Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The paradox of pluralism: Leadership and community building in pluralistic Jewish high schools
by Kay, Michael Aaron, Ph.D., New York University, 2009, 286; 3361977
Abstract (Summary)

There are presently nearly two dozen ideologically pluralistic Jewish high schools in North America. In these schools, leaders seek to craft community within institutions that are philosophically committed to embracing diversity with respect to religious belief and practice. To date, little research has explored the tensions faced in these schools as their leaders work to define and enact visions of pluralism. This study addresses that gap by investigating how stakeholders in pluralistic Jewish high schools define the concept of pluralism, the ways in which pluralism is manifested in these schools, the tensions that pervade pluralistic school life, and the approaches to leadership that enable leaders to navigate these tensions and build community amidst diversity.

A case study method was employed, utilizing two pluralistic school sites that varied with respect to size and longevity. Data were collected using interviews with key stakeholders, school observations, and inspection of documents. Initial analyses identified three distinct, yet interrelated categories of pluralism exhibited in both schools. These may be identified as Atmospheric pluralism (cultivation of an environment in which people who represent diverse approaches to religious belief and practice may coexist comfortably); Informational pluralism (promotion of understanding of diverse religious ideologies through the transmission of knowledge pertaining to multiple approaches to Judaism.); and Interactional pluralism (active engagement of community stakeholders with one another and openness to the possibility that their own views may be enriched through exposure to the perspectives of others).

Additional analyses indicated that life in pluralistic schools is characterized by tensions, some of which are inherent in the concept of pluralism and others of which are generated from within the particular school community contexts. These data suggest that school leaders navigate these tensions and build community within their schools by emphasizing distributed leadership and implementing specialized approaches to teaching and learning through selective hiring, professional development, and experiential education. They also exercise political leadership by negotiating the limits of the school's philosophy as established by the community contexts in which the schools are situated and decisions made by the school founders. The study concludes with implications for future research and for practice.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Driscoll, Mary Erina
School: New York University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School administration, Religious education, Secondary education, Judaic studies
Keywords: Community, Community building, Jewish education, Leadership, Pluralism, Religious diversity
Publication Number: 3361977
ISBN: 978-1-109-21007-1
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