Moral Purpose

So this week I’d like to talk about the idea of “moral purpose” in education……lately this term keeps coming up over and over again in my conversations with other Principals and teacher leaders, and it seems like these days I cannot read an article or watch a video about educational leadership without hearing about the importance and necessity of this notion. I even found myself just last week going on and on about how we all need a sense of moral purpose when I was speaking with a parent about our vision in the Middle School. I think this parent walked away feeling a little confused about the notion, and it got me thinking about what I was really talking about. What is moral purpose…… and how does it impact our lives as teachers, leaders,

parents, and colleagues?

Interestingly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot written yet about “moral purpose” in education, other than some interesting articles by leadership and change guru Michael Fullan. I did find some other helpful articles written on the topic from a business perspective however, and another one or two that had some pretty heavy religious connotations, but those didn’t really help clarify things in my mind. I finally stumbled upon some chapter excerpts from Will Ryan’s book, Leadership With A Moral Purpose: Turning Your School Inside Out, which started to help crystallize things for me, and break things down into simpler, digestible pieces. Essentially, for me it boils down to (in the simplest

and purest terms)……….doing the right things for our students. There’s a great quote out there that says “managers do things right, but leaders do the right things”, and I think that pretty much says it all…….are we doing the right things for our kids?

We are all important leaders in some capacity……whether it’s leading our students through our daily teachings and/or professional habits, or leading our colleagues through the sharing of expertise and the positive, hopeful attitudes that create our climate and culture. We all have the power to affect change, and to contribute to this shared sense of moral purpose. Fullan talks about creating a shared vision, or mission, that rests on and stems from what’s best for students and student learning……doing the right things to create an environment where students feel safe and encouraged to take risks, where colleagues feel supported and valued, and where all

leaders are researching, reflecting, and taking action in a constant attempt to make the school (and student learning opportunities) better. By the way, the best definition on moral purpose that I did find came from Springhead School in Northern England. Their definition reads, “Our moral purpose is an agreed set of principles that creates and leads our vision for the school. It stimulates reflection and review, and supports action. It defines the heart and soul of our school.  Our moral purpose acknowledges that there is a need for our pupils to be both challenged and supported if we are to enrich and enhance every child’s learning and life experiences, by breaking down barriers to learning and participation”……..nice.

This week I’d like us all to think about this notion of moral purpose, and what we can do as teachers to help bring ours to life. I love the tribe that we’ve built in the Middle School, and I love that we’re beginning to have the trust and educational courage to push back on things that don’t align with our shared vision, or our sense of what’s right. Lets’ do the right things for our kids, and not settle for other agendas that veer away from what’s best for student learning. In short, let’s be leaders…and do the right things. Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other!

Quote of the Week……..
Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses or avoids. – Aristotle

Article #1 (attached)
Moral Purpose Writ Large (Michael Fullan) MORAL PURPOSE WRIT LARGE
Article #2The Realist’s Guide to Moral Purpose (Long and Business focused but a good read nevertheless)

TED Talk – Shane Koyczan (Moving and Beautiful)

Book SuggestionLeadership With A Moral Purpose: Turning Your School Inside Out – (Will Ryan)


  1. Steve Byatt said:

    I’m probably not alone in having my favourite references on issues like this- but strongly recommend the work of John West-Burnham. His view is that education is primarily a moral process and should therefore be led by those who are ethically literate.
    Also argues the need for leaders to have ‘moral confidence’ to inform their decision making (as every decision in schools has a moral dimension).

    March 18, 2013
  2. […] So this week I’d like to talk about the idea of “moral purpose” in education……lately this term keeps coming up over and over again in my conversations with other Principals and teacher …  […]

    March 18, 2013
  3. […] So this week I’d like to talk about the idea of “moral purpose” in education……lately this term keeps coming up over and over again in my conversations with other Principals and teacher leaders, and it seems like these days I cannot read an article…  […]

    March 19, 2013
  4. lissa said:

    For me as one of the Pacific islander still educating, doing my major in education leadership and change. I believe in all that you say educating our children now so that they can be great leaders in the future. Inorder gor them to succeed, we leaders and teachers should do our best to break the walls that are ahead of us..As a student, I want vanuatu to see that the future lies beneath every children that are trying their best in the classrooms….I need to help them

    November 29, 2015
  5. Joseph Ross said:

    The idea of a “Moral Purpose” is essentially what i like to think is the passion that ones has when facilitating a group in a classroom setting or just having a one on one conversation with someone about some social issue etc. Moral Purpose is understanding that the power of education can change the lives of others once they are exposed to learning again. Moral Purpose is knowing that once you are privileged to obtain higher education that you now have a responsibility to teach those who have been deprived of expanding their minds through knowledge. The idea of Moral Purpose is understanding while in an educational setting is to ensure that you are giving your best effort to prepare those you teach once the school year has ended. Moral Purpose can mean all these things and more if you are serious about being a leader in all things.

    August 10, 2016

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