Chapter 6

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Chapter Excerpts

In a world of rapid and increasing mobility, of climate change, natural disaster including flood and famine, of economic crisis and interdependence, I believe it is important to foster in our students a sense of global curiosity, global understanding, and global responsibility. To do so, transformative leaders need to raise the awareness of all students about their own identity, their interconnectedness with students around the world, and ways in which what happens in one part of the world affect us all. (p. 88)

For students to be able to see themselves as engaged citizens of the world (as Socrates did), transformative educational leaders must help them to develop a sense of self that is empowered and empowering, that permits them to empathize with those less fortunate, and to decide when and how to act for mutual benefit. In other words, we must develop agentic human beings—knowledgeable about their ability to act, as well as cognizant of when and how to do so in ways that are helpful and not patronizing or hegemonic. (p. 88)

I am arguing that there is a considerable (but subtle) distinction between providing a socially just education for students and offering a social-justice education—which is, in fact, one goal of a transformative educational leader. The former implies that the learning environment, organizational structures, and educational opportunities experienced by students offer equity of both access and outcomes to all students and is an essential first step. The latter incorporates these elements, but goes further, implying that students are again taught in a socially just institution, taught about social (in)justice in the world, and are prepared for taking a stance against injustice wherever it may be encountered. If we wish to offer an education that is truly transformative—that focuses on both individual intellectual development and collective social awareness, on both private and public good, then it is incumbent on school leaders to ensure that both are included in the conversations and reflections about the goals and purposes of education. In turn, this will help us to prepare students who better understand the relationships between a well-educated middle class and a free, prosperous, safe, and inclusive global society (whether we use the term “democratic” or not). (pp. 89–90)

Supplemental Chapter Resources

Zak

Zak had had a long career as a trainer for a national non-profit company prior to moving to a higher education setting. During his non-profit years, he worked to provide additional services to low-income senior citizens as well as to offer mandatory training to young adults who needed to learn to work with senior citizens. His lessons prompt reflection on what and how we teach. After dealing repeatedly with a student who seemed disengaged, always tardy, unmotivated and impenetrable. In fact, Zak’s supervisor had suggested he take steps to “get rid of him” and not permit him to complete the training.

Zak, however, refused to give up on him, and so, on the day of their final conference, taking a deep breath, Zak looked him in the eyes, and said, “Donald I believe in you. I know that you can do this job and find some stability in your life. I will not give up on you, but you have to care about yourself at least as much as I care about you.”

Zak reports that, on the day of the exam, Donald arrived early and neatly dressed, and said, “whatever happens today I want to thank you for believing in me. No one has ever given me a chance and that is an easy expectation to live up to. I will do my best today.” Zak further reports that although Donald passed the exam with the thinnest of margins, he went on to be one of their best employees and to win awards for his “gentle and compassionate service to seniors.”

This incident is not only a hopeful story about the success of a recalcitrant student, but more, about the willingness of a teacher to persist, to seek the best in every student, and to communicate his belief, by saying “I will not give up on you.” Too often, classroom teachers encounter students who have already given up on themselves and we simply exacerbate the situation, in turn, by giving up on them. Zak’s lesson is similar to that of Sophie: “Believe in every student.” It does not cost a lot of money; it does not take a lot of fancy resources or new curricula; but it does take educators to give of ourselves.

Will you commit to doing the same?

Islamaphobia

Wikipedia describes Islamophobia as prejudice against, hatred, or irrational fear of Islam or Muslims and goes on to state that the term dates back to the late 1980s or early 1990s, but came into common usage after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. There is no doubt that the attacks that resulted in the deaths of almost 3000 people brought worldwide attention to radical Islamist groups, resulting in increased security and heightened mistrust of all Muslims worldwide. The challenge, of course, is to ensure that terrorism is prevented and/or punished without engaging in undue fear or profiling or painting everyone with the same brush.

I am reminded of the time I was working with a school principal on the Navajo reservation planning a discussion time to take place at an upcoming parent evening. We wanted to understand how the parents of students in his school thought about education and what their goals were for their children. At one point during our planning time, someone stated, “I wonder if they will all think the same”—to which I quickly responded, “Why should they? Do we?” Everyone stopped, reflected, and exclaimed, “Of course! How ridiculous of us!” And on subsequent visits to that school, I heard those educators challenging similar statements about possible homogeneity of perspective.

It is exactly because no ethnic or religious group is truly homogeneous that the television show airing in 2011–2012 entitled All American Muslim has the potential to further our understanding of the range of perspectives among American Muslims. Hence the decision of Lowes and other major American chain stores to pull advertising from the program was not only surprising but disturbing to those who are working to ensure that all those who have chosen to make the United States their home are truly included and accepted. Lowes called the program a lightning rod for conflict, a description that holds considerable truth given that a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association pushed advertisers to stop supporting the show and cheered the decision, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) decried the decision. Here, the question for educators is how to help students understand that differences exist in every religious group and that it is important to explore fairly and rationally claims that homogenize radical perspectives.