My boys, on the subject of Martin Luther King, Jr. and what they learned at school:
Joey: Monday is Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, he was born in 1929. And he grew up fast!
Andy: And we get to eat his cake. And blow out his candles because he died. And eat his cake. He had a dream.
Joey and Andy: And we don't have to go to school!
One of the truly wonderful things about my kids is their acceptance of difference. It partly comes with the territory of being one of the "different", but it also is something about just growing up with all sorts of people. Much of the school lesson about Martin Luther King, Jr. emphasizes the racial problems this country experienced. Last year's summary from Joey was that "Brown people and apricot people didn't get along."
I think this is a mistake. The emphasis of early education about Martin Luther King should be an appreciate of others, respect for other people, and acceptance of people for who they are. There should be a lot of lessons about self-worth, dignity, and friendship. We should be entrenching that respect and acceptance. Like so many other cultural norms, the idea of people are who they are should simply be. The idea of judging another person by their skin color should be a completely foreign concept to these kids.
After all, that is the dream of Reverend King: that we should be judged by the content of our character, rather than the color of our skin. When children are older and more able to grapple with abstract concepts, they can learn the issues of the historical moment, the reasons why this was a dream, and not a reality, when those words were spoken. For the little ones, let's try just having that dream be the reality they live. Let's focus on diversity, not difference.