Violence, Greed, and Social Conscience - Learning from Dr. Martin Luther King
On Jan. 15, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 67. What would he say about the violence that is consuming the lives and the spirits of so many children? What would he have us do about the mindless violence that has so permeated our society that it's denying youngsters the opportunity to dream, to learn, even to live?
Dr. King's greatest gift was his ability to sting our social conscience. He told us again and again that violence multiplies violence. Through the work of his too-short life, he made nonviolence a force for transforming the principles of justice into the law of the land.
Dr. King believed laws were important. He worked tirelessly to change our nation's laws to become consonant with the principles of our Constitution. He also understood the limits of legislation. He understood that a society's social conscience-its moral basis-is of even greater importance than its laws.
Dr. King sought to teach American that the highest justice is not the product of our laws but rather of "inner attitudes that law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify."
If we are to learn from him-and 27 years after his death I believe we still can-we must recognize that to end the menace of violence, the law is not enough.
To end the mindless violence, tighter gun control, more prisons, more police on the streets, and more comprehensive education and other programs that offer a route out of poverty are necessary. But none of these measures, singly or together, are enough. They can move us forward. But they cannot move us far enough.
What we need, more than laws, is to move beyond the profit motive that is the only rationale for developing and selling video games that glorify violence-games that everyone agrees have no educational or social value.
What we need, more than laws, is to move beyond the profit motive that tells television networks to devote their Saturday morning programming to cartoons, four out of five of them filled with violence. Other countries don't have laws requiring less violent TV shows aimed at children. They have a social conscience that tells them it's simply not right. A social conscience that tells them it's not in the best interests of children-or of the country.
Dr. King argued that "our economy must become more person-centered and less profit-centered." Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated just two months after Dr. King, once said: "We seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. We need to remember that America's gross national product...does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play...It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country."
Our country can and must balance the profit motive with the interests of its people-especially its children. The violence of our times affects us all. It makes victims of us all. But the saddest, most compelling victims are our children.
I can think of no time when our nation more desperately needed to heed the legacy of Dr. King. Let us be guided by his faith in America's people and their social conscience. And let us remember his words of wisdom-the words that tell us that the highest principles of justice are found, not within law books, but within ourselves.
Reprinted with the permission of the Nebraska State Education Association.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Problems With Standardized Testing
- The Homework Debate