Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Being a Courageous Educator and School Leader in an Era of Foolish Education Policy

“It takes courage to stand up to absurdity when all around you people remain comfortably seated. But if we need one more reason to do the right thing, consider this: The kids are watching us, deciding how to live their lives in part by how we've chosen to live ours." Alfie Kohn, "Encouraging Educator Courage," Education Week Online
In a post to Education Week entitled, "Encouraging Educator Courage" Alfie Kohn calls on educators to be courageous in the face of outrageous mandates and policies that are being foisted on their schools and districts in the name of education reform. While I would not encourage anyone to go as far as to put their jobs on the line, I do think we need to work to change mandates and policies with which we disagree, and that does not mean to quietly implement them without letting those who push them that we disagree.

Kohn points out one thing that courageous educators can do in the face of these mandates and policies; they can "dig deeper" which means asking the tough questions and not settling on just any answer that comes to us. We need to be critical of the reasons and evidence given to us just like would with any proposed idea or educational practice. It also means not accepting the arguments made from authority and power. If mandates and policy passed down to us are good for kids, then the burden of proof that that is so is on those proposing.

I also think Kohn is right when he says "too many educators have lost their capacity to be outraged by outrageous things. Handed foolish and destructive mandates, they respond by requesting guidance on how to implement them." Educators, like no time in the past, need to band together in the face of these destructive policies and make sure those who keep pushing these know our disagreement. We can't excuse ourselves from responsibility by simply saying, "We're just doing what we're told." As educators, we are committed to the children we serve, not those above.That's being a courageous educator and a 21st century education leader.  To read more of Alfie Kohn's post, check it our here: "Encouraging Educator Courage," Education Week Online


  1. Soldiers follow orders. Not teachers.

    Unfortunately with more and more urban school districts being like Chicago being shifted towards privatization of public education, I do understand why.

    One of my daughter's Special Ed teachers would routinely preface remarks to me, "You didn't hear it from me." She told me she was afraid of repercussions. At the same time she was trying to be a whistleblower. It's difficult to speak up when you feel you have no allies.

    This woman no longer is a teacher, and that is a bloody shame. She is one of two teachers who have tried to do the right thing by their students only to have principals sabotage their efforts.

    1. It's sad that education in our country has come to this. There's not dialogue regarding education policy just dictation. It is difficult to speak up and it does cost you politically. I can sleep better in the morning knowing I stood up for what I believed was in the best interest of kids. Thanks for sharing.