Today I attended the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Program at the Cleveland Public Library branch that bears Dr. King’s name. It was a fine program, with excellent musical performances, a fine performance by the Distinguished Gentlemen of the Spoken Word, and a thoughtful keynote speech by Rev. Dr. Jawanza Colvin, Pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. It provided me an opportunity to reflect a bit about the legacy Dr. King left for all Americans, and that legacy’s influence on education.
Accepting the 1964 John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers, King said, “The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education.” It says something that today in Cleveland, over fifty years later, Rev. Colvin cited some of the same disparities.
Many of us lament the problems with today’s education–the obsession with test scores, the regimentation, the discouragement of creative teaching, the flavor-of-the-month educational fashions, and so many others. Those problems exist not because our expectations are too high, but because they are too low. Too often, we tolerate public schools–including inner-city schools–that are good enough for other people’s kids without insisting that they be good enough for our own.
This post originally appeared on the website of my 2016 campaign for State Board of Education, http://bill4board.us.
The legacy of Dr. King challenges us to make every school good enough for every student from every family, regardless of race or economic status. That challenge is worth celebrating today.