January 20, 2008

Turn anything into a lesson, but will it stick?

A friend of mine has done something unusual with the celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday this year. She teaches young adolescents with moderate cognitive disabilities and behavior problems, and this year, she chose King's 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech as the basis for a series of lessons in reading, language arts, civics, etc. in the last week or two. She says she wasn't sure how basing a spelling test on a Nobel Prize speech would go over, but she did it anyway.

There's a test of what the students learned beyond the question of whether the speech taught the students some new words. She reported that when she asked the students if they agreed with King's arguments (in favor of "unarmed truth and unconditional love" over militarism), they all said yes... in a week where she had at least a handful of minor conflicts to break up. So perhaps we should say that their understanding of King's message, or maybe their own behavior, is a work in progress.

On the other hand, I'm not sure we're doing much better as a society than my friend's students. We're happy to give King his day, as long as we can ignore his ideas about justice and peace.

Maybe it's time we adults change.

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Posted in History on January 20, 2008 3:06 PM |