Purpose Of Education Essay Mlk

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

The debate in America today is not between those who want to keep our education system as it is and those who want to change it.

The “education reformers” are fond of saying that those of us who oppose their initiatives are for the status quo.  They are wrong and their rhetoric is insulting, small-minded and stupid.

The debate is about what type of public education we should have.

While improving the system of public education in the United States is the critical building block to the economic prosperity of our nation and its citizens, providing every child with a quality education is far more important than that – for it is the key to whether we, as a people, can achieve the principles, values, democracy and humanity that we claim to hold dear.

Hidden behind the debate about turnaround programs, charter schools, standardized testing, evaluation methods and the common core curriculum rages a far more fundamental argument; what do we actually expect our public education to achieve… What is the purpose of public education?

A couple of years ago, Valerie Straus of the Washington Post, used Martin Luther King Jr. Day to re-print a number of King’s writings and speeches on education.

Here is a piece he wrote for the Morehouse College student newspaper in 1947.

As we honor Martin Luther King Jr. today, it would be nice to think that our elected officials would take the time to read King’s thoughts on this most vital of topics.

The Purpose of Education, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“…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.”

And lest we forget, there are equally profound ways to look at the meaning and role of education…

“Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” – Joseph Stalin

The Purpose of Education

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947

Summary

Writing in the campus newspaper, the Maroon Tiger, King argues that education has both a utilitarian and a moral function. Citing the example of Georgia's former governor Eugene Talmadge, he asserts that reasoning ability is not enough. He insists that character and moral development are necessary to give the critical intellect humane purposes. King, Sr., later recalled that his son told him, "Talmadge has a Phi Beta Kappa key, can you believe that? What did he use all that precious knowledge for? To accomplish what?"

This essay, written sometime during King's junior year at Morehouse, explores the dual function of education. According to King, education must "discipline the mind" and orient human life around a set of morals. Without this latter component, King warns, education is "a ship without a compass.

Famous Quotes

"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."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education

"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."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education

"Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education

Full text of King's letter, The Purpose of Education

Read in Full: Full text of this speech is available at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/special/mlk/king/education.html
Also available as PDF at http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/liberation_curriculum/pdfs/purposeofeducation.pdf

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