Seventy-five percent of the people living in the United States today – were not even born when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken at the age of 39.
While he was certainly the leader of the most significant social movement in America’s history, and a great orator whose eloquence and inspirational quality advanced the cause he dedicated his life to – he most certainly was more than a historic figure, or a statue in a park, or the namesake for a federal holiday.
Martin Luther King, Jr. at his essence – was a teacher.
Six months before his death, Dr. King spoke to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia – which years later would become an EdisonLearning partnership school. His message nearly half a century ago, still rings true today:
“I urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; and I say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in – stay in school.
And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.”
Dr. King’s insightful understanding of the paramount role education plays in society would today label him as an advocate of “disruptive learning.” Just as we seek to change the conversation about education, he published his thoughts in the Morehouse College student newspaper in 1947:
“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.
We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”
As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, let us also embrace his call to action together as an organization, and as individuals:
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”