I hope every teacher in every school in America found and used one of the great teaching moments of our generation today. I watched the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s dream, a day in 1963 that may have marked the high water mark of the soul of America. And with the searching words of each speaker reminding us of the struggle, sacrifice, and commitment of so many… I wandered deeper into a thicket of inadequacy. Where was I? Why have I, who has been blessed with so much, not done more to further the fight for equality, for justice, for others? How can we raise that mark higher in our generation?
I have to answer those questions for myself, but I also found a measure of strength for all of us who dedicate our working lives to education. We were reminded today that the March on Washington in 1963 was not just about racial equality, but about jobs and economic opportunity. Education has always led to economic opportunity, and in this post-industrial age we must fight for a post-industrial age system of education that provides our students with the tools they need for well-paying jobs, the chance to reach a distant horizon…and maybe beyond. We have a moral obligation to prepare all of our students for their future, not for our past, and that means quickly transforming our assembly line system of education.
We also know that good education leads to greater empathy and compassion, the understanding that, as King taught us, “I” do not succeed unless “we” succeed. This is not some poster slogan of watered down socialism…it is a bedrock of America. We should measure the success of our education system more by the depth of our students’ empathy than by their SAT scores.
I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.
I guess that as long as we educators remember that our job is not done until our students all have the tools they need to be who they ought to be, we are doing our little part in The March.