Where is Dr. King's dream? In the hearts and minds of our children

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During February, I spent two days doing something I had trained to do more than 50 years ago, but had not done so in almost as many years: I talked with public school children, from pre-K to fifth grade, about art and history. And it was a pleasant and enlightening experience.

The invitation came from Drs. Dana Harris, at Bayvale Elementary School, and Verma Curtis, at Wheeless Road Elementary School.

I'M STILL TRYING to figure out why those kids got me so excited. Maybe it was their innocence, their willingness to learn, their agape -type love and their energy. Or maybe it was their manners -- something we adults seem to lose along the way.

Yes, that's what it was. All of the above.

Many of them are learning these traits and getting a head start at an early age, where most learning takes place and where the foundation is laid. During my 27 years in construction, I never saw a foundation poured and laid after the steel erection took place. The foundation, the most critical part of any building, always came first, then the remainder.

So it is with our children. We must invest more money, not less, in the educational foundation of our children, a major component.

During this state's budget crisis, the easiest places to cut funding are those places where there is less resistance. Our children cannot lobby or advocate for themselves. And those of us without children don't care one way or another.

Gov. Nathan Deal is making major cuts in his pre-K program budget proposal -- a major mistake, in my estimation. The governor is putting the cart before the horse. He seems to be less concerned about the foundation of our educational system than he is about other areas of the budget.

I am just one voice appealing to the governor to look elsewhere for funds to balance the budget. Don't do it on the backs of our children. They are our future. Let's give them every advantage we can that will equip them to deal effectively with the challenges and opportunities of their time. The way things are looking now, that time is going to very difficult for them, even with the help that they are now getting from the state.

If only we adults could reflect on our own childhood days and see ourselves, as we once were, similar to the children I saw at Bayvale and Wheeless Road, maybe we could recapture that innocence, that agape love, that willingness to learn, that energy.

OFTEN WE BELITTLE children and denigrate their characters when we say that adults are "acting like children." We wish. If only we could get adults to act like children, we would have a much better world.

Somewhere along the way, things are messed up when children start acting like adults. Unlike children, adults can do some crazy, destructive things -- build bombs to blow up the world, fight wars, kill babies, hate, lie, cheat and a lot more.

We just got through celebrating Black History Month, which was a big part of my reason for being at Bayvale and Wheeless Road. One of the great men of my time was the Rev. Martin Luther king, Jr., a giant among men. I have a special admiration for any man who is willing to lay down his life for a worthy cause, and does, as in the case of Dr. King. There haven't been many in my lifetime I can think of who were willing to pay such a high price for what he believed in.

In his most famous speech, Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, among other dreams he had that day was the dream that one day "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

That dream is a reality today, from what I saw at Bayvale and Wheeless Road.

But what about the other dreams of Dr. King's, "that one day this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed," that "sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood," that "my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"?

Those dreams have not been fully realized -- and may not be in my lifetime -- but that doesn't mean that we should give up trying to make them a reality. One of the famous writers of the early 20th century, Langston Hughes, wrote a short poem suggesting what might happen to a dream deferred:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up?

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore --

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over -- like a syrupy sweet

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

ARE YOUR DREAMS drying up? Festering? Stinking? Or crusting or sugaring over? Or sagging? Or will they one day explode?

(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)

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howcanweknow 03/05/11 - 11:38 pm
Here's some of the problem. I

Here's some of the problem. I saw an interview where the Gov. of Arizona said a full 1/3 of the state budget was devoted to Education. Another 1/3 was for Entitlements / Medicaid. The last 1/3 was for everything else in the state.

Now, let's just assume the GA budget breakdown is somewhat similar (probably a good assumption). If Gov. Deal has to cut the budget -- and he surely does -- he MUST make cuts in Education and in Entitlements. Mathematically, there's really not much of a choice. If we are similar to the budget problem in Arizona, Education and Entitlements already eat up far too much of the total budget and are a major factor as to why the state is in the red. Those 2 categories may already account for well over half the entire state budget.

With all the money thrown at Education over the past 25 years one would assume we'd have seen a tremendous improvement in quality and student performance. However, all we hear about is how the education of our kids is still lacking, and needs more MONEY. Facts are, in this economy, there's no extra money to throw at public education. You can't spend money you don't have. And, the track record is that public education hasn't been all that efficient in terms of providing a solid return on the money invested.

I'm not exactly sure what these "dreams" you speak of have to do with state budgets and education. But, I do believe that a fiscally sound state will benefit all Georgians -- from our children all the way up to our elders. If the state goes broke, then no one will have any dreams. Dreams will be shattered. Let's give the governor the time and the latitude to get spending under control and right the ship. Then, we can discuss what to do about the less-than-perfect state of public education in Georgia.

Insider Information
Insider Information 03/06/11 - 12:03 am
I enjoyed reading Mr. Abrams'

I enjoyed reading Mr. Abrams' letter. It's inspiring hearing about his experience at the schools, but Dr. King's dream will never become reality as long as we close our eyes and allow the genocide to continue.
I recently heard a speech by Dr. King's niece and the way we allow abortions to slaughter our children en masse.
Can there be any greater civil rights issue than the right to live? What good is the right to vote, the right to an education, the right to sit on a bus, if a person isn't allowed to live?

dichotomy 03/06/11 - 10:20 am
I suspect the dream is alive

I suspect the dream is alive in our little children. Apparently our over funded, under performing education system kills the dream because they sure are a mess when they come out the other end.

Deal is doing what he has to do. I'm not crazy about the man but cutting the budget has to be done and I support him in that. There is no money! We cannot stand anymore taxes. Deal's job is to keep the STATE alive and if he doesn't succeed a lot of people's dreams will be crushed.

The kids would survive, dreams intact, just fine without pre-K if we instilled a little discipline and enforced some performance standards in K -12 classrooms on both the students and teachers. Instead we continue to throw money at the problem and give everyone a PASS. And if, after 14 years of public funded school, they are still so ignorant they couldn't qualify for a PASS and get a diploma, even though we were giving them away, we will give them a "certificate" for just showing up. Doing away with pre-K, partially or totally, is not the problem. It's what we allow to go on in K - 12 that kills the dream.

irishfarmer 03/06/11 - 10:55 am
Great article just like the

Great article just like the man who wrote it. His book is great as well.

Sweet son
Sweet son 03/06/11 - 02:57 pm
Dichotomy, as always right on

Dichotomy, as always right on target. Start all of the children in the same grade which will make a level playing for all of them!

Sideshow Bob
Sideshow Bob 03/07/11 - 08:57 pm
I'm glad Retired Army thinks

I'm glad Retired Army thinks that pouring money into education makes it better.

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