No one could lead a civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. But let’s face it: the movement he led was old school. The civil rights issue of our time is the achievement gap, and closing it often requires doing the opposite of what Dr. King stood for. Which raises some important questions: if Dr. King returned today would he be an achievement gaptivist? Which billionaires would fund his important work? And with poverty and racism now officially regarded as excuses, what would he talk about? Meet Martin Luther King 2.0, now with more excellence.
I have it on excellent authority that at the top of Dr. King 2.0′s itinerary is a visit to an urban No Excuses academy of excellence and innovation that has “cracked the code” and discovered the “secret sauce” for putting poor minority students on a path to college and 21st century employment. Note to welcome committee: Dr. King will likely be puzzled by hyper-segregated nature of schools and predominantly young white teaching staff so you may want to have extra brochures on hand. Also, the No Excuses culture with its emphasis on silence, compliance and punishment will likely be new to him, or uncomfortably familiar, so may want to schedule visit for after 8PM when school day wraps up.
Speaking of excuses, Dr. King 2.0 will have to come up with some new material if he is going to hit the public speaking circuit running. His old stuff with all of that talk about poverty, justice, segregation and labor rights is totally dated and not at all relevant to the civil rights issue of our time. My advice to King 2.0′s staff: do a quick search through Word docs and replace any of the above musty, irrelevant, excuse-y ideas with “the achievement gap.” Also, work in that bit about the ‘fierce urgency of now’—it will go great with the new emphasis on the achievement gap. Delivering speech after speech without mentioning the fact that 22% of American children now live in poverty is going to feel weird at first. But just wait till those hefty speaking fees start to roll in.
We don’t know what Dr. King thought of hedge fund managers because, sadly, they did not yet exist during his day so were unable to solve the nation’s ills, including rescuing its public schools from the unions that had not yet begun to stifle them. But I think we can probably predict what these ed-vestors and edupreneurs would have made of Dr. King’s call for a “multiracial army of the poor” to demand an economic bill of rights for poor Americans—one big thumb way down. Memo to Dr. King 2.0: we don’t hate the rich anymore; they and their children are now our change agents fighting FER a better future FER at least a select group of minority children. Also, their wealthy friends will be funding your important work to close the achievement gap so best to stay away from all of that justice talk.
On the ‘not’ list: unions
The original Dr. King was a fierce supporter of labor rights and viewed unions as an essential tool for improving the wages and working conditions of everyone. Obviously things have changed a little since then, and it’s important that we bring Dr. King 2.0 up to speed on the fact that unions have officially been downgraded to ‘not’ on the hot or not list. Does he know, for example, that teachers unions have not only widened the achievement gap but also created poverty in inner city neighborhoods? That is why I am putting a viewing of “Waiting for Superman” at the top of Dr. King 2.0′s agenda, right after he visits a No Excuses school. One other thing: remember when you called right-to-work laws a fraud that had to be stopped, and a law intended to rob us of our civil rights and job rights? You might want to tone that down just a bit, and also add in a reference to putting students first, you know, before the adult interests.
Separate but innovative
Tough news on this issue, reformers. Even Dr. King 2.0, now with more excellence, might have a problem with our apparent abandonment of the ideal of universal public education. In Detroit, for example, where he delivered his speech at the Great March in 1963, there are now dual school systems: one of charter schools and the other a public system that must accept all children and is rapidly becoming the last resort for the toughest-to-serve kids. And in Washington DC, where King dreamed of an equal future for children of all races, two separate systems, one for strivers, one for discards, compete for public resources. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that even Dr. King 2.0 would not be a fan of “separate but innovative.”
Introducing the Martin Luther King Jr. 2.0 Academy for Excellence and Innovation
Scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2013, this rigorous No Excuses style college prep academy will combine high expectations with a blended learning model in order to ignite the passion of all young people to become innovators and entrepreneurial leaders who will change the world. For a glossy brochure contact firstname.lastname@example.org.