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To-Do: Teach a child about Martin Luther King Jr.

The Observer-Dispatch – Editorial

“If you do nothing else today, discuss Martin Luther King Jr. with a young person – a son, a daughter, a nephew, a niece, any child. It’s important to the future of this nation that they know who he was. King embodied what this nation should be about. Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights. King dedicated his life to speaking out against the injustice and indignity that infects our nation. And his passion cost him his life.”(more)

Her father desegregated America’s public schools. Now, she champions charter schools.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution – Maureen Downey

“As we approach Martin Luther King Day on Monday, civil rights and Dr. King’s legacy are at the forefront of the national dialogue. For me, the struggle for civil rights is directly tied to the struggle to ensure that children of color can sit in the classrooms of excellent public schools just like their white peers. This belief in the centrality of education is both personal and practical. On the personal level, it is so important to me because my father, Oliver Brown, was part of the brave group of parents who filed the lawsuit against the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education. The Supreme Court case that resulted, Brown v. Board of Education, paved the way for children of color like me to have educational options that were closed off to us before.”(more)

Education on dialogue imperative

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In human societies there will always be differences of views and interests. But the reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist…. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. – Dalai Lama

Many people find it challenging to converse about subjects that matter deeply to them without getting into a dispute. As a result, public discourse about divisive issues is often characterized by destructive debate that eventually leads to division and violence.

Social media seems to have exacerbated this problem. Before the era of electronic profiles and discussions, communication was face to face, by phone, via email, or in writing. People could select written materials of interest to them and most people were careful to communicate their political and/or social views in ways that were not offensive to those around them.

Now many people log their societal and political viewpoints in social media posts without the normal inhibitions that control they way they communicate in person. Many times the comments are personal attacks rather than ideas. In addition, the caustic comments are continually linked to a person in a visual way that tends to alienate friends and acquaintances that have different views.

While it is comforting to have supporters, it is also important to have outside input. As a result, it is imperative that we find ways to encourage dialogue. For this to happen, people need the freedom to express their viewpoints, regardless of how unconventional or radical, the wisdom and skill to present those ideas in diplomatic ways, and a willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints.

Unfortunately, these skills cannot be learned by osmosis, but must be honed over many years. With the increased focus on standardized tests, many of the classes where students learned to participate in dialog through the discussion on complex topics like firearms, law enforcement, war, race, controlled substances, social programs, gender, corruption, religion, incarceration, media and money, etc. have been removed from school offerings.

Even though these classes are challenging to teach and require government entities to turn a blind eye, students need exposure to topics that have a variety of viewpoints and so they can learn how to effectively communicate with others for the collective good.

If we allow freedom of speech and provide education on effective dialogue, perhaps we can limit the division and violence that is prevalent in the U.S. today.

School suspensions are declining, but racial disparities in discipline persist

The Christian Science Monitor – Max Lewontin

“Public schools across the country suspended nearly 20 percent fewer students in 2014 than they did in 2012, according to new federal data released Tuesday, a positive sign amid a mixed picture on how the nation’s school serve students of color. Some 2.8 million students were suspended from public schools nationwide during the 2013-14 school year, a sign that efforts by the Obama administration to curb the use of suspensions, which activists say are linked to higher dropout rates and a greater likelihood of entering the criminal justice system, are working. But there are also significant racial disparities, both in the use of discipline and in students’ access to experienced teachers and advanced math and science classes, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection, released every two years by the US Education Department.”(more)

Teaching MLK’s Life—The Man, Not the Myth

The Atlantic – Melinda D. Anderson

“A year after leading thousands of protesters in the famous Selma-to-Montgomery march, Martin Luther King Jr. brought his campaign to end racial discrimination to Chicago. Rather than voting rights, the target was housing inequity in a city known in 1966—and even today—as the most racially segregated in the nation. King moved his family into a dilapidated apartment on Chicago’s West Side, launching the Chicago Freedom Movement and bringing national attention to the fight for better housing, better schools, and better jobs for blacks in the North. Now 50 years later, seventh- and eighth-graders at Seward Academy on Chicago’s South Side study King and the very issue that brought him to their city. The Chicago teacher Gregory Michie says his lessons on the social-justice icon are designed to upend what he views as a simplistic and clichéd image often presented in schools. Since many of his students know King’s famous excerpt hoping for a day when no one is judged by the color of their skin, Michie’s social-studies class zeroes in on lesser-known sections of the “I Have a Dream” speech, like the “fierce urgency of now” and “tranquilizing drug of [white] gradualism.” The youngsters quickly realize that they’ve never really heard the full message of the speech, he said, and “it’s a lot more nuanced, and more fiery, than they’d thought.” As the country observes the federal holiday named in King’s honor, it seems that schools are increasingly coming under sharp criticism from educators and activists for their approach to teaching King’s life.”(more)