Principally Driven: A Provocative Account of a Full and Exciting Life

Daryl L. Unnasch

Publisher: Archway Publishing Pages: 308 Price: (paperback) $20.99 ISBN: 9781480842878 Reviewed: September, 2017 Author Website: Visit »

Retired principal Daryl L. Unnasch presents reflective essays challenging people’s beliefs about “boring or straight-laced” school principals and raising awareness of what he sees as our growing national crisis. A self-styled “amateur political activist” who draws inspiration from past leaders, colleagues, and current news media personalities, he shares insights, anecdotes, and antidotes.

Raised on a hard scrabble Minnesota dairy farm, Unnasch attended primitive schools, struggling to attain a higher education. Propelled by strong church ties, strict upbringing, and traditional work ethic, he earned education degrees leading to the classroom and then principal positions in various settings (inner city, Christian, affluent districts) where he observed problems between community, school, and federal government.

Unnasch empathizes with the challenge of effective teaching and school leadership today, blaming the “intrusive nose” of the federal government for educational and societal failure.  “Nanny state” legislation concerning Common Core requirements, bathroom gender, sugary drinks in schools, bilingual education, etc. increases waste and corruption, he believes, weakening the local authority of school leaders.

Unnasch bemoans deteriorating values and critiques the personalities and administrations of inspirational presidents. He also offers teacher anecdotes and evaluations of superintendent bosses (Dr. Know-it-all, Dr. Prim and Proper, Dr. Slow and Steady, Dr. Witch) that are less-than-complimentary, and the physical attributes of women work colleagues are highlighted. The gossipy tone reflects resentment towards superiors who lacked an appreciation of his work.

Generally, discussions on education are eclipsed by impassioned political grandstanding. Citing conservative media figureheads (Fox News, Billy Graham, Rush Limbaugh, and others) as his authority, Unnasch dishes out advice, admonishing current government entanglement and mourning the loss of the Good Old Days. “Have we grown soft?” he asks.

The book’s organization feels random; essays lose focus usually veering off into political debate, and judicious trimming would improve the read. Folks looking for tips on effective/affective educational instruction or leadership will be disappointed, while fans of modern conservative ideology will find much to applaud here.

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