January 17, 2022

Remembering the Life and Legacy

of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Lessons on Education”

Nearly half a century ago, Fielding’s founders envisioned a nationally recognized graduate school, where motivated, mid-career, mid-life learners would emerge transformed. Since 1974, Fielding has applied their ideas, and we have surpassed the founders’ wildest dreams for adult teaching and learning. Gratifying still is the opportunity we have every day to celebrate Fielding students and alumni who benefit from an innovative educational experience and are proud change agents in the community, the workplace, and the world.

They are also committed to being lifelong learners—a Fielding hallmark. That is why it seemed fitting, on this day, that we revisit some of the prophetic words Dr. King wrote about the power and purpose of education. In the spirit of teaching and learning, these are a few lessons from his 1947 essay, “The Purpose of Education.”

On education’s functions, benefits.

“…education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

On how to think.

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and … critically.”

A warning to educators.

“… education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted reason, but with no morals.”

Being smart is not enough.

“… intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. King, the Baptist preacher, and the man who marched in the streets, advocated for fair wages and voting rights, and died for racial justice for all. He was just an 18-year-old senior at the Historically Black Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, when he wrote “The Purpose of Education” for the Maroon Tiger, his campus newspaper. I urge you to read the complete essay, written during segregation. Nearly a century later, the words that a young King meant mainly for “the brethren” at his all-male College resonate, even for us. I want those words also to challenge the community of lifelong learners that Fielding’s founders envisioned. As we mark this King holiday, I urge you—students, alumni, faculty, and staff—to not just be well-read, but people who are critical thinkers and concerned about uplifting others.

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