In advance of an appearance by his son, Martin Luther King III, an editorial about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., appeared in Sunday, June 2nd’s, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. The headline: “A dream left incomplete.” In addition to asking the son to provide personal insights about his father, the column pondered, “But what did King really accomplish? What would MLK Jr say is still left undone?”
Although MLK, Jr. is the acknowledged leader of the civil rights movement he was only one of the many
heroes who labored to bring an end to discrimination in
America. Had it not been for their courage and sacrifices, the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 and 1968, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other civil rights legislation might have been long in
MLK III, is quoted as saying, “No one possibly could have projected that we would be going backward instead of forward,” referencing “the turmoil over immigration and political discourse that encourages hostility and racism and distorts the truth.”
The challenge for America, today, is to address the
question, “why has so little progress been made to make black Americans and other minorities full and equal partners in
American society, whether economically or politically?” The question demands a frank an unapologetic examination.
The answer, this author believes, is that the protests and sacrifices of the civil rights movement and the subsequent civil rights legislation over the past 55 years have given black and other minority Americans the right to equal opportunity but not the means to take full advantage of those opportunities.
How does one acquire the means to take advantage of opportunities? The answer is education.
It is time to stop playing the blame game and acknowledge, once and for all, that the education process that has been in place in our schools has failed to serve the interests of disadvantaged children for as long as any of us can remember. Over the generations, we have become inured to the failure of black and other minority children and have been willing to take the easy path by blaming poverty, segregation, public schools, and teachers. When are we going to acknowledge the obvious, that what we are asking our teachers and schools to do does not work for all?
We must also acknowledge that there are some Americans who
are content to believe that the documented performance of the disadvantaged is
the best that we can expect from these whole populations of children. This is
an outrageous assertion that must be put behind us, permanently.
Similarly, we must stop blaming
teachers and our public schools. Teachers cannot make an obsolete
education process work for every child any more than you or I can quickly and
efficiently mow an acre of overgrown grass with an unmotorized push mower from
the early 1950s. That so many children have received a good education,
notwithstanding the flawed education process within which our teachers have had
to work, is an extraordinary accomplishment.
That our education leaders, policy makers, and elected
officials have allowed so many children to languish over multiple generations cannot be undone.
Neither can we turn back the clock and absolve millions of teachers of the
blame we have been so willing to heap on their shoulders and reputations. What
we can and must do is bring this tragedy to a halt, now!
Continuing to rely on a brittle and antiquated education
process that does not work for millions of our nation’s children—our most
precious assets—is as irresponsible as it would have been to allow hundreds of Boeing 737s to continue flying after we discovered the
existence of a fatal flaw in their systems. Unlike those Boeing737s, however,
we can not change out a software application to correct the problems of education in America.
Can you think of any other venue where we have been so
willing to endure products and services of such unacceptable quality? If an
automaker produced vehicles that broke down as often as students fail in our
schools would we keep buying their cars? If a restaurant in our neighborhood
consistently produced bad breakfasts, lunches, and, dinners would we keep going
To fix the fatal flaws of America’s schools and give teachers an education process that will provide every single one of our nation’s children with the means to take advantage of the opportunities to which they have an equal right, we must be willing to reinvent the education process from scratch. It must be reconstructed to serve its essential purpose, not in a few special schools but in every school, serving every community in America.
We must begin by changing the question we ask ourselves. Rather than ask “Why do so many children fail?” the question we must begin to ask is “Why do some children excel despite the disadvantages they face?”
What are the lessons to be learned from the exceptions to
the norm? Could it be that, given the right circumstances, even disadvantaged
kids can achieve at a high academic level? The challenge is to figure out how
to replicate those “right circumstances” in every classroom, for every student.
The dream of which Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr, spoke with
such eloquence is not complete and will not be complete until every child
receives the quality education to which they are entitled. Giving them that education requires that we
abandon our obsolete education process and go back to the drawing board to
create a process that works for all.
Creating such a process is what I have labored to do since I had the opportunity to see, first-hand, the challenges with which our teachers and students must deal. I witnessed those challenges while walking in the shoes of public school teachers as a substitute teacher. The outcome of my efforts is an education model designed to focus on its essential purpose, which is to insure that every student receives the unique time and attention they need to learn as much as they are able at their own best speed. This is the what teachers must be tasked to do and my model is crafted to support teachers and students in fulfillment of that essential purpose. Please check out my model at https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/
It is on the public education that the future of our
nation’s children depends, and it is on our children that the future of America