Editor’s note: Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was highlighted by a speech by Martin Luther King Jr., for whom the Collier County Public Schools administrative center is named. The Daily News, via the school district’s public information office, invited teachers to tell us how the occasion will be observed in classrooms.
From Paul Horne at Naples High School:
I will share with my students that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an activist and we’ll talk about what that means.
Dr. King’s goal was equality for all men and women.
Many of us benefit from being raised in America as equality and access were already improving and we do not fully have the experience of those who led and participated in the Civil Rights Movement.
For me, I know I live in a place where Dr. King’s dream has come to fruition. Not in a courthouse or in a neighborhood, but in our schools and also in our team sports. As a football coach, I am inspired to look around a huddle on Friday night and feel the progress we have made as a culture: young men from all backgrounds, working together for a common purpose with respect for each other. What matters on and off the field is the respect you have for the person beside you.
For me as a coach, this respect is garnered through endless sessions of lifting weights and countless hours of running. This is what Dr. King outlined in his message: character and integrity. Character that is revealed from physical demands and the integrity that is revealed by the commitment you have to each other on the team.
Football huddles today are an example of what was one of the intended outcomes of the Civil Rights Movement. A group of people (young men) who do not see their differences as they are so united in their common focus and intended outcome. Teams who consider themselves brothers and treat each other as such due to their shared experiences. Bonds that help the huddle member see shades of gray. Actions that value the man as an individual component of the greater purpose, regardless of color, creed, or any belief system.
This is only one example outside of the classroom where I see progress in a way that Dr. King envisioned.
From Brent Brickzin at Palmetto Ridge High School:
In my law classes we are looking at Human Rights and Equality of the Law. With both of these topics we are looking at how they were in 1960s and how they are today.
We have been discussing how laws are written to represent the will of the majority yet protecting the rights of the minority. We will be discussing how laws are written and are they still influenced by people’s bias. We will be discussing the Supreme Court’s decisions from this summer changing the voting protocols in some southern states. We will be discussing how the Civil Rights movement influenced the way we govern today and how it has impacted education and society in general.
Further, in my Leadership class we are looking at the relevance of communication and the importance of diversity in today’s society. We are discussing the skills necessary to be an effective leader and the need to ensure that equality exists in all decisions that you make. We will look at a variety of sources to visually see civil rights in action.
From Wendy Hodgson, coordinator for K-12 social studies education in Collier County Public Schools:
As historians, we often reflect on momentous occasions in history and consider how far we have come since that time. As we share with our students in schools about the 50 years that have traversed since the March on Washington, let us be thankful for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that ensures the citizens’ right to assembly and free speech, among other liberties. Let us remember the power of a collective group of mindful citizens who come together united in common purpose and bring momentum to a change that has been long in coming.
What actually allows for “equity” in any culture is for the “haves” to be willing to share power or money with the “have-nots.” It is not easy to compel this change, but throughout history and around the world, righteous leaders have brought forth meaningful change in this same way: purpose, focus, intent and goodness. The might of what is right will always win out over the small-minded control and exclusionary policies of past practices. All it takes is a voice, and then a collection of people willing to sacrifice their own safety and security for the gain human equality.
We have not seen the end of King’s influence in this world. The March on Washington was a moment in our history that represented one of the turning points in the effort to move forward as a society. We will continue to see other cultures across the globe strive for their freedom access, and civil liberties.
You can only keep education and opportunity away from people for so long. Eventually, people will strive for their greatest purpose and they will unite and sacrifice as many did in U.S. history through the Civil Rights Movement.
We are proud to celebrate the many figures and speeches of the March on Washington 50 years ago with the students of Collier schools.