Dr. Arnold Dodge's Learning Story


I teach a graduate course to aspiring administrators. One of the most powerful lessons that I experienced had the goal of raising awareness about the importance of courage as a requisite disposition for principals and other administrators. The lesson unfolded as I asked the class to write down a powerful (and controversial) opinion regarding education, law, politics, etc. They didnżt necessarily have to agree with the statement, it just had to be provocative. Students wrote down such items as: abortion is murder, social promotion hurts youngsters, capital punishment should be outlawed, no child left behind should be abolished, tracking students is good practice, we are spending too much on special education, etc.I then collected the cards and I took each opinion and staunchly defended it, playing żdevilżs advocateż regardless of my own opinion. Individuals in the class had to fight it out, depending on how they truly felt about the issue. In some cases, individuals found themselves alone or in the minority in an opinion and had to push back against the powerful force of the majority. We had passionate arguments over each issue as students defended their positions honestly and articulately. It was a draining experience for everyone, but I think it taught us all a valuable lesson about not being cowed by others when you have a conviction.Exercises like the one above train the mind and the spirit of future educational leaders to fight for causes they believe in on behalf of children. It takes courage to fight prevailing conventions and powerful elites who will set agendas if not challenged.challenge, courage, passion, controversy