Alternative Approaches To Educational Leadership

Alternative Approaches To Educational Leadership

Even recently, men sustain their dominance in the field of public education and women remain underrepresented in school administration despite their numbers in teaching and in school leadership preparation programs. Thus men define what it means to manage and lead schools and school systems. Their assumptions, beliefs, and values constitute that which has been held as natural and normative.


This is not to say that women have not voiced their ideas and opinions about establishing and managing educational organizations. The voices of women, however, have been sporadic. With the civil rights and feminist movements begun in the 1960s through the present, women and minorities have increasingly assumed leadership positions, thus gaining greater access to previously male-dominated arenas. By integrating into school administration, women and minorities have brought alternative approaches to educational leadership, and have recast the meaning of management and leadership for all aspirants.


My aim in this paper is to support the recasting of traditionally held notions of educational management, beginning with the premise that these meanings are male-engendered constructions. Rather, my objective is to craft an alternative device for probing the notion of educational management as gendered.


To argue that management is a gendered construction is to posit that there is one gender – male or female – that defines and dominates the discourse in the field of study.


In the case of American management, three lines of argument demonstrate how that gender historically has been male. First, early management theories were developed primarily by men. The theory emphasized standardization, economic incentives, expertise in large organizations, time motion studies, worker productivity and concentrated on administrative management, proposing top down control through functions like planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling.


Second, men held leadership positions. For varying reasons, men dominated the field with more numbers of white males in leadership positions than women or minorities. The higher up the organization one goes, the fewer women one finds. As in business administration, gender stratification is also evident in educational administration. Although women comprise a majority of the nation’s public school teaching force – 70 percent of all elementary, middle school and secondary teachers are women, most school administrators are men. This statistic is even more bewildering given that women make up at least half of the enrollees in educational administrator preparation programs. Women’s participation in such programs suggests that the underrepresentation of women in school administration is less related to their lack of aspiration toward positions of leadership than toward structural and cultural barriers to women’s integration, such as opportunities for advancements and appropriate “fit” for administration.


Third, because men were the incumbents of leadership positions, social science research on organizations has largely examined the male experience. Male leaders have been objects of study with male researchers directing the nature and type of study as well. Moreover, this research on and for white males has been generalized in ways that make their patterns of action the professional norm. Dominating management in theory, incumbency, and research, white males shaped the assumptions, beliefs, and values that have become the underpinnings of leadership in organizations, often uncritically accepted and professionally standardized. A gendered construction of management becomes particularly problematic when the perspectives, concerns, interests of only one gender and one class are represented as general and a one-sided standpoint comes to be seen as natural and# obvious. Any conspicuous departure from those perspectives, concerns, and interests is viewed as deviant.


Women and minorities in leadership roles are forced to operate in terrain they did not create, negotiating the tensions between their professional and personal selves.


Correcting this conceptual imbalance is necessary for several reasons. First, a field of study that does not include the experiences of historically marginalized people is limited, and less complete, accurate, or valid than those that include them. The shift from an ethic of justice to an ethic of care suggests how the conception of morality might be expanded by taking women’s perspectives into account.


A second reason for correcting the imbalance is that scrutinizing what is taken for granted in a male dominated culture can transform those assumptions, beliefs, and values. In recent years, post-structuralist theories have contributed to exposing the contradictions of an androcentric culture. This body of theories reveals socially constructed meanings through language, and suggests ways in which competing language patterns might produce current notions of gender. Scrutinizing these established meanings is key to the transformative process. Posits that transforming knowledge about women involves changing our thinking, critiquing our actions, and reforming our institutions. But, the process begins with our thinking about the familiar and recasting what has been assumed in new ways.


Third, a feminist theory of administration offers useful reform and revitalization in current management practices. While there is rationale for understanding management as a gendered construction and for correcting a male-bias in definition, unraveling such a construction can be difficult without the support of analytic devices that partition key aspects of the phenomenon. At the same time, such devices should retain the composite nature and wholeness of the phenomenon.


Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.



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