Education in the “Now”

Earlier today, I watched a video in which Martin Luther King’s essay (written, by the way, when he was 18…) titled, “The Purpose of Education” was given a dramatic treatment through media remix and performance by a group of youth at New Rochelle High School. And I thought about the ways that we simultaneously denigrate (some youth) and sensationalize (other youth) young people’s practices, proclivities, and passions, and how consistently we expect too little of their intellect and frequently demand too much of their often limited resources. We are swift to act in response to perceived transgressions (those dances beyond the accepted margins of the norm), and yet move like molasses in the face of adolescent exigencies that require adult support—emotional, political, financial, communal, and the like. (Well, not all of us.)

I embed below that video, a link to the text of the essay (each line, highly quotable), and the news report about the making of the video. The latter includes images of the video production and quotes from the youth filmmakers whose words and experiences suggest some things about the ways that access to everyday technologies every single day may embody a kinship with King’s advocacy that we take hold of the “fierce urgency of now” —Now, as in with the resources (material/human/digital/affective/aesthetic) we have at our disposal; Now, as in the places (locations/moments/conversations) where we find ourselves; Now, as in the people with whom we currently convene, speak, teach, and learn; Now, as in this moment, and this one, and this one. And I thought about how we are all complicit in what moves, changes, ebbs, and flows, and what doesn’t… and how that complicity may move us to actions or may further sediment our paralysis… and sometimes, both.

King, in his essay, writes, “education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.”

His words echo others that I hold dear, from Emerson: “Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul.”

And in the spaces in between their words are echoes of Baldwin and hooks and my friend Eric​ and Rilke and Anzaldúa and others whose provocations linger and may suddenly catch fire, setting ablaze the beauty of the unimaginable.

The Purpose of Education (video)

Text of “The Purpose of Education” (essay)

Film Students See iPad Film Program As Chance Inspire Change (video, local news report)

(Thanks to Darrell Hucks​ for sharing the video.)