The Rev. Martin Luther King began his quest for civil rights for all Americans a half century ago. This week, MU is revisiting King’s legacy and discussing his past and future influence on American public policy.
On Thursday, MU hosted two events that focused on education and public policy. The Rev. L. Charles Stovall, a former King colleague and United Methodist Church leader from Texas, played a key role in both presentations.
Stovall was joined Thursday afternoon in Memorial Union by Phyllis Chase, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, and Juanita Simmons, an MU professor in education, to discuss the reforms and future of education policy in America.
“Education is there to understand history, to teach us how we live and work and how to think critically,” Stovall said.
The panel discussion centered on allocation of resources, addressing achievement gaps and resegregation.
“Resegregation is happening on the grounds of class and poverty,” Chase said. “By allowing housing patterns based on wealth, an acceptable form of segregation has been created in America.”
Several panelists questioned the funding of the No Child Left Behind Act, federal legislation passed in 2002, which aims to bring more accountability to public schools. Most of the panelists, however, liked the intent of the legislation and supported its focus on accountability for all groups of students.
“A national conversation is happening for the first time in terms of what we do about achievement for everyone,” Simmons said.
Richard Andrews, dean of the MU College of Education, moderated Thursday afternoon’s discussion. He praised King’s accomplishments but said there is much work still to be done.
Stovall continued his discussion of Dr. King’s teachings with a lecture Thursday evening at the United Methodist Church. The topic of the lecture was helping the church and the nation rediscover its prophetic voice.
Stovall discussed the lack of morality within the church and the government.
“When I think about the war in Iraq, I’m reminded of how Dr. King felt about the war in Vietnam,” Stovall said. “He thought that it was one of the most immoral wars fought on the planet, and that’s how we should be feeling about the war in Iraq.”
Stovall emphasized the need for the nation to not ignore injustice and oppression.
“The enemy is going to look big sometimes, but you have to fight the good fight and keep the faith because you can outsmart even the largest enemy when you have truth on your side,” he said.