Educational Leadership: Trait Analysis of Cesar Chavez and Horace Mann

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The Constitution guarantees everyone an equal education. Students, regardless of race, religion, gender, or nationality, cannot be denied access to learning. Although some barriers in education have been removed, education is still a problem in the United States. Today, students are still being judged on a system equality rather than equity and justice; a flawed system that target groups that are predominately of a minority group and/or from a poverty-stricken area.

Being from the poorest county and one of the poorest school districts in Tennessee, I have experienced the effects of equality based education. Resources are limited and outdated. Highly qualified teachers do not want to take a pay cut for loan forgiveness teach in underserved schools if they can find a job in a wealthy district that pays better. The textbooks in the high school are outdated, by twenty nine years, but are still being used. Students are not given the same opportunity for a success as their peers across the nation, and more problems develop as the journey outward into college.

As someone who has been negatively affected by the current education system, I look at other education reform leaders. Cesar Chavez, a Latino man who did not complete school, expressed the importance of education. He built a legacy that includes the importance of learning through programs and organizations that exist today. Then, there is Horace Mann; Mann was a political figure who moved that schools be public in the 1800’s. Both men contributed to making education more accessible at their respected times. Through their successful works, education has changed for the better. But what did it take from both men to make these changes?

Description of Issue

Education is growing problem that needs to be addressed in the United States. In a system that encompasses millions of people raging in ages from five to eighteen, identifying differently across cultural, economic, and political spectrums, a notion that students are able to achieve the same success despite certain disadvantages exist. While recent progress has been made to improve education in areas that are affected by disadvantages, more needs to be done. While equality is good, Past leaders like Horace Mann and Caesar Chavez have pushed education in a way of growth for students. There effects are everlasting and have impacted us today. As a person who has experienced rural education disadvantages, I admire the work these past leaders have accomplished and wonder how they were able to affect a group of people on the national level through their leadership skills.


Today’s leadership crisis is a growing problem across the United States. Lack of funding, environment, and standards set by governing bodies that may not have a technical background in education are just some of the issues in modern public education, especially in rural areas. Education is an important aspect of growing as informed citizens of this country, but in the few instances where students are not being prepared, education is further dividing a country of differences. So what can be done to bridge the gap between various public school educations? Do we petition to have school districts redrawn to try to change student bodies, or do we argue for more funding? There are many possibilities on how to change the issue, but nothing will happen without someone speaking up, a leader. Educational leadership is an evolving concept that requires us to look at figures of the past. Leaders like Cesar Chavez and Horace Mann used their roles in leadership to push for changes in education that still exist today. When looking at them, we can see how the process of educational leadership evolves within a context of time as well as situation.

Cesar E. Chavez

Maria D. Ortiz (n.d.) identifies Cesar E. Chavez as a servant leader in her research. Through her work Ortiz evaluates the memories of people who worked alongside Chavez, as well as the memories of farm workers from the Californian fields. A similarity between people’s responses was Chavez’s drive that pushed to build a community. Chavez’s drive to build unity within the workers is suggest by his childhood where he experienced the problems of the field workers of his time. The servant leadership skills identified by Ortiz in the article change by the end of the work, concluding that Chavez’s leadership direction had to change as he task among the California field workers grew.

The United Farm Workers in “The Story of Cesar Chavez” (n.d) also claim Chavez had a grand understanding for the migrant workers, but in contrast to Ortiz, the United Farm Workers attest to other movements Chavez led and participated in. Among the movements listed, the United Farm Workers included the Fast, which gained global attention with other famous actors participating. Chavez lined his office with the quotes from a range of literature that dictated his life, and he believe that education and service were closely related.

Horace Mann

Lawrence A. Cremlin (n.d.) claims that Horace Mann was the first successful public education leader. Growing up in a harsh environment where his education became dependent on himself, Mann became a successful leader with a career in law. Although Mann had a successful tenure by representing Massachusetts, his passion lied with education. Mann lectured to teachers and the public and created a journal about education. Later in life, Mann became the president of Antioch College, a school which was coeducational and open to African American students.

Thomas Michael Buck (1999) uses Mann’s educational literature as a basis of research for school administration in today’s society. Buck suggest that modern leadership can be redefined by one’s character and their position. However, Buck also pushes blame in his research over the discussion of Mann’s behavior at times; he suggest that when Mann’s persona was not ideal, it was the fault of his opponents.

Educational Attainment

Schmidt-Wilson et al (2018) published their findings on educational retainment in different rural areas. The data showed supported the need for educational changes with statistics findings indicating that only 30% of students had gained a four year degree or higher from rural backgrounds. Schmidt-Wilson et al also elaborated on of problems in education retainment including isolation and the lack of diversity in career fields. Another problem Schmidt-Wilson find is that many students in rural regions continue school later in life because of sociodemographic reasons.Theodor R. Sizer (2004) argues that the problem falls in too many places. Sizer claims that students are not developing a hunger knowledge and that they only care for subjects that interest them. He further elaborates that schools has been built on incentives, such as a diploma, and people have become too reliant on it. This mindset in education leads to unproductive learning, and that we must readjust the meaning of education.

Community and Context

Brad Mitchell and Luvern L. Cunningham (1990) explore leadership in education through different context. In the yearbook, education is not only explored in the youth but how educational leadership is defined within the family and the community. Emphasis is given to understand family structure and how it effects education as well as the local government’s position for education.

Joseph Murphy (2002) continues the work of Mitchell and Cunningham in a latter edition of the National Society for the Study of Education’s yearbook. Murphy builds on the expectations, dilemmas and roles in education with problems in education that call for leadership. He concludes that by preparing leaders for community and school improvement, we create a better environment that leaders us to other developments in school professionals.


By identifying the problems and context in rural education, we can begin to know what needs to be done today. Cesar Chavez and Horace Mann’s lifelong pursuits give reference to how future changes can be made. Chavez’s work for the migrant workers expanded into a need for education. Mann’s personal struggles as a child led him to a position where he could make change. While both men had different routes, both men uniquely made change in education that can be identified in educational leadership.

Analysis of Educational Leaders

Cesar Chavez

Mexican American Cesar Chavez is highly regarded for his activism in improving the treatment of migrant farm workers. As a forward looking leader, his activism extended beyond working conditions and into other fields, such as education. His commitment for fighting for justice can be influence by his childhood.

As noted in “The Story of Cesar Chavez” (n.d), Chavez witnessed multiple situations of hostility and injustice. In Arizona, Chavez witnessed his father be swindled out of his own land, “a lesson about injustice that he would never forget” (n.d). Shortly afterward the family was forced to move to California. Here, they lived in an area called Sal Si Puedes. In English, this translated to “Get Out If You Can” and was used by the community to describe the intense poverty. Schooling was another injustice Chavez faced in his life. Often, he was punished at school for speaking Spanish, which was the language spoken at home. By the time he graduated the eighth grade, he had attended over 35 schools; he would not go on to finish high school. Rather, he began life in the fields (n.d).

When World War II arrived, Chavez, like many other Americans served in the military. Following the war, he met Fred Ross. Fred Ross was the founder and organizer of the Community Service Organization (CSO). Through the organization, Chavez was given first hand experiences in organization leadership roles. These skills would prove valuable to his later work in the founding of the United Farm Workers. Chavez’s activism, as explained by Jaime Cardenas (2016), was influenced by other civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the course of his life, Chavez continually served the Chicano people by participating in boycotts, protest, marches, and fast.

Chavez’s leadership was marked by his upbringing and circumstances. Witnessing problems throughout his entire life, he felt called to make changes. Chavez employed different leadership tactics across his activism to make changes. As the leader of the United Farm Workers, Chavez was the voice of the migrant workers and an example for others to follow. Following tactics of other minority leaders, such as MLK, Chavez worked to peacefully end injustice for his people. His work extend throughout his life to help the migrant people in other aspects of life, such as education. Although he never finished school, Chavez advocated for education. It strived to give his people equality, and the opportunity for more.

Horace Mann

American educator Horace Mann is often noted as the first of his kind. The Congressman “believed that, in a democratic society, education should be free and universal, nonsectarian, democratic in method and reliant on well-trained, professional teachers” (Cremin, n.d), and much like Chavez, Mann’s desire for betterment stemmed from his own childhood.

Quality education during Mann’s time was hard to come by. Where he lived, short-lived, poorly qualified teachers were the standard, and his town was not prosperous. Mann relied heavily on himself to learn, spending countless hours in community library. Eventually through his hard work “he gained admission at the age of 20 to the sophomore class at Brown University” (Cremlin, n.d). Throughout his time at university, Mann provided insight on shortcomings in education and how the human race could be improved.

Following school, Mann followed a path in law, and soon won a seat in the House of Representatives, followed by other political duties. However, in 1837, Massachusetts established a state board of education, and Mann accepted a position with the board, a decision that troubled his friends (Cremlin, n.d). The new position did not hold much power, so Mann had to find new ways to improve education. This included constant reports of problems and a twice weekly journal as well as interactive measures such as lectures for anyone interested in education. Mann still face opposition in his role on the board of education, and he strongly fought for his views.

Eventually, Mann left his role with the board of education and went back to Congress. Here, Mann argued passionately against slavery. “In 1853, [. . .], he accepted the presidency of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a new institution committed to coeducation, no sectarianism, and equal opportunity for Negros” (Cremlin, n.d). At the college, Mann was able to combine his passions for both education and abolitionism.

Mann’s personal success in educational leadership differs vastly from Chavez’s. Both men saw inequality in education and ceased to change it but with different approaches. Mann’s approach took him on a path through law, and the inner workings of the law system. He used his position of power to advocate for education, before taking on new roles. Even within roles, Mann had to use transformative leadership skills to make change.

Analysis of Educational Leadership and Conclusions

By examining both Cesar Chavez and Horace Mann, I found that community and circumstances play a large role in determining the type of leadership skills needed, even within educational leadership. Within the lives of the two men, each had their own unique but similar situation. Aggregate and global variables, which are defined by Mitchell and Cunningham (1990) as the community group and individual characteristics around the community, played a major role in the leadership of these men. By looking at Chavez, we see a community surrounded by farming, migrant workers, and poverty.

Chavez’s rise to leadership started by advocating better farming conditions, and later moved to other problems such as education, a problem he experienced as a child. Chavez, a member of a minority group, also found inspiration in the advocacy of other minority leaders, and was able to model some of his work to resemble the peaceful protest. Chavez led by example, actively through engagement with his community.

Horace Mann, had a strikingly different approach to fixing education. Mann, although limited to quality education, was still afforded the opportunity to teach himself. He spoke English and did not face a language barrier like Chavez. He was able to make a decent living for himself, and worked within the government to improve schooling. Mann’s advocacy did not have to face minority problems such as Chavez’s, but as one of the first leaders in education reform, he did not have someone to follow as an example. He pushed for education whether it was in Congress or as part of the state board of Education, and believed that the betterment of society was everyone’s purpose.

From Chavez and Mann, I discovered that Educational Leadership is not an “one size fits all” shoe. The community and the context of how you what to advocate for change is something to take for consideration. I resonate with Chavez for working within a selected community. For myself, when I think about the changes I want to make within leadership, it’s within a set group of people I resonate with. As Sizer says, “Human factors rather than physical ones most shape the climate of a school” (176). People do carry the most impact; however, as a more reserved person, I feel more inclined to show leadership as Mann. Mann was not out on the streets battling for a noble cause. Mann’s approach was to fight for a cause from within a space where as a group, changes could be made. I believe that by combining the two styles, I can create my own educational leadership style to make changes in my community and improve the education system.


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  7. Schmitt-Wilson, S., Downey, J. A., & Beck, A. E. (2018). Rural Education Retainment: The Importance of Context. Journal of Research in Rural Education. Retrieved from http://jrre.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/33-1.pdf
  8. Sizer, T. R. (2004). Horace’s compromise: the dilemma of the American high school. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
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Cite this paper

Educational Leadership: Trait Analysis of Cesar Chavez and Horace Mann. (2022, Jan 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/educational-leadership-trait-analysis-of-cesar-chavez-and-horace-mann/

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