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MLK on EducationThis is the time of year when many Americans honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Last weekend I had the pleasure – yes pleasure – of visiting Eastern State Penitentiary and attending a reading of Letters from a Birmingham Jail, written by Dr. King, in April 1963. Later that week, this article was published in the Washington Post.

Those of you who have read any of Dr. King’s work or have watched him speak know his messages are calls to action delivered in a most compelling manner. The article by Valerie Strauss shared excerpts from speeches and writing about education by Dr. King, most of which are new to me.

Here is an excerpt from “The Purpose of Education,” which he wrote for the February 1947 edition of the Morehouse College student newspaper. Although he never mentions Montessori education in his work, as you read, think about your child’s experience at Wilmington Montessori School. The similarities to Dr. King’s vision of education and Maria Montessori’s are uncanny.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.  

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals…

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.