Net Worth by Race & Ethnicity

Posted: January 21, 2020

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I’m focusing this week’s HOPE and JOY on the dream he so eloquently described, and on a still-relevant quote about education.  I’ve often thought about all the “purposes” that have been added to our public school plates.  Alone, each of the responsibilities is important, and I worry sometimes that our plates are so full that we’re not able to get to the main course Dr. King described, critical thinking and character.

In researching Dr. King’s thoughts on education,  I discovered that the quote came from an article he wrote for the Morehouse College newspaper in 1947 called “The Purpose of Education.”  Other lines in the short article connect to some of the things our country is talking about today.

  • “To save man from the morass of propaganda 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 broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

I often wonder what kind of an impact a leader like Dr. King would have on our world if he was still with us.  I reflect on the imperative for each of us to pick up that mantle of leadership in the spaces where we serve.

The Purpose of EducationThere is work to be done to realize the dream across our communities.  In Camas, as we have pressed more into our work of seeing and serving EACH student, I’ve been asked, “Why is that our focus? Is it really necessary to have conversations about race, ability, gender…?”  Some suggest that instead, we keep our focus on respecting everyone or living by the “golden rule.”  I agree; we should focus on those suggestions.  We try to live and model them every day.  I also believe that to truly realize the dream requires more from us individually and collectively.

In 2018 more than 7,000 hate crimes were reported by the FBI.  We continue to experience a persistent racial wealth gap (Federal Reserve).  And, a quick google search reveals we continue to have disparities in educational experiences and outcomes for students.   In order to compete in the global economy, our country needs EACH student to graduate as an inspired learner, ready to contribute to their community.  We have a moral responsibility to serve each student. And from an economic standpoint, each student is critical.  So what do we do about disparity? How do we make progress towards the dream?

Considering disparities is complicated.  Questions naturally come up when presented with data that shows disparity. How did it happen? Why does it persist?  What factors contribute to it? How do we change? Do we really want to change? 

Those kinds of questions have been difficult for our country to talk about.  The questions themselves can seem divisive to some, leading to deeper questions about responsibility and appropriate action.  The questions can challenge our identity.  Honest conversations about who benefits from the current system, and who does not, can feel very personal.  For educators, there can be this strange tension between the possible and impossible.  On some days, it can feel like we are making a difference; we’re changing the trajectory of students’ lives.  On other days, we may feel unsure or unsteady in the steps toward progress.  It is both inevitable and uncomfortable to feel this kind of tension when doing this kind of complex work.

We are called to be agents of hope. Hope helps us to see in each of our students the human they are and can become. Hope helps us to recognize barriers that have unfairly burdened some students more than others – and to know that we can marshal both will and power to create change. Hope can lift us when we listen to each of our students and reflect on how we can help each one of them graduate as an inspired learner.

Hope is hard, and it means that we will grow. This focus on growth is not a judgment on what “is,” but a wild affirmation of what can be – especially when we work together in service of our students.

Each day we have the potential to make progress towards Dr. King’s dream.  Even though our plates are full, we can focus on developing not just the critical thinking and character of our students, but also ourselves.  We can give ourselves permission to take time to listen.  We can give ourselves permission to try new things and the grace to know those new things are not always going to work.  We can rally around our students and each other when it gets tough.  We can celebrate our students and each other when we make progress.  Just take a step each day.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” MLK

I am so grateful to do this important work with you.  I hope you all have a great week.

Jeff