Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a true champion for equity in education. He was diligent in preparing himself educationally completing high school at 15, college at 19, seminary school at 22 and a doctorate at 26. The depth and breadth of his education were clearly apparent in his sermons and writings.
Dr. King worked tirelessly to ensure that African Americans would gain the rights they had long been denied, including the right to an affordable quality education. His fight for equality in educational opportunities helped to tear down walls of segregation in our nation’s schools. He instilled hope in us that we can achieve our dreams no matter the color of our skin.
He was a proponent for education for all, and he believed that strong minds break strong chains. Just as importantly, he always made a point to refer education back to character—that we shouldn’t sacrifice efficiency and speed for morals, “A great student not only has the reason and education, but a moral compass to do what’s right with his or her gifts. It’s not just important to be smart; you have to know what’s right and what’s wrong.” When you look at his values, he always saw education, especially in the Black community, as a tool to uplift and inspire to action. He instilled hope in us that we can achieve our dreams no matter the color of our skin. He encouraged us all “to be the best that we can be.”
Parades, festivals and other activities mark the occasion across the nation. On this holiday, people can reflect and remember his actions and ponder how their own actions can affect change. This MLK holiday, let us reflect and then act on the ongoing challenges related to achievement and opportunity gaps African American and other students of color still face today. Every day that we do not advocate for both excellence and equity in is a crucial day lost for many of our students. They are not mutually exclusive!
Dr. King’s words can certainly move all of us in our day-to-day lives. They can also encourage teachers and administrators to keep working to navigate the many obstacles that lay in their path as they strive to improve teaching and learning and motivate the students they serve. I close with three of Dr. King’s quotes that motivate me to keep up the struggle for equity and excellence in education.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“And there comes a time when one must take a position that neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”