The Politics of Education

Its Development and What Is Needed for the Future for Advocacy Leadership in a Post-Racial America

Authored by: Rosemarie Lerma , Matthew Linick , April Warren-Grice , Laurence Parker

Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415657457
eBook ISBN: 9780203076934
Adobe ISBN: 9781135128432


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A plethora of issues related to finance, diversity and equity, accountability and other challenges has shaped the context and field of the politics of education. In the broadest sense, politics permeates education (Cooper, Cibulka, & Fusarelli, 2008). This occurs at several levels, ranging from forms of political relationships with special interest groups, to social and economic contexts which have a political impact K-12 and higher education. The intent of this chapter is to provide an overview of the politics of education both in the ways in which this has played out in the political and policy arena, and how it has also developed in the field itself. The politics surrounding issues such as NCLB accountability and standards-driven reform, the increasing privatization of public education, legal issues, and civil rights claims of students of color and low income students, gender inequality and discrimination against LBGT students, anti-immigrant backlash, shrinking budgets affecting teachers and curriculum, all have emerged as contentious political topics of debate regarding the direction of educational policy in the United States with global implications. Part of this chapter will examine these issues within the broader context regarding how political trends influence the direction of education and policy development and implementation. We will also make a connection to how politics of education scholars have tried to make theoretical and empirical sense of these political issues and place them in various strands of analysis. This leads us to also discuss what is missing from both the politics of education, and as it is studied as a field; and for this perspective we rely on critical race theory as an example of what needs to be included and address the ways in which this analysis is important to the study of the politics of education. Finally, we will make recommendations in terms of combining this new addition of critical race theory (CRT) to the politics of education. We posit that by bringing CRT into the discussion about the politics of education, it will help serve the purpose of linking it to advocacy leadership. This type of leadership has important implications for educational leaders in terms of making political and policy decisions for the benefit of students and communities who have faced political and social barriers to full and equitable educational attainment and achievement (Alemán, 2006, 2007; Anderson, 2009; Lopez, 2003; Marshall & Olivia, 2009). Education and politics fundamentally involve the study of interactions among interest groups at the macropolitics (e.g., educational organizations) and micropolitics (e.g., schools and students) levels. Given the aforementioned contentious political issues affecting education, we believe that educational leaders are at a strategic point in time where they can review the previous theoretical work in the field, take what it has to offer, but also incorporate newer theoretical frameworks such as CRT in order to provide a perspective around critical political decisions that impact students and families in a diverse society.

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