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Preparing educational leaders to embrace the "public" in public schools

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Purpose ‐ George Counts' classic 1932 speech asks, "Dare the school build a new social order?" This article proposes examining whether emerging school leaders are prepared to face this challenge and embrace the society-building responsibility at the core of public schooling. It aims to focus especially on students from homogeneous backgrounds, their capacity to address issues of diversity, and the extent to which their educational leadership program has prepared them to champion social justice within schools. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This study looks at emerging leaders in three master's level cohort programs in educational leadership at a state university in New England. It incorporates survey data, interviews, and document analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to organize and summarize the data. Open-ended questions and interviews were transcribed and coded, and program documents examined to identify overall purposes of educational leadership and evidence of diversity awareness. Findings ‐ Findings indicate these educational leaders are not adequately prepared to lead public schools toward a greater understanding of diversity or to help change the social order. They claim little responsibility for promoting social justice, especially when social change may challenge local norms. Responses indicate their perspective is not broad enough to understand fully the social responsibility Counts advocated. Research limitations/implications ‐ This study is limited to graduate students in New England, most of whom experience little diversity within their communities. Practical implications ‐ The study concludes with suggestions for educational leadership programs. Originality/value ‐ This study reveals the difficulties in preparing educational leaders to address the complexities of a diverse society ‐ difficulties arising both from their limited personal experience and from voids in their educational leadership program.
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Keywords: Educational administration; Equal opportunities; Leadership; Social justice

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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