In many classrooms, the teacher gives directions and the student follows. In a partnership classroom, the teacher shares power, at least in some matters, with the students, and teaches them partnership competences, such as making responsible, collaborative decisions.Using the analytical lens of the partnership and dominator continuum, you and your students can see the hidden subtext of gender in the contemporary debate over power and leadership. On the dominator side are those who think a ?strong leader? (which is equated with the capacity to control through the threat of pain) will solve all our problems by again getting things ?under control? ? the authoritarian, strong-man dominator formula. On the partnership side are those who see the need for a new kind of leader who inspires and facilitates creative problem-solving, is less violent, and can be more empathic ? a conceptualization of leadership that incorporates stereotypically ?feminine? traits.The battle between autocratic dominator and democratic partnership ways of structuring social institutions ? from the family and religion to politics and economics ? underlies much of today’s struggle over public education.
Closely related to this is the struggle by women to have equal representation in leadership (and thus in policy-making) in politics, economics, religion, science, education, and the family. This is not to say women do not adopt dominator values. Obviously they do. But on the average, as a voting bloc, women legislators tend to favor funding for stereotypical ?women?s work? such as childcare and healthcare. Moreover, real participatory democracy requires more than token representation in policy-making by the female half of humanity.
Nonetheless, even today there are still people who tell us that only men can be leaders. For example, the leaders of the Christian men’s movement that called itself the Promise Keepers tell us that men must again take control of their wives and children. They even claim that men must head their families in the same way that Jesus is head of the Church ? in other words, that men’s authority in their families is to be as absolute as God’s!
This battle between autocratic dominator and democratic partnership ways of structuring social institutions ? from the family and religion to politics and economics ? underlies much of today’s struggle over public education. On the one side, we see efforts to dismantle educational programs that teach children to value diversity rather than automatically equating differences of gender or race with inferiority or superiority. We see legislative proposals to reintroduce corporeal punishment in schools. There is even a push to dismantle the public school system through privatization and vouchers ? even though public education is a cornerstone of modern democracy and private organizations can be extremely inefficient, as shown by their high bankruptcy rates.
On the other side, we see efforts by educational leaders to introduce partnership processes such as cooperative learning, peer teaching, and criterion-referenced rather than competitive measures of learning. We also see educators working to debureaucratize schools ? that is, to shift from top-down hierarchies of control to working partnerships between teachers, students, parents, administrators, and other staff. Educators are also working to change the primary and secondary curriculum to teach partnership values.
In current events classes taught from a partnership perspective, young women and men can talk about these and other matters that will directly influence their future. They can learn to think for themselves, and form and stand up for their own beliefs.
In many classrooms, the teacher gives directions and the student follows. In a partnership classroom, the teacher shares power, at least in some matters, with the students, and teaches them partnership competences, such as making responsible, collaborative decisions. Current events classes are thus a place where students can practice partnership relations. Through this, they can learn that working in partnership still means respecting teachers and others who have knowledge to impart, but does not mean blindly following without thinking.