After a little more than 60 years since the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the message still deeply resonates – and we all should really listen

January 11 – With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday coming up on Monday, maybe it’s a good time to remember Reverend King’s famous words:  I have a dream 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.

The Chambersburg Area School District held an open forum earlier this week with the Superintendent Chris Bigger. 

Comments were made by a school board member and a coach in the district that teachers need to look more like the students.

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I keep going back to how are you missing this? Of all people and you guys are as old as I am or you’re near where my age is. I know that quote and for you to push forward, that it’s got to look this way rather than the character, it’s very disturbing.”

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “It’s concerning because I don’t believe that 20 years ago, that would have been the question or the narrative. I do believe that the last 10, 15 years, we have gone the other direction in race relations and conversations. We should have a conversation with the guy to try to figure out what he’s talking about and where he’s coming from. I don’t agree with it and I think that we need to not be looking at the melanin in folk’s skin when we’re hiring. That shouldn’t be a qualification of what the pigment of your skin is, if that’s what he’s talking about. I didn’t hear the quote, but I’m assuming that’s what he’s talking about.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “It’s part of race essentialism, a way of looking at race and people can have that point of view and I have no problem with them trying to maybe convince or have values about it. I have a problem when it’s mandated by the government because we get to a point then where you are just filling quotas, unfortunately. That’s the danger of it and again, always say, there’s trade offs with everything and I think you’re pushing a message that kids are hearing and they’re misinterpreting it. I’m afraid kids are going to start saying, well, I can’t respect somebody if they don’t look like me. We are human beings. Our genes are 99.999% the same. We can relate to each other as humans. We don’t need to keep breaking ourselves out by these different groups. I’m afraid we’re actually sending a bad message to kids.” 

Ryan said, “When I have adults who are looking at it that way then we’ve got some issues.” 

Jansen said, “We need some more discussion about it because I think we’re pushing something quickly before we understand the faults.” 

“Content of character,” Ryan insisted. “This is not a difficult thing here.” 

Jansen said, “Look at Texas with the meritocracy pay. They’re attracting teachers like crazy for merit.”

Kauffman said, “I think a lot of the DEI and whether you want to call it CRT light that is just nuanced in educational settings and nuanced within our society now, are getting folks to think more that way, instead of what I think I remember 20 years ago where we weren’t really worrying ourselves with what color people were in the classroom. So it’s concerning, but there again, we’re at that point in America, so I guess we should have the conversation and find out where he’s coming from and how we can get past that mindset and move forward.”

Jansen said, “If it’s the white privilege equity ideology, we’ve seen some of the negative consequences of that. Look at the president of Harvard as a prime example, a woman who obviously was not qualified, but she was put in that position, probably for some of the reasons that these gentlemen who brought it up were thinking and I want to think about the unintended negative consequences. Are they thinking of that? That’s a conversation we really need to have for schools.”

Ryan added, “Karine Jean-Pierre. You’ve got a textbook example of someone that is just clearly not capable.” 

Jansen said, “Our Transportation Secretary. He’s also a first and yet we don’t see him being very effective in his job. We can’t keep putting that as the primary thing. I think it’s part of it. I think it’s maybe part of something to think about, but you have to have the ability as the number one thing, and then discuss maybe some of these other aspects.”