Book Review

Ethical Leadership in Schools: Creating Community in an Environment of Accountability

by Kenneth A. Strike, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2007, 155 pp., $27.95 softcover

“Creating community in a world that wants hierarchy.” That’s what Kenneth Strike tells us we must do in his new book, Ethical Leadership in Schools: Creating Community in an Environment of Accountability.

Strike’s book doesn’t provide easy answers. No 12 easy steps or seven habits comprise a recipe for ethical behavior in today’s contentious education climate. But Strike, a former Cornell professor, does join the issues, those clashes between the legislative bodies to whom we are ever more accountable and to the high professional standards of excellence inherent in our mission to create good schools.

This book is a mini-course about ethics and moral purpose. Strike suggests in an era of mistrust between legislators and educators lurks a danger that we are losing our sense of purpose and mission. He argues the commands and controls at the core of No Child Left Behind and the states’ mandates are creating a new culture that is potentially self-defeating and insidious and violates the very purpose of leaving no child behind. He describes a “culture of alienation,” resulting from mutual distrust.

What makes this book so important is that Strike’s analysis begs us to recognize Pogo’s warning: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Throughout the book he gives us new lenses through which to see familiar vignettes that make what could appear as easy choices much more complicated but that allow us to bridge ethics and issues of accountability.

Strike’s book gives leaders the charge and the framework they need to bring balance back to our schools.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, associate professor of education leadership, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.