The Moral Imperative Realized

By Southwell, Charisse | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

The Moral Imperative Realized


Southwell, Charisse, Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


The Moral Imperative Realized

Fullan, M. (2011). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

As a sequel to The Moral Imperative of School Leadership published in 2003, The Moral Imperative Realized by Michael Fullan (2011) addresses others' mischaracterization of the concept of moral imperative as a reference to "pure life, religion, [and] the spiritual" (p. ix) and explains that this construct really pertains to seeking "a better society for individuals and for the collective." In education, a moral imperative refers to raised performance standards for personnel and learners, and schools working to eradicate learning disparities for all children, "regardless of [the learners'] background[s]" (p. ix). Throughout his book, Fullan tries to illustrate the applicability of the moral imperative to the nation's emphasis on "stringent standards."

Fullan points out that through the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy, it has become clear that the "stringent standards" approach has been ill-equipped for facilitating their realization. The establishment of standards have stressed the urgency for teachers to capitalize upon classroom learning opportunities and the importance of heightening instructional efficacy, but has failed to produce the gains sought because it has devalued--if not ignored--a vital component: the human element. Race to the Top also appears to possess this flaw. The impact of any legislation relies upon the ability of instructional personnel to make adaptations that are requisite to attaining the educational goals national policy espouses. Although some schools have made impressive gains, overall the nation has failed to reap in full the rewards of the policy because of limitations imposed on instructional flexibility. To illustrate, teachers teaching to the test is a rampant, frowned-upon, yet unavoidable, consequence of imposed instructional rigidity. The use of stringent accountability is more consistent with standardization than with diversified teaching. As such, the workload on teaching and learning has been increased so have the disparities of educational achievements among students for whom time does not allow additional instruction (Conzemius, 2010; Stevens & Houtte, 2011). Fullan adds that under such conditions, empowerment, or having the ability to counteract the negative impacts on learning outcomes that are fostered by predescribed systems of accountability are not achieved and, moreover, that infield gains are not observed either (Morris & Hiebert, 2011; Stevens & Houtte, 2011).Furthermore, accountability is not comparable to empowerment thus success stories are poor substitutes for system-wide improvements. Herein lies the strength of the moral imperative realized--its dependence on mobilizing human capital and the hope to affect "the purpose and fulfillment of human and social life" (Fullan, 2011, p. ix) in systems outside of the educational arena. In this way, Fullan's approach coincides with that of scholars who assign a role of "gate keeping" to the educational system, thus linking education to equity in societal progress (Strike & Soltis, 2009).

Moral Imperative in Micro Form: Empowering the Collective

The goal of empowering the collective is predicted with the establishment of professional learning communities however, the full scope of its mobilizing power has been unrealized due to the silo effect it has had on schools. Professional communities are relatively intra-organizational endeavors. According to Fullan, the inefficiencies that result are scattered instances of success, uneconomical distribution of resources and personnel, isolation within the profession, and an increase of educational disparities among others. The moral imperative addresses these limitations by calling for the development of "moral agents of change" among teacher who before were merely deliverers of instructional practice. The latter is the source of frustration for teachers who have fallen victim to reform after reform, simply because being the deliverer has no relationship to the validity of the product being delivered. …

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