“Education may not be able to change the hearts of men, but it can change the habits of men.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
On March 14, 1964, Dr. King accepted the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers. A partial transcript of this speech can be found here at Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog.
It is precisely because education is the road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The walling off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second-class status. Therefore as Negroes have struggled to be free they have had to fight for the opportunity for a decent education….
Despite progress towards racial equality in the U.S., this is just as true today as 46 years ago. Racial segregation in K-12 schools is worse than it was in the 1960’s, and college attendance does not reflect the population at large. These facts would surely sadden Dr. King if he were still here to celebrate what would have been his 81st birthday.
Education is not a “Race to the Top” – an unfortunate name for the latest federal program designed to create winners and losers in an education “game.” The “historical design” that Dr. King points out is alive and well. In this design, when someone “wins”, someone else must lose.
It is truly unfortunate that we are pitting another generation against each other instead of building a system that offers educational opportunities that enrich every child and every community. Education is a rising tide that lifts all boats, a candle that can light others without being diminished.
Please listen to this short speech and share with others, including students. Link to an MP3 file of the whole speech on the UFT website.