talents and gifts. Two Christians might stand for very different ideas.  I think we have to become more comfortable with the irresolution of this problem, not less. Our personal rootedness in Christ will produce the fruit that God's Kingdom needs near us. 

    With an expansive view of “moral” in mind (as the ethical environment in its multi-dimensionality), what would you say are some of the moral issues raised by the structure of schooling, with respect to the general patterns in your society, and its specific form in your own local setting? Are “disciplinary divisions” that promote fragmentation a problem at your level of schooling?

    I think in America today the number one moral issue raised by the structure of schooling is access. We are not providing the best education to the most kids. In fact for most we are providing only a basic education based on increasingly watered down national standards. On top of that, the more likely you are to need a great education the less likely you are to get it.

    As you read, reflect on what other societal forces are at work, along with the demands of capitalism, to subvert the commitment to equality. And, besides equality, to what other goals might (public) schools be seen to be – and ought they to be – oriented? David Tyack & Larry Cuban, Progress or regress? Tinkering to Utopia, pp. 12-39.
    I think that they are quite fair if not erring a little on the harsh side in their assessment of public education. We have asked the public schools to do amazing things that we have asked of almost no other institution. Integration, parenting, test scores, citizens and job preparation all with little or no increase in funding. It is a wonder anything get done, let alone well.

    In your professional context, do you have evidence to support Tyack and Cuban’s claim? Based on your experience and reading, what are some of the larger societal forces at work to militate against reform?
    I think people are trusting their local schools less and less. The message we hear so often that education is so broken is hard to not apply locally. I my specific case I think the opposite true. I feel support from everyone, especially those who take the time to come in and see what is happening rather than rely purely on what they hear in the community and from their students. I think change needs to happen locally, but that the purse strings are moving further away from local, making change harder.

    People seem to be less and less willing to pay for things that do not directly benefit them. This may just be a symptom of the economy, but I think it is a bigger issue. Of course this makes public education a hard sell because fully two thirds of tax payers do not get a direct benefit from it (people who do not have children, people whose children are out of the system, and those who opt out of the system).

    “Many policymakers have narrowed the currency of educational success to one main measure – test scores – and reduced schooling to a means of economic competitiveness both personal and national” (p. 34). If this is as true today (!) as it was in 1995, what steps can be taken at the local level to combat this trend?
    Test scores are even more important today. Because the standards are forever getting weaker as they nationalize the tests are also getting easier (no one tell the politicians). I think the solution is this simple. We know there is a better way to teach than to a test. We know that kids taught the better way will do fine on the tests. Believe this. Change and prove that it is true. Another part of this is that every politician who votes for a test needs to take the test the same day as the kids and post results of the test on the web.

    Tyack and Cuban believe it is evident “that the public schools need to do a better job of teaching students to think, not just in order to (supposedly) rescue an ailing economy but to serve broad civic purposes as well” (p. 38). Why, or why not, should “teaching students to think” be central to the mission of schools?

    It should be as long as schools are teaching them to use the thinking skill they have been gifted to them by God.

    Terence J. Lovat & Neville D. Clement, The pedagogical imperative of values education.

    Values are fundamental to excellent teaching.

    H. Svi Shapiro, A parent’s dilemma: public vs. Jewish education.
    I think his argument for Jewish education comes down to it having a much better chance than his local public school of creating in his daughter what values he would like to see. If I read it right this comes down to him believing that the public school is based in materialism and individualism and that does not mesh with his view of the world where he would like his daughter be concerned with the dignity of others. This is the harsh critique of public school that he was trying to avoid. He is saying what we all know, school is based in values. Currently the most common denominator in America is material goods and looking out for yourself. If you want other values you have to seek out other than public schooling.

    Your responses to Shapiro’s article may differ, perhaps depending on which kind of school you work in, among other factors. But this is also a “critical social issue”, for individual students, parents, and society as a whole. What arguments would you employ in support of public policies that would address this issue (which is obviously multi-faceted)?

    I think I would change the values of public education by getting rid of all national standards, all standardized tests and only allowing college and universities to accept students on interview. All of this would serve the purpose of putting the focus back on giving students experiences that form each one into what God would have each be (or in secular terms finding each student's best talents and growing them). That in turn could not avoid in part their connectedness to each other, part of what it is to be human and what is robbed of us in making each child experience exactly the same thing and have the same goals.

    Session 1 Reflections

    The Biblical nature of humaness.

    I think there are three fundamental pieces to humanness. All humans belong to God. All humans break God's heart each day. All humans are called to help each other through their brokenness. We are loved by God no matter what and because of that perfect model we help others see that. 

    Treating students justly.

    Treating students justly involves knowing them for who they are. Treating them as equal viewpoints on the world while challenging them to learn more and perceive the world with new perspectives. The reason this is important is that students need very much to learn how to help others in their brokenness. Without that they will not be able to understand their relationship to God or the impact of God's Love on themselves. It gets harder to do this without their help as they develop their own understanding of the world. You need to rely on their willingness to engage you and subject matter. However, the alternative is that they do not engage you and the content matter and never learn at all, but rather are just in the presence of facts.

    Reflections on Richard Pring, Education as a moral practice

    What a refreshing perspective on education. I see a lot of polarization in opinion today and education is no different. The camp in education seem to be back to the basics and let each child find her own way. This really sunk in when he said, "There is the “impersonal” level—the narratives within science or history or literature wherein ideas are preserved, developed, criticised within a public tradition. But there is the “personal” level at which young people try to make sense of the world and the relationships around them and at which they find, or do not find, valuable forms of life to which they can give allegiance. This personal narrative is where young people seek to understand who and what they are, partly, of course, in relation to other people and to the wider society." (page 112) There will be new stuff to learn. If a learners never applies that to her own unique perspective, then really nothing was learned. This speaks really strongly in favor of Christian education where we seek to gain knowledge for the sake of applying it in process of, "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) If that knowledge does not translate into better following Gods word, then it will fail you. "I wish to argue that what makes sense of the curriculum, in educational terms, is that it is the forum or the vehicle through which young people are enabled to explore seriously (in the light of evidence and argument) what it is to be human. Such an exploration has no end. That is why teaching should be regarded as a moral practice." (page 112)

    Reflections on Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen & David Van Heemst, Widening ways of justice, economy, and peace.

    I am not sure that this reading helped me to be more hopeful for education becoming more just. The needs in the third world as far as debt relief and development are great and the authors are hopeful that things will move, and they have a plan. I think they have an advantage on people who want to change education. Their advantage is that no one, no matter their polotics or religion, can look at poverty and think it is ok. In the United States there are many groups who have many thoughts about education, and many of these groups do not even see a problem. Just to name two powerful groups who see education as not having a problem: the educational industrial complex (publishers, textbook makers, unions, school architects, etc...) and the, "it was good enough for me it is good enough for my kids" parents. It is not even close to universally accepted that there is a justice issue, and until there is change is a much less possible.

    I think that teaching is a way of life because I think it reflects one of the fundamental human characteristics. It seems to me that some vocations, ones that society in general holds in different esteem, directly reflect and tend to fundamental human characteristics. Farmers care for the earth, lawyers and accounts seek fairness, politicians seek community, doctors care for our bodies, and teachers tend to our nature to learn and explore. Hogan says, "the effort to experience teaching as a way of life means joining a recurrent if not continual struggle: a struggle between higher forms of human freedom and influences which continually threaten that freedom with overt or more subtle forms of captivity." (page 221) That is not much different than a farmer fighting weeds to grow food, a doctor fighting a cancer or a lawyer fighting for fairness.

    Hogan is an Irish academic writing in the context of the British Isles. What evidence do you see in your own context for the ascendancy of performativity?

    I see two main evidences of an increase in efficiency in the schools around me. Class sizes  and teacher responsibilities have been going up steadily throughout my career. The idea that the same teacher can tend to more students in the same way is not logical yet is maintained by policy makers everywhere. Teachers used to be free to offer extras as they saw the need to meet student needs. Some minimum numbers of extras are now required. Second, our input into what and how we teach has been going steadily down. This is not true in my specific case where test score stay high no matter what and the state has less say in what happens. However it has made my teaching less rich because my colleagues who would have enriched my teaching are busy working towards really good test scores.

    Hogan suggests that “the dispositions to action that characterise teaching as a way of life” – the “practical virtues” of teaching – include: 

    an alert appreciation that ‘real knowledge is the property of God’ and a corresponding consciousness of the inherent limitations of even the best of human enquiries; an acknowledgement of both the modesty and the ever-emergent prospects that befit learning as an unfinished and unfinishable undertaking; a realisation that the most promising and most defensible purposes of teaching are to be found in connection with this larger undertaking; the self-critical insight that teaching is itself a form of learning-anew with others, where the teacher acts as listener, questioner, instructor, guide and as a responsible and caring leader; the awareness that differences in capability, in aptitude and in sense of identity complicate but also enrich what is to be understood as equity and appropriateness in educational experience; an appreciation of the point that in a genuine community of learners a distinctive ethos arises in an unforced way; a critical awareness that knowledge as assertive mastery, or as individualist power, or as coercive prowess, works—behind the scenes as it were—to undermine such an ethos. (p. 221) 

    Would you take issue with Hogan’s admittedly partial list of the “practical virtues” of teaching? Are there other virtues you believe should have greater prominence than those he lists?

    I like his list. Particularly powerful in my estimation is realizing that you are a co-learner with everyone else in the room, even when some institution has decided to call you a teacher. This leads me to add or emphasize this point: the relationship you build will change you as well. As you lead others to be richer people so will you become richer.


    This semester I am taking another course at Calvin College. Education 510 Advanced Foundations in Education is its name and it is online. As part of that I am required to think about certain topics or reading along the way. I am sharing them here. They will be posted under the tag reflection, as that is the professors word for the assignment, the tag learning as all of my learning is posted under this, and EDUC510 because there are three other assignments that will posted here as well. The professors question or prompts will be in italics, and my answers in regular text.