Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Special and Inclusive Education".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 May 2024) | Viewed by 6363

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Interests: educational equity; indigenous education; whiteness; qualitative research

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Guest Editor
Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Interests: access & transition to college; equity & inclusion in college programming; culturally responsive pedagogy; college student success

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Guest Editor
Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Interests: Hispanic-serving institutions; racially minoritized faculty and graduate students; racial equity in education; qualitative research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue explores the role of Niceness among educational leaders. We broadly define leaders to include those in both formal and informal leadership roles in educational settings from preschools to college and graduate programs. Ladson-Billings (1998) acknowledged the connection between Niceness and education when she asked, “Just What Is Critical Race Theory and What’s It Doing in a Nice Field Like Education?,” but her question is only beginning to be answered by educational researchers. They argue that teachers and educational leaders are invested in Niceness, and that Niceness reinforces patterned educational inequities (Castagno 2014; 2019; Goodman 2001; Marshall and Theoharis 2007). Thus, we invite article submissions that explore the way Niceness informs, functions, and structures leaders’ efforts to dismantle systemic oppression and advance educational equity.

Bramen (2017) presents a compelling cultural history of American Niceness and argues that it is a cultural construct with a relative lack of scholarly exploration. She notes that “the nice American is as pervasive as its negative counterpart, but it has been neither studied nor defined as explicitly. This is partly due to the fact that niceness is assumed to be a national default mode, an obvious and superficial gesture not worthy of serious inquiry. Its banality puts it under the radar of cultural analysis. My fundamental claim is that even though it often goes unnamed as a pattern of behavior, niceness pervades the everyday conduct, assumptions, and discourses of and about Americans” (7). Intentionality is important in understanding Niceness. Good intentions have been linked to the perpetuation of inequity in schools (Castagno 2014, Lewis and Diamond 2015), and the role of intentions is not limited to the educational environment. As Bramen (2017) notes, “Niceness implies that Americans are fundamentally well-meaning people defined by an essential goodness. Even acts of aggression are framed as passive, reluctant, and defensive acts to protect oneself against the potential aggression of another. Our point is that American Niceness assumes that Americans are decent and good-natured people with the best of intentions. Even if they do serious damage in the world, American Niceness means that the damage will be more than likely seen as a mistake” (8). Thus, Niceness not only operates at institutional and individual levels, but it is also part of the fabric of educational institutions.

Niceness is a mechanism for sustaining structural arrangements and ideologies of dominance across races, genders, and social classes. Niceness functions not only as a shield to protect individuals from performing the hard work of dismantling inequity, but also as a disciplining agent for those who attempt or even consider disrupting structures and ideologies of dominance. Niceness is both an institutional norm within institutions and an embodied practice among people in those institutions. Niceness is differentially engaged with in local areas, but the overall pattern is the same. In other words, Niceness works at both the individual and institutional levels. Thus, in order to really understand Niceness, we must examine it at both of these levels and their intersection. Importantly, Niceness incurs differentiated costs, benefits, and expectations. Recent scholarship distinguishes between Niceness as embodied by those in more powerful and privileged positions and the demand to act nice among those challenging power (Castagno, 2019). This means that if you identify with more privileged people while disrupting the norms of Niceness, the ways in which you are likely to be perceived will be different than if you identify with more marginalized and underrepresented people.

We welcome submissions employing diverse methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks that help us better understand Niceness among educational leaders. We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Angelina Castagno
Dr. Lauren Contreras
Dr. Cynthia D. Villarreal
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Education Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • educational leadership
  • educational equity
  • whiteness
  • niceness
  • anti-racism

Published Papers (6 papers)

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17 pages, 502 KiB  
Article
Nice for Whom? A Dangerous, Not-So-Nice, Critical Race Love Letter
by G. T. Reyes
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(5), 508; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14050508 - 9 May 2024
Viewed by 558
Abstract
In this article, I critically analyze and respond to empirical data in the form of racialized discourse—specifically, racist messages sent directly to me as a result of my previously published article entitled, “A Love Letter to Educational Leaders of Color: CREWing UP with [...] Read more.
In this article, I critically analyze and respond to empirical data in the form of racialized discourse—specifically, racist messages sent directly to me as a result of my previously published article entitled, “A Love Letter to Educational Leaders of Color: CREWing UP with Critical Whiteness Studies”. Being informed by a robust racial analysis of acts that reinforce white supremacy, this article will likely be perceived as not nice by those who benefit from and work to protect white supremacy. Likely, I will be the one accused of being hateful, divisive, and even racist. In order to interrogate the weaponization of this conception of “niceness”, my analysis will be driven by Critical Race Hermeneutics with white emotionality and whitelashing used as interpretive lenses. As this article’s engagement with these critical race frameworks poses a threat to those who benefit from racism, this is a dangerous, not-so-nice critical race love letter. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity)
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13 pages, 554 KiB  
Article
Confronting Mean Girls Niceness: Conceptualizing Whisper Care to Disrupt the Politics of Niceness in Academia
by Rose Ann E. Gutierrez, Carolyn S. F. Silva and Ruby Batz
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(5), 473; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14050473 - 30 Apr 2024
Viewed by 878
Abstract
While the current literature on Niceness in higher education has examined the discourses and practices of Niceness in academic spaces, making it more identifiable, less is known about how minoritized faculty navigate and disrupt the culture of Niceness. The purpose of this article [...] Read more.
While the current literature on Niceness in higher education has examined the discourses and practices of Niceness in academic spaces, making it more identifiable, less is known about how minoritized faculty navigate and disrupt the culture of Niceness. The purpose of this article is to offer a resistance-based framework to combat academia’s Niceness culture through the lens of the authors. Using theory in the flesh as theory and methodology, we use collaborative autoethnography to conceptualize Whisper Care to give language and articulate an orientation and philosophy rooted in Kindness. Our findings present a process to confront Niceness while guiding, supporting, and protecting each other in higher education institutions. We conclude with implications for future research and practice for faculty and higher education leaders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity)
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15 pages, 233 KiB  
Article
“Don’t Touch Race”: Nice White Leadership and Calls for Racial Equity in Salt Lake City Schools, 1969–Present
by Maeve K. Wall
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(4), 427; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14040427 - 19 Apr 2024
Viewed by 582
Abstract
This paper examines school leaders’ evasive attitudes towards race in Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, between 1969 and 1975. Salt Lake’s unique demographic status as predominantly white and Mormon underscored elements of white anti-Black racism under the guise of innocence. Utilizing critical whiteness [...] Read more.
This paper examines school leaders’ evasive attitudes towards race in Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, between 1969 and 1975. Salt Lake’s unique demographic status as predominantly white and Mormon underscored elements of white anti-Black racism under the guise of innocence. Utilizing critical whiteness theory and historical inquiry to analyze archival documents and interviews, I highlight one white superintendent, Arthur Wiscombe, and his failed attempts to confront anti-Blackness in schools as he navigated his conflicting values of racial justice, good intentions, and white Niceness. Framing the past as prologue, I uncover the historical legacy of white supremacy’s influence on local school policies and leaders’ actions, and make explicit connections to the repetition of these patterns today. Contemporary iterations of white supremacy rely on the same tools of whiteness used during intense periods of integration and racial awareness in Salt Lake City in the 1960s and 1970s. I conclude that white educational leaders must look more closely at the ‘nice’, color-evasive discourse that enables them to maintain power and privilege in their communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity)
14 pages, 278 KiB  
Article
Nice for What? The Contradictions and Tensions of an Urban District’s Racial Equity Transformation
by Patricia Virella and Román Liera
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(4), 420; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14040420 - 17 Apr 2024
Viewed by 661
Abstract
Diversity, equity, and inclusion training has exploded over the last decade. While many districts invest considerable resources in developing their leaders’ knowledge and skills on equity issues, “niceness” can perpetuate whiteness and present formidable obstacles to meaningful progress. Investigating a large urban-emergent district [...] Read more.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion training has exploded over the last decade. While many districts invest considerable resources in developing their leaders’ knowledge and skills on equity issues, “niceness” can perpetuate whiteness and present formidable obstacles to meaningful progress. Investigating a large urban-emergent district as a case study, we examine the efforts to eliminate the racial barriers perpetuated by its leaders and explore the contradictions that arise after a year of professional learning geared towards antiracist district transformation. We employ a theory of racialized organizations, seeking to understand how whiteness as niceness impeded school leaders’ efforts to engage in antiracist change work. The study provides valuable implications for policy, practice, and future research in education and equity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity)
15 pages, 252 KiB  
Article
The (Im)Possibility of Interrupting Midwest Nice in a Predominantly White, Small-Town School District
by Emily O. Miller
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(4), 412; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14040412 - 16 Apr 2024
Viewed by 689
Abstract
As school and district leaders are confronted with explicit opposition to racial equity and inclusion policies and practices, they also continue to contend with Nice resistance. In this ethnographic case study, I draw on interviews with teachers and administrators as well as observations [...] Read more.
As school and district leaders are confronted with explicit opposition to racial equity and inclusion policies and practices, they also continue to contend with Nice resistance. In this ethnographic case study, I draw on interviews with teachers and administrators as well as observations of meetings and professional learning sessions to explore how educational leaders in a predominantly white, small, Midwestern town navigated a culture of Niceness characterized by good intentions, comfort, and avoiding conflict. Though most educators said they supported equity and inclusion, they resisted the administration and the policies and practices administrators implemented. Leaders challenged the culture of Niceness in the school district by focusing on impacts, pushing teachers to do things they were not comfortable with, and having direct conversations. Ultimately, several administrators left the district, and some equity and inclusion efforts were stalled or rolled back. Based on the findings of this study, I conclude that it is difficult to interrupt Niceness in the interest of advancing racial equity and inclusion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity)

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14 pages, 206 KiB  
Essay
We Have Met the Enemy in Teacher Education; It Is Us—Teacher Educators and the Bad Faith of Our Niceness, Not Teachers
by Brenda G. Harris
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(5), 446; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14050446 - 24 Apr 2024
Viewed by 564
Abstract
In this conceptual essay, the author draws on the concept of bad faith to explore its connections to Niceness and role in sustaining the historical failures of U.S. teacher education to prepare future teachers to effectively teach learners from diverse backgrounds through culturally [...] Read more.
In this conceptual essay, the author draws on the concept of bad faith to explore its connections to Niceness and role in sustaining the historical failures of U.S. teacher education to prepare future teachers to effectively teach learners from diverse backgrounds through culturally responsive pedagogy. Bad faith is a useful, albeit underutilized, concept in considering and challenging the patterned historical inequities maintained by Niceness in teacher preparation programs. Applying a critical race theory (CRT) methodology and analysis, the author presents and interrogates three representative exemplars of a logic of racism operationalized through bad faith, then insulated by Niceness in U.S. teacher education. These exemplars serve as conceptual case studies that are constituted as composite scenarios of patterned enactments of bad faith authorized by Niceness within U.S. teacher education; these cases demonstrate how [and why] the bad faith–Niceness interplay informs the work and [good] intentions of stakeholders most often in ways that further, rather than challenge, historical failures of U.S. teacher education for culturally responsive pedagogy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Niceness, Leadership and Educational Equity)
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