King, Education, and Humanity

On this day celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is appropriate to think about how King lived his life and how he worked for social justice and human and civil rights. I believe King’s message around the dignity and worth of a human has a strong relationship with the role of education in a child’s life. It is only through education that we can develop as humans and fully realize our potential. I believe education makes us whole, both individually and collectively. I also believe that as a nation we are beginning to focus on the role of equity, creativity and opportunity in education, but we need a much, much more thoughtful and constructive engagement on these issues.

Diane Ravitch summed it up nicely in a recent post when she discussed the question, “What would King think about our current education debate?” Ravitch said:

“He would resist. He would organize and join with others. He would build coalitions of parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and members of the community who support their public schools. He would demand true education for all children. He would demand equality of educational opportunity, not a Race to some mythical Top or ever higher scores on bubble tests. He would not be silent as our public schools are worn down and torn down by mindless mandates. He would recognize that the victims of this political and bureaucratic malfeasance are our children. He would build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C.”

I agree with Ravitch’s assessment of what King would want us to do in our current education debate. First and foremost, we need to be thoughtful around the importance of education in a child’s life, particularly as it relates to equity, creativity and opportunity. We need to think of education as a human-to-human endeavor. All too often, we think of education as something else – test scores, data, standards, dollars – all devoid of human contact and possibility.

Recently, a college intern from SUNY Albany who was toiling away in New York’s State Museum discovered a recording of King speaking to the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation dinner in New York on September 12, 1962. The dinner and subsequent conference was convened by then Governor Rockefeller to honor and discuss the Emancipation Proclamation. Here is a link to the You Tube video with the recording. You can also follow along and see the changes that he made to the speech.

On this important day, we need to reflect, as King did in this speech, what is the worth of a human life. I believe this is a day about celebrating our humanity. It is what King would want us to do. Enjoy.

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