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Education's Leaders are Democracy's Midwives

On October 20, 2008, (the 149th birthday of John Dewey), as dean-in-residence at the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at George Mason University, I joined with the National Education Association to co-convene approximately 35 scholars and education association executives representing teachers, principals, superintendents, teacher educators, parents, and more from the Washington DC area for a national dialogue aimed at redefining school-based leadership.

We did this because:

· leadership makes a difference,

· leadership variables are among the least-well understood forces affecting students’ learning in schools.

· effective leadership is a co-developed or collaborative process that depends upon the engagement of every stakeholder in the teaching/learning process, and

· effective teachers stay and grow in schools in which they share and contribute to leadership decisions.

Notes were transcribed, thoughts about next steps were recorded and a paper was drafted by one team-member to memorialize the meeting. But within a few months of the meeting, I found myself invited to become dean and professor in a midsized state university in the Midwest and, sadly and ironically, the priority of the topic and continued meeting left DC with me.

During the fifteen years that have passed, factors we could barely imagine in 2008 have taken tolls on our systems, educators, students and families. Public education’s leaders were never prepared for this onslaught … and they are struggling without precedent, resources or public support.

This year, John Dewey would have turned 164; we need not only his leadership, but his historic clarity of the vital role of education in his day and in ours: “Democracy must be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.”

In 2009, my book Collaborative Leadership: Developing Effective Partnerships for Communities and Schools became a national bestseller and helped shape education and nonprofit leaders, leadership initiatives and leadership development programs around the world. Today, the Institute for Collaborative Leadership (ICL) exists as a resource to support your efforts to build and renew leadership in your schools, districts and communities.

Democracy demands it … our children deserve it. Let’s talk and explore how, together, we can renew and strengthen the education you provide.

Interested? Please contact me directly at