Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was uplifting through his hope, but I am much more inspired by his honesty. It is through his vein of candor and frankness, that I believe lie some of the most essential lessons we have to learn from and about MLK.
When most people think of the Civil Rights Movement, they focus on the “I Have a Dream” speech, along with the image of a Klansmen and the fire hose-wielding bigot as the main oppressor. MLK would be pointing out a lot more to us, though.
Think about it: He called out the government for its lack of commitment to the Great Society. In his epic Letter from Birmingham Jail, he called out white clergymen whom could have used their platforms in Jewish, Catholic, and other religions to support “Negroes” in their fight against a prejudiced society. Most importantly, he called out those whom would deny the most unalienable rights to Black Americans simply by being silent. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” he said.
His honesty about the Movement was often calculated and measured, and some of the younger more militant members of the Movement claimed he sugar-coated his speeches and involvement a bit too much at times, but it was always accurately targeted for impact. This is perhaps one reason why Dr. King said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Unfortunately, he didn’t take his own advice in Albany and I believe he’d say so today.
If I could guess, I think he’d point back to a failure in Albany, Georgia, not the Birmingham campaign or the “I Have a Dream” speech, as the key point of his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. It was there, roughly 50 years ago, in early 1962 in a small Georgia town, where Dr. King learned one of his most important lessons about honesty as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Albany Movement, which took place primarily from late 1961 through a good part of 1962 (and thereafter) is frequently forgotten or glazed over in the story arc of the Movement. This is not simply because Albany, Georgia, was a smaller town than Birmingham, Alabama, or a less violent scene than Selma, Alabama, where the infamous “Bloody Sunday” occurred in 1965, but mostly because the victory wasn’t as clear-cut. Some historians call it a defeat for Dr. King.
The previous year, during the summer of 1961, Freedom Rides had become a major pillar of the Movement, with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) leading the way. These rides were a sensational tactic in that the chief participants were not all Black and many of them, including a 19-year-old Stokely Carmichael (best known for coining the term “Black Power” and being a founder member of SNCC) were a decade or two younger than Dr. King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference colleagues.
Due to the SCLC’s limited involvement in the Freedom Rides, many King critics got to calling him “De Lawd” for his perceived lack of aggression toward Jim Crow laws. Possibly in response to such criticism, Dr. King and SCLC made it a point to be a more involved organizer of the Movement in Albany where the protesters called for the wholesale desegregation of the town.
The week before Christmas in 1961, Dr. King appeared in Albany and was quickly arrested amongst other peaceful protesters. At one point, King deployed the Gandhi strategy to have the jails filled to capacity with protesters in order to weaken the Police Commissioners powers. Unfortunately, the local police chief had out-strategized King and his colleagues – in large part due to the over-reaching nature of the Movement, which again called for desegregation throughout the town. Ultimately, in the summer of ’62 after minimal impact or gains, Dr. King left Albany.
Therein lies the lesson Dr. King likely learned. The Movement would have to be more targeted and more focused to succeed. Dr. King had tried, perhaps out of a desire to maintain his voice and signal strength as the national leader of the Civil Rights Movement, to do too much in Albany. A call for desegregation town-wide was a stretch in 1962, and hindsight clearly demonstrated that much.
But SNCC was becoming a major force in the Movement, largely through the success of the Freedom Rides the summer before, and Dr. King’s involvement in Albany may have been an attempt to keep these young, potentially aggressively-minded leaders like Stokely Carmichael (who would later become a major voice in the Black Panther Party) at bay while SCLC worked to strengthen the overall campaign through the eyes of whites and the national media by focusing on nonviolent conflict.
The lack of a clear victory in Albany is credited for instilling key lessons in Dr. King that would be critical to the successful campaign waged in Birmingham. While his work in Albany is often described as a “morass”, King’s more targeted strategies in Birmingham, which focused primarily on the desegregation of the downtown shopping district and parks and fair hiring practices, were a shot in the arm to the campaign. Dr. King’s April 1963 arrest in Birmingham led to national scrutiny with local retailers suffering financially and the Kennedy White House intervening. Just a few months later, the “I have a Dream” speech was birthed.
On MLK Day, much attention is paid to the speech and the Birmingham campaign, but I hope this brief essay has exposed a deeper reality of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s leadership of it in the early 1960s.
Dr. King told us that, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase,” and we can now see that his faith enabled him to pursue a course of action in Albany, Georgia, that significantly altered the course of the Movement, and American history, for some of the wrong reasons. Ego, fear, hubris, inability to share leadership, lack of accountability and over-zealousness were all at play in Albany. For that brief moment in the campaign, Dr. King’s power was waning, his influence dissipating and the Movement’s focus thinning.
Dr. King also stated that, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
In Albany, we hopefully learn that even the great Reverend could be blinded by half-baked solutions. But, as you’ve heard before, it’s not important how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up. [Something our President should learn from…]
It was from the clear lack of focus and unsound thinking that brought Dr. King to Albany and, ultimately, a lack of a publicity-grabbing victory in that small town that he was able to make much-needed strategic changes to lead the charge toward a much more important and symbolic win in Birmingham. The media frenzied battles with Birmingham public safety chief Bull Connor coupled with ample solitude for Dr. King to reflect and write in that jailhouse paved the way for the “I Have a Dream” speech we celebrate every year on this day.
So, this year, don’t just listen to the speech and think the Movement’s chief lessons are to be learned in Washington, D.C.
Think back to Albany, Georgia. Honestly, that’s where Dr. King cut his teeth as the leader of the Movement.
I don’t know what Steve Jobs’ death means to you. I don’t know what his life meant to you either. But I know what it all means to me.
I could try to write a diatribe about Steve Jobs’ impact on our generation. I could write a dissertation about how much of a factor he’s been on American society. But it’d all be a waste.
I say this because the only thing that matters to me right this moment: celebrating what Steve Jobs meant to me, personally.
Perhaps it’s selfish. Perhaps it’s too soon. Forgive me. My girlfriend Deva and I were having sushi and had just returned home while talking about my need for white space. Something a Ph.D. just told me after I did a Myers-Briggs test, too. That’s when I found out about Steve Jobs’ death.
Writing, it turns out, is my white space. As you can see from my lack of blogs posts here these last few weeks, I haven’t had a lot of that either. But Steve Jobs’ death is my source of inspiration right this moment. It’s why I’ve created white space for myself. To celebrate his life and what he’s meant to me.
Steve Jobs wasn’t a quitter. That’s what he meant to me. Seeing him at product announcements or on TV was always a reminder of his inability to quit.
We live in a society full of big problems that continually lack leadership, life-long dedication and sustained passion of self-described “creatives” or academically smart kids.
Many of these young people, unlike Jobs, grew up with well-to-do biological parents, attained college degrees, and have plenty reason to succeed in this world from the start. Still, it’s troubling how many are quitters; how many forget the truly important and big problems their talent is intended for and choose less confrontational paths; paths with much less purpose and far too much pleasure. Not everyone can lead and invent, true. But why so few join and innovate is disheartening.
Sure, Steve Jobs obviously liked nice things and interesting people like the rest of us, otherwise he wouldn’t have been so good at forecasting our desires. However, he always seemed to see the forest through the trees. The big and upcoming problems – albeit technologically focused - through the apathy and bullshit of the small and current issues.
This thinking allowed him to help spawn innovations in entertainment (Pixar), operating software (NeXT) and the music industry (iTunes). He never quit on the philosophy of innovation that he developed as a young man and mastered throughout his life.
Steve Jobs may have dropped out of college, but he didn’t quit doing the college thing: learning. At the 2005 Stanford University commencement, he spoke of the calligraphy class that helped him learn the significance of fonts in design. The impact of that college experience was free to him, but he paid it back to society by creating a computer company that helped us see beyond floppy and onward to flat.
Steve Jobs may have lost his job at Apple, the company he started years before, but he didn’t stop innovating. He didn’t quit serving his life’s purpose. Pixar is just one of the great things that came out of his time away from Apple early on, and we can thank that studio for movies like Toy Story and Up. These aren’t just movies with animated figures to ooh and aah at. These are films with animated characters with real stories to share.
Steve Jobs may have taken a break from Apple after getting pancreatic cancer, but he didn’t take a break from living. He got back on the saddle as CEO and gave us the iPad, further exposed our need for technology products that didn’t just do inherently, but technology enablers that helped us to do more intuitively.
Steve Jobs may have died today, Wednesday, October 5, 2011, but he sure as hell didn’t quit. That means more to me than anything I can buy in the Apple store.
The following post was originally written and posted on MCSTEI.com.
“The first step is to communicate via social media… and then we can start talking about using these new tools as a platform for education.” – Social Media Schools.com
The connection between learning and technology is nothing new. Public radio has been a source of education for citizens of the U.S. for decades (think NPR). The television significantly revolutionized the way American children learned in their early developmental years (Sesame Street anyone?). Texas Instruments’ graphing calculators greatly impacted the way math and science teachers taught important math-based lessons. Computers…well, computers do everything it seems.
If we’re using history as a gauge, it’s safe to say social media – the hot new technology development of the decade – will benefit American learning, too. In fact, there are plenty of educators and education-based institutions and organizations already realizing the benefits of going social.
Among them is Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey. Eric can be found on Twitter @NMHS_Principal. If you’re on Twitter (or join today) and begin following him, you’ll join the 13,000-plus others who’ve already done so. A sample of some of his recent Tweets show that he’s found some interesting education-focused blogs and he’s connected with fellow educators around the country to share technology tips.
In sharing why he has made Twitter such an important aspect of his education career, Sheninger said the social networking site was, “the most powerful learning tool that I’ve ever experienced in my education career." And he would know; Sheninger is a Google Certified Teacher, co-author of "Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals", an education writer for the Huffington Post, and was named to the National School Board Association’s "20 to Watch" list in 2010 for technology leadership.
Now not every principal or teacher will be Twitter-savvy and become education industry celebrities in the way Sheninger has over the past two years - his blog, A Principal’s Reflections, earned first runner up in the Best Administrator Blog category in 2010 from Edublogs. However, this shouldn’t mean that you should hesitate to join the popular social network and begin absorbing education content and insights yourself.
Some may look at Twitter and say to themselves, “wait a minute, you think this thing that celebrities and pro athletes use to talk about taking their dog for a walk could be a good tool for education?” My answer is 100% yes. Why? Because Twitter is all about listening and sharing: two of the most important things teachers help students learn throughout their academic careers. Listen to instructions. Listen to what the speaker is saying. Listen to how we came up with this geometry answer. Share with your fellow students. Share something about your science fair project. Share with us why you think Hamlet was so conflicted? If all the bells and whistles of Twitter are reduced to these two functions, we can immediately begin realizing the inherent value in having a 24/7, round-the-world social tool to listen to what’s being said and share things you believe have worked in the classroom. Best practices, case studies, lesson plans, curriculum ideas…all of it is up for grabs on Twitter.
There are approximately 150 million Americans on Facebook, many of whom are likely teachers and, millions more, students. Where Facebook is viewed as a personal destination, something done away from the classroom, Twitter – thanks to Sheninger and the thousands of other teachers on the site – is ready-built for professional purposes.
Rockdale, Texas, school superintendent Dr. Howell Wright can be found @howellwright and he has 762 followers. Jill Geiser, a middle school principal in Massachusetts, has 245 followers. Mary Beth Hertz (@MBTeach), a K-6 technology teacher in Philadelphia, has 7,000-plus followers. Whether you have a dozen followers or 12,000, Twitter just may be that powerful learning tool Sheninger referred to.
In late 2010, a study analyzed how students performed when asked to use Twitter to do assignments and found that students who were asked to "contribute to class discussions and complete assignments using Twitter increased their engagement over a semester more than twice as much as a control group." Another study, this one by the University of Minnesota, found that students who are already on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter could benefit from having those sites incorporated into their curriculum.
And it’s not just curriculum that educators can tap into social media to improve classroom performance by students. Edutopia.org writer Fran Smith once wrote, “Schools have always taught kids how to present themselves -- that's why we did oral presentations in the classroom. Now we need to teach them to present themselves electronically. That's why it's so scary to lock these technologies out.”
Karen Cator from U.S. Department of Education tends to agree. "Think about not only incorporating technology into your lessons, but creating more and more compelling assignments so that 21st century skills, the kinds of things students will have to develop in terms of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, global participation -- that these are incorporated into assignments. The best spaces will incorporate social media, and interacting with others. "
A Mashable article titled, The Case For Social Media in Schools, detailed multiple benefits in using social networking in the classroom including the story of Portland, Oregon, 7th-grade teacher Elizabeth Delmatoff. Delmatoff started a pilot social media program in her class and 20 percent of students school-wide were completing extra assignments for no credit, grades had gone up more than 50 percent, and chronic absenteeism was reduced by more than a third.
While some readers may be thinking that sites like Facebook and Twitter are limited to high school and college students, the reality is that more and more young students are hopping online. Between 2004 and 2009, the amount of time that kids between the ages of 2 and 11 spent online increased by 63 percent, according to a Nielson study. Matt Hardy, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher in Minnesota, has used blogs in his classroom since 2007 as a way to motivate students to write. “Students aren’t just writing on a piece of paper that gets handed to the teacher and maybe a smiley face or some comments get put on it,” Hardy said.
All this being said, the choice to use social media as a way to improve the way you effectively teach students is yours and yours alone. There is no social-media-silver-bullet in education theory or practical implementation. There isn’t a website that has “Facebook-fied” your entire lesson plan for today or presented a top-ten list for standardized test score improvements made possible through Twitter.
Still, Liz Dwyer, an education writer for Good believes, “America's students deserve teachers who've been taught well themselves, and right now, Twitter is the best way for educators to get a continuing professional education.”
For now, all you have is a few examples and case studies like those shared above. It’s up to you to discern the value from these and figure out precisely how you can tap into these social networking sites and develop some social media best practices for the way you teach. The first step, however, is to follow your students (and fellow educators) online and start using Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the like to communicate. If you do choose to get on Twitter, feel free to use the hashtag #ITeachIAm.
After all, this campaign’s true purpose and value is to live on through you, teachers, as a resource for concepts, content and communicating about what it takes to be an effective teacher. Using Twitter and other social media channels effectively, as Principal Eric Sheninger has, is but one way to get started.
I've previously pointed out a couple of people who inspire me as friends. Cory Booker, unfortunately, is not a friend of mine just yet. But he's damn inspiring.
About Cory Booker:
Born in Washington, D.C. Raised in New Jersey. A high school All-American in football and graduated from Stanford (BA in political science, MA in sociology) before becoming a Rhodes Scholar recipient (Oxford graduate) and earning his Law degree from Yale in 1997.
After finishing school, he won an upset victory over a four-time incumbent for a seat on the Newark Municipal Council. Booker immediately established a reputation as being an unusual brand of politician by going on hunger strikes and sleeping in some of the most drug-infested and crime-inflicted parts of the city to draw attention to otherwise overlooked parts of Newark.
An Oscar-nominated documentary, Street Fight, was made of his unsuccessful run for Mayor in 2002 when he was defeated by incumbent Sharpe James...often being told he was "not Black enough" to represent Newark. As is often the case with educated, hardworking people who won't give up...Booker vowed to run for Mayor again, winning with 72 percent of the vote in 2006 and bringing an entirely new set of City Councilmembers into power with him. Booker was seen as such a hard-line crime opponent that the Bloods gang leaders were plotting to assassinate him even before he took office.
Upon approving one of the largest tax increases in the city of Newark's history, Booker expanded the size of the goverment by some 200 employees then promised not to raise taxes on his way to cutting government employee roles back to 50 below the levels he came into office with. Booker's budgeting processes have been lauded for transparency after decades of neglect and mismanagement before him. Booker also brought in a new police chief and was known to patrol the city streets into the late night. March 2010 was the first murder-free month in Newark in 44 years and Newark Police nabbed 11 of the top 12 most wanted felons.
I could go on and on, but you should read the articles, blogs and Wikipedia entries about him yourself. There's a reason why, in 2009, President Obama offered him the job of leading the White House's newly-created Office of Urban Affairs; which Booker turned down to continue serving Newark. He has over a million Twitter followers and he's not afraid to interact with us, nearly 10 times more than New York City's Mike Bloomberg. Booker was one of only two U.S. mayors to finish in the top 10 in the coveted World Mayor prize voting.
Many of you may know of him from his "feud" with Conan O'Brien or his friendship with Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which netted $100 million for Newark public schools, but you should know him because - as The New York Times wrote in this 2006 article after his first election to Mayor in 2006 - he's "On a Path That Could Have No Limits."
There's plenty of inspiration in a man like Cory Booker. I hope to make his acquaintance and thank him one day. Not for being the mayor of a city that I don't live in. No, I'd like to thank him for being the type of boundless, innovative leader that is so desperately needed in both the Black community and in American cities.
The rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 percent has Democrats and Republicans reliably falling back on their respective cure-alls. It is evidence for liberals that we need more stimulus and for conservatives that we need more tax cuts to increase demand. I am sure there is truth in both, but I do not believe they are the whole story. I think something else, something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today’s job market more than people realize.
Thomas L. Friedman
Share your thoughts.
Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here’s what’s scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don’t employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they’re all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.
Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.
Today’s college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job.
Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today’s hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don’t fulfill those criteria.
But you would never know that from listening to the debate in Washington, where some Democrats still tend to talk about job creation as if it’s the 1960s and some Republicans as if it’s the 1980s. But this is not your parents’ job market.
This is precisely why LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley — besides co-founding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook and sits on the board of Mozilla — has a book coming out after New Year called “The Start-Up of You,” co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: “Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old midcareer professional! Here’s how you build your career today.”
Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mind-set and skill set to compete. “The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone,” he said to me. “No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”
To begin with, Hoffman says, that means ditching a grand life plan. Entrepreneurs don’t write a 100-page business plan and execute it one time; they’re always experimenting and adapting based on what they learn.
It also means using your network to pull in information and intelligence about where the growth opportunities are — and then investing in yourself to build skills that will allow you to take advantage of those opportunities. Hoffman adds: “You can’t just say, ‘I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.’ ” You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then “find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it’s differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us.”
Finally, you have to strengthen the muscles of resilience. “You may have seen the news that [the] online radio service Pandora went public the other week,” Hoffman said. “What’s lesser known is that in the early days [the founder] pitched his idea more than 300 times to V.C.’s with no luck.”