Reflecting on the Roles and Responsibilities of University Faculty and Management
Edited by Roger Sugden, Marcela Valania and James R. Wilson
Chapter 16: On leadership
Let me begin with the words of a famous teacher. In a critique of the politics of Stanley Baldwin, who in his 1929 general election campaign adopted the motto ‘Safety first’, this teacher said, one Friday in March 1931, while walking with her pupils through the streets of Edinburgh, that ‘Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth and Beauty come first. Follow me’ (p. 10). The charismatic teacher here is Miss Jean Brodie, the character made famous in Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Miss Brodie is, of course, a most dangerous precursor for any responsible educator to have. Yet the problem does not lie in her concerns for the search for truth, goodness and beauty; rather, it lies in the ideas of ‘following’ and of leading that govern her practice as a teacher. The motto ‘Follow me’ figures quite highly among the worst things a teacher might ever say to her or his pupils. Her girls, the ‘Brodie set’, are to be charmed by the unconventional idiosyncrasies of the enigmatic leader that Miss Brodie sees herself to be; and she, in turn, is but a follower of some other, more dangerous political tendencies than those advocated by Stanley Baldwin, for she is an admiring follower of Mussolini (‘one of the greatest men in the world’, p. 44) and the fascisti.
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