- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

One of the benefits of home-schooling is it allows us to study in creative ways, whether on the road, doing service learning or working online.

Our group of home-schoolers and service volunteers has been traveling to various states, teaching young people in a variety of schools, churches and other venues. One of the places we visited is the beautiful King Center in Atlanta, where the life and history of Martin Luther King are memorialized (www.thekingcenter.org).

The King Center combines a number of significant places: the home where King spent his childhood, the church he co-pastored with his father, the fire station that guarded the Auburn Avenue neighborhood, and a large and modern visitors center managed by the National Park Service. Freedom Hall, where artifacts from events in the civil rights movement are displayed, the tomb where King and Coretta Scott King are buried, and several places for meditation and prayer are part of the grounds.

There also are a number of statues and tributes to Mohandas Gandhi, whose nonviolent resistance principles were used in the sit-ins, marches, boycotts and other demonstrations against the injustice of racially based segregation and disenfranchisement.

We learned so much about King: his graduation from Morehouse College at 19, his doctorate from Boston University by age 27, and his 1959 visit as a young pastor to India, where he met Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and resolved to use the principles of nonviolent confrontation to help achieve racial justice in the United States.

Most impressive were the actual words of King and the teachings he gave to the brave men, women and children who stood up — and sat in — to protest segregation.

King understood the power of words, and by choosing words of value, honor and courage, he was able to equip the silently suffering people with tools that would allow them to create change.

Our young students were moved by the instructions given to those who engaged in the sit-ins at the segregated facilities — admonitions to ignore insults, speak gently, face the counter, not engage in conversations with fellow demonstrators, report all incidents to their leader, and not leave until the leader instructed it. They saw the photos of people having sugar and ketchup dumped over their heads and the videos of police using fire hoses to dispel a gathering.

They were deeply impressed that no one raised a hand in violence. Even when bombings killed young girls in a church or young civil rights workers were killed, the grief was not allowed to provoke violence. In living their faith, the demonstrators overcame their attackers with the higher example of love, courage, truth and selfless sacrifice.

To further study, I purchased copies of several of King’s speeches, and as we drove, we read them aloud, passing them from person to person. We then discussed how his words are appropriate today, in how we choose to live our lives.

“We all have to decide whether we will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness,” King said. “Life’s most persistent and nagging question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Education is more than enabling children to become well-functioning adults in the economic or societal sense. It also involves helping them become ethical and valuable contributors to the greater community, people who can bring about change through positive choices. The words and actions of King shine out for all history and all peoples, true beyond generation or circumstance.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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