In this chapter, Greenleaf speaks about the role of the servant in education and how we might begin or continue examining our assumptions. Although it’s a great topic for the chapter I was left wondering about the scope. I resonated with much of what Greenleaf offered yet was left yearning for an application of his concepts to the multiple levels of the educational system.

As an educator in a post-secondary system, I too often find myself asking questions regarding our purpose, value, direction, and impact. All too often I find myself teaching others in the technical aspects of my trade for the explicit purpose of “passing an exam”. Greenleaf suggests, while standing on the shoulders of another, the ultimate direction of education should be different. Simply put Greenleaf believes there are two liabilities facing educators;

  1. They [educators] have assumed the role of credentialing. (conferring degrees)
  2. Collegiate education has become over-commercialized.

I would agree in principle to his assertions yet I find myself asking the question, “did education assume or was it affianced to the credentialing process?”. There’s no question about the commercialization of education…education is big business and for many, business is good.

The chapter begins with Greenleaf’s assertion of three ‘faults’ in the educational enterprise;

  1. The refusal to offer explicit preparation for leadership to those who have the potential for it.
  2. The general attitude of educators toward social mobility. (Educators look at education as a lifting of people from their current class to a higher one – Greenleaf believes in a social reform carried out by leaders trained to re-enter their social class to reform it from within.)
  3. The state of confusion regarding the teaching of values.

the best service that a school can render…may not be to homogenize them into the upper classes but to help those who have a value orientation that favors it to develop their ability to lead their people to secure a better life for many

Quotes for Examining our Assumptions

If education were the panacea we innocently thought it was, the social fabric should appear stronger rather than weaker – pg.179

There has been a preoccupation with these words [power and authority] and the concepts they represent from the earliest records – and it is at fear heat today – pg. 180

The institution is strongest when all the parties have adequate power for their role; it is weakest where one or more of the element has too little power because then somebody has too much and the corrupting influence of power is moving toward the absolute – pg.183

Lesson Points / Challenges for Examining our Assumptions

  • If, “all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” then;
    • They [educators] acknowledge the potential for wrong in the act of doing what it is they do, and
    • They make sure there is a balance of power in the institution (or team, or group, or department)
  • Has a more educated society made for a better society?
  • Our problem is we have to teach [subject matter] to people who don’t want to learn it.
  • Two questions regarding power;
    • The moral risk in the assumption of virtue
    • The extent of coercion in the educational process
  • Can a remedy be found in bringing up the young entering our educational systems with a confidence and the competencies to head off in the direction they need to go?
  • How can we achieve these goals if we are chasing after the winds of popularity and prosperity?
  • Do others see their current reality as ‘good’ and change as ‘threatening’?
  • When you look at this picture, is your first thought obstacle or opportunity? Which has been programmed by our educational process?

Examining Our Assumptions

Examining my own Assumptions

This chapter closes with the concept of a lens change. I was pleased to read his words about this concept because it’s one that I have actually talked about in my classes and in my home.

Let’s stop saying, “out in the real world”. Why? I believe this statement begins to erode the very purpose of why I educate my students.

The statement implies that there are two realities – one in the class and one outside. True, my classroom and my labs cannot simulate every exacting scenario and situation these young men and women will encounter. Yet, where are they to learn the feedback mechanisms of trust, failure, and persistence? How do they learn to be better tradespeople as well as reformers within their craft?

I reject the idea of a ‘real-world-out-there’. Because that means everything we do either in the classroom or the lab, as controlled as those may be, is fake and has less intrinsic value than the “outside world”.

May I continually examine my assumptions regarding education. My hope and desire is to see those who come under my care as students learn not only the technical aspects of their chosen trade but also those leadership aspects necessary to transform their characters and their choices as they transition away from the classroom to the mechanical room – even the boardroom.

Primus inter pares – Vis-facare