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Leadership: Living with and working through Paradox

Hammersley-Fletcher, Linda and Schostak, John (2020) Leadership: Living with and working through Paradox. In: Paradoxes of Democracy, Leadership and Education: Struggling for social justice in the twenty-first century. Foundations and Futures of Education . Routledge. ISBN 9781138492967

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Abstract

Educators may position themselves in the role of technician, delivering simply what is demanded by the state and its education policies. For a technician, there may be puzzles to solve but it is clear that these are to be solved with the purpose of maintaining or improving the system – not changing it. Alternatively the educator may attempt to build a more facilitative, democratic approach to education which takes both learners and themselves into possibilities for ‘unknown’ curricular, where debate and contestation are ‘part and parcel’ of the way in which the world is conceived. In this model critical positions can be adopted and new insights formed and tested through debate and through practice. Life is however, more complex and unpredictable where there are multiple views concerning the nature of the ‘good’ and much trickier where there are multiple narratives about how to achieve the idea of the good society and the ‘purpose’, if any, of life. Paradox arises as an essential feature of such democratic approaches where it claims to be inclusive of all voices, views and narratives, no matter how different they appear to be. Kuhn (1970) referred to ‘paradigms’ (the way we come to understand and interpret the world around us) as composed of key texts, discourses and ways of seeing the world. Indeed, the way that we identify and determine the facts themselves ‘change’ according to the paradigm we adopt. Thus, when paradigms are under contest, knowledge becomes a site for paradox where competing ways of seeing are continually brought together as representing the ‘real’, views often, oscillating between the paradigms. For example, in education with its different etymological roots there is an oscillation between ‘rearing’ ‘training’ educare (the technician position) and ‘drawing out’ or ‘leading out’ educere (a more facilitative and unpredictable approach). If one follows a Kantian-style enlightenment where: “nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom; and the freedom in question is the least harmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters” (Kant 1784), then the focus is on the potential of the individual, a potential that involves free will and the dignity of equality with all others. Then education becomes fundamentally a democratic process requiring democratic forms of organisation to ensure all individuals are included in all matters.

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