• Dave McGuire

MLK Jr Day Should Require Full Classroom Attendance

The Clarksvillian

Schools should be in full session on MLK Jr Day without exception.

Isn’t the encouragement of open dialogue and continuing education the primary reasons for MLK Jr Day? And if so, why aren’t students in full attendance on the very day that honors this man? There is simply no better way to honor the national holiday than dedicating his story, lessons, and experiences to the students for an entire day.

“Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history.” - American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

These opportunities for matching education and national affairs are vitally important to students, especially when considering our current national climate. Both national political parties and every activist group regularly manipulate and distort Dr. King’s words for political gain. These historical manipulations become frustratingly divisive fundraising opportunities that divide the public.

The teachers’ unions are advocacy groups as much as business unions. It’s who they are, and it’s not a hidden motivation. It will be the teachers themselves that need to fight for the ability to make impactful changes for students – such as MLK Jr Day. During the Industrial Revolution, factory workers were disposable. They lacked the specific skills and education necessary to bargain in a labor-saturated market. Today’s teachers are a highly competent and educated workforce in a market where they have leverage because of favorable numbers.

Along the same lines of MLK Jr Day, unions oppose measures that would structurally improve a failing system in exchange for increased funding, which will be drained by the dysfunctional system. They are, in particular, opposed to school choice, merit-based pay, standardized tests, and the Praxis, an entrance exam for teachers.

While hardly a remedy, school choice is one policy that promises to improve education and implement genuine change. According to most research, our current financial structure places a substantial strain on schools. Conversely, the ability of parents to remove their children from poorly performing schools increases student performance, saves money, and improves students’ mental health.

“The unions tell us that we, the teachers, deserve our jobs and better pay regardless of the success of our students, but in reality, we deserve more money and respect only if we do our job well. To suggest anything else is a disservice to the profession.” - Daniel Buck, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Fordham Institute

And another year has passed with students being caught in the middle of school districts, teachers, and unions. Will they make a needed change for the future of MLK Jr Day, or will it become another vaguely disguised negotiating tool?

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