Leadership for Democracy in Challenging Times: Historical Case Studies in the United States and Canada

Lauri Johnson, Yoon Pak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This article focuses on the role of school and district leadership in the development and implementation of reform aimed at increasing racial and religious tolerance. It chronicles the rise of intercultural and democratic citizenship curriculum in three North American sites—Springfield, Massachusetts, Kirkland Lake, Ontario, and San Diego, California—during the 1940s. Research Method: Parallel historical case studies were conducted using traditional historical research methods through the analysis of archival documents, school district memos, school board minutes, and contextualization through relevant secondary source literature. Findings: School and district leaders supported curriculum innovation aimed at prejudice reduction and propaganda analysis, networked and collaborated with community organizations, and used foundation funding to support curriculum and professional development for racial and religious inclusion. Implications: These cases highlight the critical role of leadership to support democracy in the development of partnerships between school and district personnel, community activists, and civic foundations; the establishment of advocacy networks across borders; and the “borrowing” of diversity policies from other school districts, which were adapted to their unique community contexts. This historical study has implications for how current school leaders might “lead for democracy” in challenging times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-469
Number of pages31
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • cross border
  • democratic citizenship
  • intercultural education
  • leadership
  • prejudice reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration

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