Ideas on Justice

"Justice requires that we should take steady care every day to yield his rights to every person we come in contact with; that is, "to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us: to hurt nobody by word or deed" -Mason, Ourselves

This week we pause to remember, and seek to live into the dream given us by Dr. Martin Luther King. As America's pre-eminant civl rights activist, Reverend King led an organized, non-violent resistence movement seeking freedom, equality, and justice for African Americans. Each year I sit down with my children to recap this watershed moment in US history by watching Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I cry every time. He was an incredibly gifted orator that captured imaginations and inspired change by offering through poetic passion a brighter vision for our shared future. Watch the full speech here:

As I sit 50 years later and listen to Dr. King alongside my 11 year old daughter, I'm amazed at the connections she makes by taking in this particular moment in history. She is transported to the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. of which she has just read in Halliburton's Book of Marvels. "There's the Washington Monument!" Our eyes scan the gathering crowd, come to bear witness to their own full humanity. We follow the crowd up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and rest our gaze upon Dr. King. Looking on with a solemn, yet peaceful countenance is that collosal statue of Abraham Lincoln, whose ominous presence seems to echo his approval of the movement he initiatied a century earlier. In fact, the words etched in marble beside Lincoln speak to the character of the man we are reading about in Lincoln's World.

As he speaks, King draws you into the world he envisions by referencing well-known icons in America's public and private history. His prophetic voice calls upon Scripture, geography, literature, and folk songs to paint a vision of a new and inclusive America free from racial inequality and injustice. Even the average listener is struck by the depth and breadth of his education, a self-education, drawing from the best minds and ideas from every educational discipline. My daughter takes notice. "He's talking about the things I'm reading!" Ideas are being discerned. Minds and hearts are being formed. King embodies the belief that education is not simply well-stored information, but that it is "passed, like the light of a torch, from mind to mind, and the flame can be kindled at original minds only." Ideas have consequences, both for good and for evil. As Maryellen St. Cyr reminds us "The nature of knowing begins with ideas, the live things of the mind, that strike, impress, seize, and catch hold of one. Ideas are the initiators of habits of thought and habits of action." And if a recent Duke University study is correct, that over 50% of life is performed through habitual actions, the ideas that form our thoughts and habits are eternally important.

Our role as parents and educators is to place before our children the daily nourishment of ideas by way of living books-yes, even living moments caught on tape- that promote "living thought". We then allow the mind of the child to do it's work. The work of attending, reflecting, and using what has been apprehended. It is through the time of reflection, this seeking of knowledge through meditation and contemplation in the quiet and through the life experiences we encounter that the ideas either take hold or fall away. And if ideas, as Charlotte Mason says, "...are of spiritual origin", then we come to discern the knowledge of God's truth, beauty and love in this world. Miss Mason believed that ideas in education would intruct the conscience and lead to right action as made evident in the life of Dr. King.

In the midst of great struggle and unrest-a dark blot on human justice, I witness King as a child of God, a child formed by noble, living thoughts and experiences rise up to proclaim these ideas of spiritual origin, to live out right action or what Dr. King states as "God's will" in his life. May we accpet the tremendous priviledge and responsibilty to allow the torch to be passed to our children and nurture the profound principle that Education is a Life.