As we take time across the nation to commemorate the birth, life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there are many lessons school leaders can learn from his work. Here are three quotations that resonate as much today as they did when Dr. King said them for the first time.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character; that is the goal of true education.”
Our work as school leaders can’t end with meeting regulations and mandates. We should have as a broader goal the idea that our efforts should lead to young people learning to learn in a critical manner. Dr. King didn’t live to see the technological world in which our students live today. His idea that education is about intense and critical thinking is especially important today. There is no shortage of information today. Not all of it is pure, and some of it is just untrue. Where there is a deficit is in discernment. Our young people need to learn to be critical consumers of information and deeply focused on analysis, synthesis, and understanding. As school leaders, we should continually work to shape our schools towards critical thinking.
“The time is always right to do the right thing.”
As school leaders, one of your most important roles is to make decisions. If you’ve been doing this long, you know that some of them are more difficult than others. In matters of decision, you’ll be affected by the context of the event, the particulars of the situation, but in the end you should be driven by your compass, pointing towards north, towards what’s right. You can lead your organization to make decisions the same way too. If you make it known and make it clear that your school will do things with integrity no matter what, you will send a clear message that the time is always right to do the right thing. Who can argue against that?
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
People in general are averse to great risks, particularly the older they become. Many people who get into teaching are even more likely to avoid risks; they fear failure more than they dream achievement. Those attitudes often keep our students away from the life-changing experiences that schools could present. As the leader, if you establish that your organization will be a place where you try new things, where you aren’t always seeking first to avoid failure, you will find great achievement. The first step for those experiences to happen at a school is for the leader to say that they’re okay to happen, and that, is a step of faith.