Book Review

Holding Sacred Ground

By Carl D. Glickman

Reviewed by
Zach Kelehear
Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.

In a day when state standards and federal mandates seem to dominate school leaders’ time and energy, remembering what the purpose of schooling is--the cultivation of knowledgeable, active and concerned citizens--can be difficult. In Holding Sacred Ground: Essays on Leadership, Courage, and Endurance in Our Schools, Carl Glickman, a university professor, shares some of his best writing from new essays and work over the past 35 years on how school leaders and teachers can support a truly democratic educational experience for children.

Glickman asserts that a primary goal of progressive schooling is to educate students to think independently as they learn to contribute to a more just and democratic society. The reality, regrettably, is that we often create schools that are less than democratic both in terms of leadership style and teaching practices. Instead of having an education program of active, participatory and contributory student learning, schools create a culture of knowledge acquisition and recitation through standardized and institutionalized teaching and learning practices. It is this contradiction between beliefs and practices that has captured Glickman’s attention.

Glickman approaches his topic through six sections: Great Schools; School Renewal; Instructional Leadership; Teaching, Learning and Service; Standards, Policies and Authority; The Crux of Education, Democracy and the Future of Our Place. The book’s organization allows for a “pick and choose” reading approach.

Amidst the storm that public education finds itself, Glickman helps us reflect on the important role schooling plays in creating a democratic, participatory, inclusive and diverse society. And when we are clear about what matters most in schooling, then we stand a much better chance of educating students who think independently in a just and democratic society.

(Holding Sacred Ground: Essays on Leadership, Courage, and Endurance in Our Schools by Carl D. Glickman, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2003, 362 pp. with index, $27 hardcover)