The MLK asked whether the education “fulfills its purpose”. We asked readers the same question.

Among his many roles, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an educator. Although his most famous news came from the pulpit and the stage, King also briefly led the class and often spoke of education. In 1962, he taught a social philosophy course at his alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, giving lectures to Plato and Rousseau. At the age of 15, he worked on a tobacco plantation in Connecticut in 1944, and the future preacher boasted to his parents that he was the head of a religious department and was conducting study sessions for his co-workers.

King, who was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, pondered and deeply cared about the role of education in social justice. In one of his most famous writings on the subject, ‘The Purpose of Education’, the young student Morehouse wrote: “The most dangerous criminal may be a man gifted with reason, but without morality.”

He added: “We are prone to let our mental lives be attacked by legions of half-truths, prejudices and propaganda. At this point, he often wonders whether education is serving its purpose or not. ”

As we consider the Royal Day and National Service Day, we have asked some readers to share their views on the King’s early view of education and whether education in 2022 is serving its purpose. Here are some of their considerations. The answers have been slightly modified for length and clarity.

Intimidation of teachers prevents the teaching of critical thinking

Dr. King lived in a much simpler time when it came to disseminating information. The journalists were trained and experienced professionals, and the information they provided was carefully reviewed by the editors. To make sure there are still a lot of “half-truths, prejudices and propaganda,” but at least there were reliable and trustworthy verifiers at Walter Cronkites and James Restons that the average person could turn to in the evening news or in their local diary.

Dr. King could not foresee the cessation of Internet misinformation, which gradually pushed the mainstream media as the primary source of news and information for many people. Which brings us to schools. With this expansion of information resources, it is more important than ever for our schools to help students develop intelligence literacy: critical reading and thinking skills so that they can search for and better distinguish what is true and what is not.

Our schools are just beginning to take critical thinking seriously and will have to approach it much more deliberately at a time when allegations of teaching things like critical race theory intimidate our social science teachers. Cultivating critical thinkers in this environment will be a greater challenge than ever before, but if we want to have a functioning society, it must start in schools.

– Marcus Pohlmann, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rhodes College, Father and Grandfather, Highlands Ranch, Colorado

More resources and freedom are needed to fulfill the purpose of education

I agree with the purpose of educating Dr. King, but in 2022 I would say that education is limited in this purpose. In my experience, education seems to be increasingly becoming a common task instead of an act that has the potential to change lives, communities and society as a whole. Not only that, schools – the main thoroughfare for education – are struggling to obtain the resources needed for more comprehensive education.

– Aaron Youngblood, MLK College Prep High School teacher, Memphis

Socio-emotional skills help students learn critical thinking

King was accurate in his assessment of “effective” thinking education. Once students become passionate critical thinkers, then education has served its purpose.

Not all students think, feel or learn the same, yet educators are constantly presenting them with more and more of the same “best practices” status quo. Students are more than their academic ability. They are creative and emotional beings.

Critical thinking gives them the strength to catalyze their truest and most authentic selves. Education must guide the components of social-emotional learning that underpin academic learning. Only then can education fulfill its purpose and prepare students to change the world and make it more human.

– Abidemi Kayode, teacher and grandfather, Memphis

Education for black children has not served its purpose

Unfortunately, Dr. King’s words are true at the moment. The Memphis Lift believes in telling the truth. It is tragic that Tennessee lawmakers have further reduced the value of education through their policies. Education has not served its purpose for black children in Memphis, Tennessee or the country. When there are too few black and brown children in this country at the grade level, we can no longer consider the loss of learning to be a mere political statement. This is a reality for so many people, and it is time to finally see the change that Dr. decades ago called for. King.

– The Memphis Lift, proponents of education

Education is going in the right direction

With recent research and implementation in the field of socio-emotional learning and adverse childhood experiences, we are moving in the right direction. I believe that Dr. King would be pleased with the commitment to educate and bring up the whole child.

– Chiquita Perry, principal of MLK College Prep High School, Memphis


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