Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen by many a cultural icon of the United States and a hero to the Civil Rights Movement throughout the world. Some may argue that these perceptions of Dr. King make him out to be greater than human, giving us permission to distance ourselves from the potential all humans have to make the world a better place. But we all have the capacity of Dr. King within us all, and his legacy helps us aspire to keep his vision, his philosophy, his dream alive.
Dr. King had the characteristics of a great leader, a great teacher, and a great facilitator of social justice. Each of us here at Kirkwood Community College should be able to find at least one aspect of this great human being that we have within ourselves that we can pass on to Kirkwood students. We should also be able to find the passion and vision of Dr. King within our students as well.
The first two parts of Kirkwood’s mission, as stated in the previous post, is to identify community needs and to provide accessible, quality education, and training. Dr. King’s philosophy can help us attain these goals by identifying the obstacles, which the King Center calls Triple Evils: poverty, racism, and militarism. These are the same barriers that prevent learner success.
How many of our students have come to Kirkwood to escape the cycle of poverty seen as unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, and much more? The Kirkwood Foundation is a great example of lifting students out of this cycle, but it should not stop there. According to the King Philosophy, compassion is the key, and the key to becoming a compassionate faculty member is learning and understanding the poverty that some of our students face everyday. Compassion should inspire one to action, to make a change beyond the curriculum or syllabus that fits Kirkwood’s mission of providing accessible, quality education and training.
Racism is an ugly word and may not be visible to everyone on campus or in the community. However, more subtle forms of racism, such as prejudice and discrimination, may be more apparent to some. Kirkwood strives to prevent racism through it’s learner success agenda in conjunction with Iowa Code 216.9: “Through faculty collaboration, instructional excellence, and integrated support services, we will improve the learning experience for each and every student regardless of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability. We will work to make sure instruction is available when and where our diverse learners need us.”
At first glance, it seems odd that militarism may be a part of Kirkwood, but when reading through the King Center’s examples of militarism one will soon realize that many of us know someone or had direct experience with war, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, drugs, child abuse, and violent crime. The Cedar Rapids area is home to many refugees who have experienced these forms of militarism. For many teachers who have not faced all or most of these forms of militarism, it may be difficult to understand the mindset of our students and the difficulties they may face as a victims of militarism.
How can Kirkwood faculty help their students overcome these obstacles that may impede opportunities for lifelong learning? One solution is to more carefully consider the principles and values as identified along with Kirkwood’s mission. The best way to understand one’s students is through mutual respect and open communication. The best way to help students is through innovation, servant leadership, and partnerships with other departments within and beyond Kirkwood Community College. Throughout this process, we must maintain integrity and commitment to excellence.
Another guide to finding a solution is The King Center’s website, which highlights nonviolent principles and approaches to help combat poverty, racism, and militarism. This section of the website ends with the concept of the Beloved Community, which may help inform the mindset of one interested in improving the Kirkwood and Greater Cedar Rapids Community. Please read through this to inspire you to action. KCELT will be happy to facilitate your development in this direction.
KCELT is also dedicated to increase learner success, in line with the philosophy of Dr. King, to improve intercultural competence and sensitivity in faculty and to increase faculty self-reflection with the purpose of affecting positive change in the teaching and learning environment. Evidence of this dedication is a whole strand of offerings on diversity during Collaborative Learning Day and two Culturally Responsive Classroom courses offered in 2014. With Dr. King’s philosophy in mind, we plan to provide faculty with more opportunities to develop and grow in 2015 and beyond.