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The Problem with MLK Day

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Guest blogger Jana Mathews: Making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday was a HUGE mistake.

Martin Luther King

Before all of you get your politically correct panties in a pinch, hear me out:

The government had good intentions when it honored the great civil rights leader with his own named holiday, yet I can't help but think that legislators should have known that doing so would produce such a bad outcome. Sadly, MLK Day has suffered the same fate as other federal holidays set aside to memorialize American heroes (I'm thinking specifically of Presidents Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day); namely, it's become a three-day weekend. Deny it all you want, but you know it's true: if Martin Luther King's birthday was in June, you know you'd have a barbecue!

If we really wanted to honor remarkable people and events from our nation's past, we wouldn't let our kids out of school on the days designated to remember them, but rather, we'd keep them in. Instead of giving kids another vacation that they don't need, I'd like to see schools dedicate Martin Luther King Jr. Day to honoring the great leader's life and mission by performing school and community-wide acts of service.

Of course this will never happen because any proposal that asks children to do something for someone surely will be shot down by a small but vocal minority of parents who will whine that volunteerism is a violation of their children's civil rights.

next: Do You Have Your Obama Swag?
35 comments so far | Post a comment now
Natalie January 19, 2009, 7:51 AM

You know what? I totally agree with you! Kids these days don’t think about what these people actually did in order to have a holiday named after them! MLK jr. especially. He was an amazing man who fought so hard for equality, but most kids don’t know that. To them, he made a speech, and they get the day off of school. When my kids are older, I plan on having them do things on days like today that celebrate the person, even if they’re off of school.

Beth January 19, 2009, 8:49 AM

Great idea! I think I’ll get my kids up so we can go help out at the Food Bank.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity January 19, 2009, 9:14 AM

great point, Jana. Not only is this point overlooked on holidays, but on many other occasions. I’m appalled (and even guilty of this in my own home, too) about how much of children’s free time is spent on lazy self-entertainment. You’ve reminded me I need to kick things up a notch.

Kimberly/Mom in the City January 19, 2009, 10:33 AM

Of course your title was provocative (to get people to read, I’m sure)…

Your point is great though…a day of community service (rather than a day “off”) would be a great alternative.

As parents, we can make that happen in our own homes….

Anonymous January 19, 2009, 10:49 AM

That is a great point. Some kids probably don’t even know who MLK was let alone why he has a holiday.

Marquita January 19, 2009, 11:46 AM

I disagree with this article. Yes, MLK day is another school day off for school children. However, most schools teach children about MLK and his virtues and tell children what people can do to honor him. Having children in schools that day and making them “volunteer” is not volunteering. We all havet he free will to do what we want, so give children the will to choose to volunteer on their day off of school in MLK’s honor. MLK is not for making people do something him/her did not choose to do. He would like people to make decisions on his/her self.

Valarie January 19, 2009, 11:52 AM

I couldn’t agree more. I have the hardest time getting my kids to do anything for themselves, much less do something good for someone else. I am sure some will disagree, but you couldn’t have said it better, knowing it would be celebrated with a BBQ. Great Post.

Ginny January 19, 2009, 1:04 PM

I completely agree!

Erica January 19, 2009, 1:35 PM

The other three day weekends have been irking me as well. On Memorial Day in San Francisco, my husband and I had to diligently seek out an ACTUAL MEMORIAL to soldiers. And we were in a crowd of may 200. In the city of San Francisco. Everyone else was… I dunno, sleeping in? High? Protesting wars?

But my daughter was born on Labor Day and we’ve all pretty much moved past that cause, so we’ve fully co-opted it into a BBQ. Sorry, unions!

Anonymous January 19, 2009, 1:41 PM

You are a stay at home mom. Some of us like the holiday. Some of us like having that extra day off!

~ agreeing with Jana January 19, 2009, 2:17 PM

I disagree with the writer who stated that the schools teach about Martin Luther King. I have ask my 9 year old what he know about this great man and he knows very little. School are more concerned about teaching the test than teaching. Of course, this is completely up to us to teach them about these role models.

And I would like the day off of work, but I am forced to pay a high school babysitter a lot of money because I have one of those jobs that I have to be at regardless of what the schools and government do.

Elaine January 19, 2009, 2:39 PM

Sorry, but I think you’re wrong. It is precisely because the kids get a day off that they are made aware of the great things Martin Luther King did. Many schools already do a lot of special activities leading up to the day off and they could easily to community and school service before the holiday if that’s what you want.

Karen Stone January 19, 2009, 2:49 PM

When I substituted in the Saddleback Unified School District in South Orange County, California, there were Martin Luther King materials to be used with the classes I taught near the time of his birthday. One thing that those who live in or near Los Angeles could do on Martin Luther King’s birthday is watch the Kingdom Day Parade that takes place every year or attend it. It’s a wonderful event and this year as I am watching it on TV just now, there is a lot of celebrating that Barack Obama’s Presidency is a partial fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream! Children and adults are both enjoying the parade.

Bailey January 19, 2009, 3:56 PM

I guess the person who said the original poster was a “stay at home mom” had every reason to stay anonymous. That was WRONG. Stay at home mothers have a bigger and more important job than their husbands. Raising children in these times is hard and I feel like being at home with your kids is the most admirable job a woman can have. It’s HARD. Alot of people don’t realize that, especially those who don’t have kids.

Lena January 19, 2009, 4:44 PM

Wow I think you are right on! Way to go!! and to the person who said “You are a stay at home mom. Some of us like the holiday. Some of us like having that extra day off!” You really just proved her point. When has being a stay at home mom a day off?

Diva Ma @ Mommy Fabulous January 19, 2009, 4:44 PM

LOL! And the commenter that posted anonymous proved your point! People consider Martin Luther King’s birthday just another day off! I also disagree with whoever said that they teach about MLK in school because last year I had to “teach” my boys about MLK and Black History myself!

Children should be taught more about the reason for the holidays and more about doing things within their community to support others. While they are at home enjoying the day off, how many parents, that are enjoying the day off as well, are going to take the time to do something for someone else?

Candice January 19, 2009, 5:08 PM

To Mr./Mrs. Annonymous,
I am at work today!! I would rather be at work than to be sitting around being lazy. I will see my children when I get off work (just like a regular Monday). I will play my games or have fun on those days that are assigned to play. They are called Saturdays!! I hope you have fun on your day of being a lazy American.

I agree with you Jana! I like the idea. I am have a full-time job and I am a substitute teacher. I would be willing to volunteer my day to teach children about one of our nations heroes.
I have a 3rd grader. She came home from school with the assignment to write a letter to Dr. King thanking him for what he has done for us. She was at a blank. She had no idea whatsoever on what to write. I asked if her teacher taught her class about him. She replied with a ‘yes, but I still don’t know much.’ The assignment also stated that if the child couldn’t figure out what to write that their parents can tell them what to write. I finished school! I don’t want to get off of work to go home to do my kids homework. I understand helping them, but actually doing it for them because the school doesn’t have the ‘time’ to teach my child about the subject is out of the question.
I am a single mother of four girls. I have a full-time job and take care of all the bills myself. I don’t get help from child support or anything else. I am the bread winner and the house keeper. I take care of the kids and the bills. I WORK really hard at trying to get time with my kids, but KNOWLEDGE IS EVERYTHING. Being a mom is one of the biggest jobs in the world, rather it be a stay at home mom or a mom with a full-time job outside of the home.
Thank you for your Post!!

Kelly January 19, 2009, 6:11 PM

Well, from a student’s stand point, it’s a little unfair.
I can understand as to where you’d want us to get an education, and to go to school to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but in all honesty i didn’t learn about him.
the only time he was mentioned was when i asked why we had to go to school.

Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) January 19, 2009, 6:16 PM

This makes a LOT of sense…

Shelly January 19, 2009, 8:41 PM

I think this article reeks of self-righteousness!. P.U!

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