Date of Award

Spring 6-13-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Karen Monkman

Second Advisor

Jeffrey J. Kuzmic

Third Advisor

Barbara S. Rieckhoff


School leaders have the formidable responsibility to promote an educational environment that supports the growth of both the individual and the nation. School principals are uniquely pressured to comply with politically motivated demands to educate for a globally competitive labor force while they simultaneously promote and strengthen lifelong learning and a democratic ethos in their particular students. The thoughtful educator recognizes the complexities of this negotiation.

In this dissertation I examined the recent literature about schooling for democracy and conclude that public schools are vital to sustaining a democracy; current reform strategies impinge upon school efforts to teach children to become knowledgeable, active, and engaged citizens; and principals have a significant influence on the school community’s learning priorities. I argue that to gain a better understanding of our nation’s efforts to educate citizens who will sustain democracy, it is vitally important to study the democratic ethos of school principals. I then investigated public school principal’s perceptions of schooling for democracy. This dissertation reports on the practices of public school principals, through a conceptual lens of democratic education that is informed by theories of participatory democracy, a concept of a good citizen, care theory and transformative leadership theory. It is supported by the democracy signified by the U.S. Constitution. This study concluded that leadership choices made by public school principals offer a counter to the narrative that public schools are broken. However, this study also concluded that public school principals seem scarcely aware of the public school’s responsibility to prepare budding citizens which is necessary to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”