Below you can find my opening remarks for the Urban League Diversity Summit. I didn’t change much and I only had about 2 minutes. I was addressing the question “How are traditional and charter schools creating models of excellence that achieves Dr. King’s dream of a quality education for our children?”
I made a few last minute changes, but I lost the original copy that has the last minute scribblings that I used at the event.
Martin Luther King Jr. says education has a two-fold function in society. Dr. King says education should equip us with the power to think effectively and objectively. He says to think is one of the hardest things in the world, and to think objectively is still harder. Education should cause us to rise beyond the horizon of legions and half-truths, prejudices and propaganda. The second function of education is to integrate human life around central, focusing ideas or in other words morals. Dr. King being the orator and man of faith that he was couldn’t rest civil rights on an idea. He made his bed on a dream. A dream that has brought us here together today and a dream many of us have adopted as our own, but adopting a dream seems too easy doesn’t it? Adopting Dr. King’s dreams seems to fall short of the first function of education which is to balance belief and skepticism. So, how do we create models of excellence to fulfill the dream?
I happen to believe that we have fallen short of a dream that has fallen short of integrating all human life around central morals and have settled for half-truths such as the Obama Presidency. While I am fortunate enough to receive the progress of my ancestors’, as a teacher, to develop a model of excellence, I must never be satisfied with my current state of knowledge and this has to apply to students. It is not enough to be satisfied with Martin Luther King’s dream. We can never be satisfied with integration. Integration must be more than mixing black and white people together in an already broken educational system. Integration cannot simply be integrating black men and women into an already oppressive system. As teachers working within an oppressive system, we must follow Dr. King’s model of promoting thought and developing morality. We must tow the fine line of working within oppressive structures without being oppressive. What are we teaching society if we have a March on Washington for jobs and freedom, but at the same silencing the voices of black women and our gay brothers and sisters?
All of education and empowering a population begins with the empowerment of women. Ensure they have access to nutrition, control over their bodies, education and positions of power. When we have marches on Washington, ensure they have speaking opportunities and can do more than just sing songs. What does it say about the role of women in Martin Luther King’s dream if we think it was achieved because we elected Barack Obama? What we should have said is we are not satisfied.
In order to fulfill the dream we must never be satisfied. We cannot be satisfied with just creating charter and private schools. We cannot be satisfied with the current resources teachers have available to them. We cannot be satisfied with income inequality. We cannot be satisfied until the educational system teaches our children to rise beyond the horizon of legions and half-truths. We cannot be satisfied until we model rising above prejudices and propaganda even if it’s in our textbooks. We cannot be satisfied until education integrates human life around the central and focusing idea that all men, and women of all religion and sexual orientations are created equally.