January 17, 2005

Martin Luther King

The standard model for schools observing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, much like that for Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, George Washington's birthday, and a host of state-level observances, is to take the day off school and sleep in.

The only one of these that Knox observes at all is MLK Day, and its mode of observing it is so much better than the standard one that I wish every school would adopt it. (This would not be very popular with kids, although working parents might actually like it a lot.) We don't get the day off, you see. We actually observe the holiday.

The six regular class periods are adjusted to 45 minutes each, to make room for a two-hour block in the middle of the day. During that time, a convocation is hosted in the main college auditorium, with music, speeches, and poetry on relevant subjects---in this case equality and multiculturalism. There were some great speeches; MLK was really a brilliant guy, and though we remember who we was generally, our day-to-day knowledge of him is as two-dimensional as our knowledge of a lot of other historical figures. But if we're going to honour him with a big ol' holiday, maybe it should be something more?

And his writings are complex. "I have a dream" gets a lot of play, of course, but at least as much as his multicultural message, King had a lot to say about nonviolence. In some ways, it was more central to his thinking than anything else. And the best quote of the day by far---I wish I could track down the exact wording---was something from way back when he was an undergrad at Morehouse, writing about the importance of education in critical thinking and analysis to understanding the important issues of the day. Who talks about that on a day to day basis?

Think, how much more culturally aware and thoughtful would we be if our holidays were less about getting the day off, and more about contemplating the issues surrounding the subject of the day?

"Even on the small scale, when you look at any programming organization, the programmers with the most power and influence are the ones who can write and speak in English clearly, convincingly, and comfortably. Also it helps to be tall, but you can't do anything about that." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 11:58pm on 17 Jan 2005
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