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Historic MLK Jr. speech anchors USF’s “Future of Education”

Fifty years to the day since Dr. King spoke about social justice at the Scottish Rite Center in Fort Wayne, USF gathered state officials, educators and modern-day activists for peace and equality in the same spot—now the USF Performing Arts Center—for “The Future of Education,” a comprehensive look at how education is transforming to meet the changing needs of today’s professionals, and how it can be used for peace.

To celebrate Dr. King’s historic Fort Wayne speech and his ongoing legacy, his nephew, Dr. Derek King, an educator, minister and consultant for peaceful resolutions, traveled to the USF PAC on June 5 as guest speaker for the Legacy of Peace Luncheon.

Derek King spoke of continuing the battle for equality today, as prejudice and poverty still plague many African-Americans and other U.S. citizens. He cited three social evils—racism, greed and ignorance—and urged listeners to do the work to eradicate them.

Following the luncheon, “The Future of Education” launched in the auditorium as a free resource for educators and concerned citizens. A panel of educators representing USF, the Fort Wayne Urban League, the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese, Fort Wayne Community Schools and the Lilly Foundation-funded Talent Initiative responded to prepared questions about how education is changing to connect graduates with jobs and how it can affect peace.

In response to a query about how students will be assessed for post-secondary education and careers, USF Vice President for Academics Dr. J. Andrew Prall said higher education places even more emphasis on skills employers are looking for. “We often hear that they seek communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving that go beyond the technical. You need the whole person ready to contribute,” he said. To a question about teaching social justice and ethics, Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson said the school system plays an immense role. “Martin Luther King gave his life for it, so we can’t be patient in terms of social justice. Communities are more diverse now, and the schools are the place where it’s going to happen with social justice.”

After the panel discussion, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz spoke of challenges facing Indiana education today. Although the transformation of student assessments will not take place until 2015-2016, Ritz prefers schools implementing their own growth model assessments over the Common Core assessment.

“I don’t believe in high stakes assessments, and that’s where we are heading in Indiana. You can’t define students by test scores, and now we are defining teachers by test scores. We’re spending so much time teaching standards for tests, we can’t pay attention to students.” The growth model requires less assessment, which leaves more time for teaching, she said.

After Ritz’s speech, the Urban League wrapped up the event by hosting a round-table discussion on education as a catalyst for peace.

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