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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – ed/Words to ed/Stories

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education” – Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote by Dr. King was one of our first ed/Words – Great Words on Education from Great Minds” The purpose of ed/Words is to show how words can inspire. They can be all it takes sometimes to motivate, direct, realize an idea, begin a conversation, weigh a result. ed/Words has also revealed two things. First, that we can learn anyWHERE, be taught by anyONE, and education can be anyTHING that elevates, enriches and enables us.

Second, that not all educational experiences are equal. The people behind the ed/Words, as for most of us, became elevated, productive and successful one of two ways; either as a result of their educational experience or despite it. Indeed, the classroom is the place for hard fought, hard won, illuminated learning.  But, it seems that classroom learning combined with life learning creates the most meaningful educational outcome. What then, is behind the ed/Words? Well, those are the ed/Stories?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is the perfect subject of our first ed/Story! After all, Dr. King started out in public school at five, went on to skip two grades in high school and entered Atlanta’s Morehouse College at the age of 15. By 1951 he had graduated valedictorian from Crozer Theological Seminary and was accepted for doctoral studies at both Yale and Edinburgh College in Scotland, eventually choosing Boston University. He married Coretta Scott in 1953 and completed his Ph.D, earning his doctoral degree in 1955. He was 25 years old.

There it was! The educational career that resulted in a man who cherished family, fought for justice, became a scholar, a leader, a Noble prize winner, and an architect of a movement that changed history. Now this was a story. But it was not the whole story: it was not the ed/Story.

Between Dr. King’s maternal grandfather and his own father Martin Luther King Sr, Martin Luther King Jr. was the third generation in a legacy of ministry and church leadership. But Dr King’s broader experiences brought broader thought and he began to question a career in the ministry. Through self revelation and guidance from Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse College, Dr. King recaptured his faith and dedicated his life to ministry and the pursuit of justice.

…and he taught; one class, in 1962. It had eight students. He taught a social philosophy class at his alma mater Morehouse College. Comments from the now storied class members range from “a little boring…he had a horrible monotone” to “I knew even then, I was privileged to learn from him”. Dr. King’s reading expectations were high, including the likes of Rousseau and Socrates. He wrapped it up with a final exam that simply asked, “Would Adam Smith or Karl Marx support the nonviolent theory of social change?”

A commitment to formal education that included wide study of religions, governments, and philosophers, along with personal inner exploration provided Dr. King with a spiritual voice; a voice that reconciled his beliefs and that others would embrace. I thought we had it! This is the ed/story….then I found this…

As a student at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr wrote an essay for the campus newspaper. In it he says, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the truth from the false, the real from the unreal, and facts from fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and think critically”                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

There it was. Dr. King’s plea to education, perhaps even for himself, that formal education create not just the educated, but thinkers and problem solvers; and he there produced his own destiny. By broadening his experiences and furthering his knowledge, he learned to spot truth from lies and he succeeded in solving the problems he saw.

It is not the intention of ed/Words or ed/Stories to trivialize or minimize the work of Dr. King. That record is voluminous and universal. But within the two quotes in this piece, there are only about 50 words total.

Were there no other records of his speeches, books, interviews, these 50 words would tell with simple elegance and immediacy the full make of the man and his legacy.

…now that’s an ed/Story.

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