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I was just browsing a criminal background check when I found your debate here. Since this is a day that was voted by law, maybe the law should also clearly specify what people are expected to do on that specific day. Or maybe each school should try to something related to the work of Martin Luther King on that day. There are so many options, but the one sure thing is that you have to do something special.
Great point Martin, In a perfect world teaching tolerance and respect happen all the time and the holiday is the pinnacle of honor observed at all times. Unfortunately I am not as optimistic as I should be that these things happen. Is it more reasonable to seize the opportunity of a day set aside for "honor" to assure that teaching tolerance and respect takes place?
The philosphical batle is over - MLK Day is a national holiday and we teachers are the Govenment contact for children. Not only do we honor Dr. Kings's life and deeds, we teach tolerance and respect.
The public schools in our area are closed today. Our home school generally follows the same pattern as the public schools so our children have free time at the same time as their public school counterparts. However before they start their free day, I have given them a homework assignment. They are to read "Quiet Strength" by Rosa Parks, a table-top book of reflections on the civil rights movement. The book will take them about a half-hour to read, and it will put a proper perspective on the sacrifices that were made and continue to be made to insure that Dr. King's dream will become reality.
Parks, R., & Reed, G. J. (1993). Quiet strength. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Advocating activism is a most appropriate tribute to Dr. King. Unfortunately King holiday is generally observed in the most oxymoronic fashion possible: mindless consumerism and upper middle class white folks going to a ski resort. For better or worse, schools are the vehicle for teaching any degree of social consciousness. While not impossible, it is less likely that much instruction or modeling of social justice will take place at the mall or on the slopes. I say keep kids in school and seize the day!
[quote]As our social consciousness progresses, we should be teaching students how to be activists. Rather than teach just about historical inequities, we should be teaching students how to recognize unfair laws and problems with civil rights in today's world. We should study all kinds of activists, like MLK, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, John Muir, Richard Oakes, Susan B. Anthony, Bilaal Rajan, etc...and teach students about the strategies these activists used (sit ins, fasting, picketing, striking, boycotting, speeches, marches, etc) in the past to get heard. Hopefully, this will empower the current generation of students to ACT when they see unfairness and inequity.[/quote]
You are going to run up against the fundamentalists if you only talk about the liberal activists, but if you select carefully activism would be a good unit of study and could lead to some thing great Several times during Black History Month I have talked about female black achievers when I had a predominantly female class.
I think one of best things the school systems could do is require substantial amounts of community service as a requirement for graduation. This has been done in the Atlanta Public Schools for many years. Students work at day camps in the summer, help neighbors and work on other projects. Anything that is not strictly religious is acceptable so they can get credit for helping set up for a church potluck but not for singing in the choir at a church service.
Schools should be closed. Students should be encouraged to go to the King Day parade if they have one in their town and participate in Day On Not Day Off activities if possible. The celebration is really not just on King Day. In Atlanta it is KING WEEK with a variety of tributes and celebrations. If possible a video of Atlanta's King Day Parade and the celebration at Ebenezer Baptist Church could be shown. Normally many well known celebrities speak at this gathering and participate in the parade. Some time during King Week there should be class activities related to Dr. King.
It has gotten to the point where MLK is studied as simply part of American History. Even teachers don't remember him. Their world has never been segregated by law. This feels weird to me since when I was in elementary school he was the local news.
King had such a huge positive influence on America that he should be recognized with the same reverence as Washington, Lincoln, and 9-11. Suggestions for King week are inviting someone to speak to classes who remembers Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Very easily this could be a CURRENT TEACHER AT THE SCHOOL. That would make Dr. King very relevant and that teacher's status would go way up in the eyes of the students. There should definitely be an assembly with groups singing songs of the movement and a guest speaker and an essay or book report and viewing of an age appropriate video. The emphasis should be how Dr. King brought greater freedom to all Americans since women and people with disabilities achieved more equal rights following the Civil Rights Movement.
A final project might be some community service or fund collecting for a cause. It looks like Haiti could use a donation right now.
The most important thing is that the recognitions of MLK should not occur only in the predominantly black and inner city schools. Their churches and grandparents are probably sharing things about civil rights throughout January and February. The mostly white, suburban, and wealthy schools should also be recognizing King's work. I taught at a suburban high school where I was the only teacher in my department that even talked about Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, Black History, or slavery. I told my moderately retarded high school students that their black classmate (We only had about 150 black students at that school out of 1500 and many were under school choice.) would have to go to a different school and could not live in their neigborhoods. They were astonished and said, "Why", because she was their friend. It hit me that if these students had so little understanding of how other Americans were treated only 40 years ago, what did the regular education students think? I know somewhat. I asked some high school kids about Dr. King, and they said, "Oh, we talked about him in American History". He had no more impact to them than any other topic.
As our social consciousness progresses, we should be teaching students how to be activists. Rather than teach just about historical inequities, we should be teaching students how to recognize unfair laws and problems with civil rights in today's world. We should study all kinds of activists, like MLK, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, John Muir, Richard Oakes, Susan B. Anthony, Bilaal Rajan, etc...and teach students about the strategies these activists used (sit ins, fasting, picketing, striking, boycotting, speeches, marches, etc) in the past to get heard. Hopefully, this will empower the current generation of students to ACT when they see unfairness and inequity.