Reflections on the Purpose of Education on Martin Luther King Day

Posted by Peggy Procter on 1/16/2024 3:00:00 AM


I awoke yesterday morning committed to spending time reflecting on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have always been proud that my alma mater, Dartmouth College, hosted Dr. Martin Luther King on campus in 1962, and I remember the old photographs in The Rockefeller Center, where I frequently studied, commemorating this historic visit. I re-read his presentation, Towards Freedom, and imagined what it would have been like to be a student in Dartmouth Hall that day, hearing Reverend King’s impassioned remarks. May 23, 1962 was Dr. King’s third invitation and attempt to speak at the college, but the earlier two events had not happened for a variety of reasons due to “circumstances in the struggle for freedom and human dignity,” including Dr. King’s incarceration. During my four years at Dartmouth College, every time that I set foot in Dartmouth Hall, I felt the beauty and power of his presence and the responsibility to use my privileged education for good.  


In this speech, Dr. King spoke about the “myth of educational determinism,” which he describes as “the idea that only education can solve the problems we face in human relations.” While Dr. King does believe that education has “a great role in changing attitudes,” he is clear that education alone will not solve the problems and inequities our society faces, and that we must have legislation and leadership as well to tackle society’s biggest challenges.  


The second piece by Dr. King that I re-read was an article titled “The Purpose of Education” written in January 1947 at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. There are three quotations from this document that most moved me:


  1. “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.”

  2. “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of education.” 

  3.  “...the most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”


I, and Echo Horizon’s faculty and staff, take our role as educators quite seriously. While we understand that education may not be the sole answer to a just and equitable future, we know that it is an important and powerful tool. We are continually on a journey to ensure that education is intentional and purposeful and serves the needs of the diverse students in our charge. We believe that learning and knowledge must be united with truth and goodness. We understand that our roles include not just teaching subjects like math, art, and literacy, but also tackling the teaching of character and values. Our lesson plans, our assemblies, our morning meetings, the books in our library, our 6th grade Purpose Learning capstone, to name a few examples, consistently challenge our students to reflect on their duties as an honorable scholar and citizen of our school, our community, and our global world. 


Please take a moment to pause and reflect on what you can do, both in our school and in your lives, to continue the legacy of Dr. King both with words and action. Our beautiful children deserve to grow up in a world where they are honored and valued for who they are and where all humans live with dignity, respect, and justice.