The ‘Crucified’ Leader: Cynicism, Fantasies and Paradoxes in Education

Abstract

In this paper we argue that transnational as well as national political demands and expectations on the educational field are contributing to (re)produce four ideological-based educational leadership discourses in the literature. In order to conceptualize these discourses, we turn to the work of Schmidt (Diagnosis I—Filosoferende eksperimenter. Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, 1999, On respect. Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, 2011) and Zizek (Mapping ideology. Verso, New York, 2000, The sublime object of ideology. Verso, New York, 2008a). On that basis we identify four dominant educational leadership discourses: (a) a personhood-based discourse, (b) a profession-based discourse, (c) a standard-based discourse, and (d) a resource-based discourse. These discourses have—as we will show—various consequences for the way we think and talk about education and educational leadership in our age. Using examples that stem from a project about educational leadership in Danish upper secondary school, we will illustrate how educational leaders’ beings and doings are ‘regulated’ by these discourses, which place them in a tension field where different and conflicting (ideological) fantasies seem to be played out. Then, we will discuss how these fantasies can be challenged and how we can think and speak more intellectually about education and educational leadership. By using the term intellectual we are referring to educational leaders’ ability as human beings to critically reflect on their contemporary doings and beings within and beyond the existing social order. Hopefully this can help them (and us) to establish new ways for discussing not only what educational leadership is and should be about, but also what it could be about.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The empirical data for this study stems from a study following a leader training program for educational leaders in Danish upper secondary schools. The program had 24 participants from different schools. The two authors have observed different parts of the program, including teaching sessions, group sessions, and organized network meetings. During the program we interviewed four educational leaders, and after the program ended we conducted a focus group interview with that group. Our data in this paper stem from these interviews, in which we talked to the leaders about how they experience the political demands and expectations they face.

  2. 2.

    With the term win–win politics we have seen how the neo-liberal agenda makes it difficult to embrace conflicting ideological views and makes it difficult to live out the idea about democratic pluralism. Within the neo-liberal agenda it becomes more difficult to acknowledging the constitutive character of social division, where no final reconciliation between adversaries can be reached (Mouffe 2013).

  3. 3.

    Fantasies are an unavoidable part of the reality. We can never escape them once and for all. Still, it can be argued that some fantasies seem to control us more than they should. That is, some fantasies are so absurd that they produce a lot of problems while at the same time providing us with (assumed) solutions to those problems.

  4. 4.

    The huge number of management books has spawned a ‘guru industry’ (Crainer 1998). It has been argued that this industry is part of the entertainment industry. The term guru refers to wise men or women who are seen as religious prophets (Pattison 1997), providing a vision of good and evil, heaven and hell, and salvation and damnation. Around the great gurus emerge a herd of homages and hagiologies, or writers of redemptive texts (Collins 2000).

  5. 5.

    Our “Leadership Cross” is inspired by Lars-Henrik Schmidt’s social-analytical thoughts and the way Schmidt is trying to configure and re-configure social tension fields between conflictual rationalities, logics, and perspectives.

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Hansen, D.R., Frederiksen, L.F. The ‘Crucified’ Leader: Cynicism, Fantasies and Paradoxes in Education. Stud Philos Educ 36, 425–441 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-016-9539-y

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Keywords

  • Educational leadership
  • Paradoxes
  • Cynicism
  • Tendencies
  • Fantasies and ideologies