A Moral Imperative to Society

Michael Fullan’s book, The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, has been a foundational text for my career. When someone asks me what my “why” is for my career, I always say that I believe it is our moral imperative to provide the best learning opportunities for each learner, every day.

The idea that resonates with me the most in the book is Fullan’s idea of “levels of the moral imperative.” There are 4 levels of the moral imperative.

  1. Individual
  2. School
  3. Regional
  4. Societal

There is a lot I can discuss with the first three levels, but I am not going to talk about those for this blog post. In America today, with all of the turmoil caused by those people with little or no concern about our society, I want to discuss the last level which is the societal moral imperative.

Societal Moral Imperative

A learner-centered leader is always thinking about the individual learner, but the concern and compassion for the individual learner cannot be limited to just what happens with that learner inside a school building. All of us live within a larger society. The larger society influences how all of us think and act. It is also important to note that society is made up of individuals…thus, individuals influence society.

Within this back and forth between society and the individual is where school leaders can have a tremendous influence

As I look out over America today, inauguration day for a new President of the United States, I see an American society in disarray. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tsunami of misinformation people believe about our world, it is difficult for people to make sense of what is happening.

Within this disarray is where school leaders can have tremendous influence.

Schooling and education are undergoing a transformation that is monumentous. The last 10 months have shifted society’s thinking about what constitutes schooling. I don’t think any of us expect schooling to look the same in a post-COVID-19 world as it did before. For example, hybrid learning in some form or fashion will stay with us on the other side of the pandemic. What role will high-stakes testing play in the future of schooling is also open for debate.

Within this transformation of schooling and education, school leaders have tremendous influence.

The 2 Actions School Leaders Can do Right Now to Help Society

Speak out. Be heard by society. You, dear school leader, have more influence over the direction of our society than you believe.

If a parent, Board member, or community citizen comes to you and spouts nonsense about some political conspiracy theory…correct them. As a community leader, you can put an end to this misinformation nonsense that is crippling America. Do not appease people by ignoring the fact that they believe something absurd.

Start sharing your expertise about what you know best…education and schooling. You know that the “Testing Industrial Complex” is bad for individuals and schools. Speak out to your Board, community groups, post on social media, blogs, or wherever you can to lay out your argument for a better educational system. Do not allow the conversation to be controlled by politicians (many of whom have never even been in a public school) and lobbyists. You have the power to nudge the education conversation in a better direction.

Engaging in these activities is uncomfortable. We must realize (and embrace) that we work within a political system. There are two roads school leaders can take.

You can remain silent.

Or you can begin to Speak out.

If we want to better our society, we must speak out.

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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