Book Review

The Moral Imperative Realized

by Michael Fullan, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2011, 96 pp., $21.95 softcover


Michael Fullan has become one of the most prolific and important authors for those who are serious about the possibility of authentic reform, that kind of reform that meets what he calls the “moral imperative.”


Fullan defines the moral imperative as dedication to a practice that “focuses on raising the bar and closing the gap in student learning for all children regardless of background.” In 2003 he published a book titled The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, described by one reviewer as a “practitioner-friendly book that provides strategies for reshaping culture and leadership in schools” that would “transform the principalship into a powerful force for reform.”

Fullan refers to that book and the year in which it was written as a time when the work on the moral imperative was new and intense. In this companion book, he looks back at the last eight years with a combination of dismay and enthusiastic hopefulness. His dismay may be, in part, attributed to the “wrong and inadequate strategy” he says No Child Left Behind created. What Fullan does is show us the evidence that whole systems can realize moral purpose not just in isolated select schools but rather in entire districts.

He reviews the accomplishments of four districts (Sanger, Calif.; Fort Bend, Texas; Ottawa Catholic, Ontario, Canada; York Region, Ontario), where 100 percent of the schools are involved in a sustained collaborative network. Fullan shows the forces for change in these successful districts involve focuses of “mutual allegiance” and “collaborative competition.”

The Moral Imperative Realized comes at a time when the anti-education political actions aimed at dismantling public educators’ initiatives and documentary films such as “Waiting for Superman” and “Race to Nowhere” are adding to the feeling of malaise. What we get from Fullan’s book is an antidote of intellectual honesty and hopefulness.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, coordinator of education leadership programs, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.