More Than Thoughts and Prayers: Social Justice Leadership Preparation

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School administrators often lack the preparation to recognize and act against educational injustices. This qualitative case study examines how a graduate-level educational leadership course at a private Christian university serving primarily white in-service teachers attempted to prepare administrators to be social justice leaders. Through interviews, course observations, and document analysis, this case study explores administrators' preparation for reflection and action across multiple dimensions of inequity, including personal, interpersonal, communal, systemic, and ecological. Findings indicate that participants consistently reflected across all dimensions, yet these reflections centered on surface-level inequities often without a systemic analysis of power and oppression. Deficit views on historically marginalized populations dominated participant discourse and reflection. Instead of educators being asked to consider their own role in creating and sustaining inequities in their classroom, school, and society, the course focused more on individuals being “good people” and loving students. Throughout the course discussions, assignments, and presentations, participants separated their personal actions from broader systems of power. Additionally, in both design and practice, the course provided only limited opportunities to develop skills to identify, respond to, and redress asymmetric systems of power. When considering the causes of continued educational inequities, participants either failed to consider their role in the upholding or dismantling of oppression, or they took on the role of white saviors. Throughout the course, participants made tenuous assumptions about developing future administrators’ capacity for praxis, including participants’ prior knowledge level and the degree to which educational equity was covered in other classes in the program. These assumptions resulted in several deficit perspectives about marginalized communities and falsely implied that specific knowledge and skills are not required to be social justice leaders. Using a social justice leadership as praxis framework to more fully understand administrator preparation, this research has significant implications for preservice teacher and administrator courses that focus specifically on injustice in education, and for educational leadership programs more broadly.