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I also have a dream

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS].

Almost exactly sixty years ago, Martin Luther King Junior famously declared that he had a dream in which “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin”. Such a dream is obviously still very valid and probably unfulfilled. However, we should perhaps consider that we cannot ignore the fact that our dreams need to be broaden.

There are two issues that we face when we consider the statement of judging people by the colour of their skin. Firstly, it is a clear fact that we do judge people; we form opinions and come to abrupt conclusions with regard to their value, contribution, status and more, based on very little and also irrelevant evidence.

We rank them; we rate them; we consider whether they are important and treat them differently accordingly. The simple truth about that is that it is unhelpful to judge anyone. And secondly, we do so on the basis of extremely superficial and totally erroneous information.

The fact is that we as humans and as society do judge people all the time. We judge people in the world by where they went to school; we judge them by the size of their car; we judge them by the number of followers they have on social media and what they post there.

We judge them by their accent, by their earnings, by their dress sense. We are experts in judging people in an instant!

In sport, we judge individuals or teams by the colour of their medals, without considering how they got to that point or where they started. We judge them by their results and by their wealth. We exalt those who achieve great accomplishments and we dismiss those who do not.

We pay the talented ones exceptional salaries while others toil to even make ends meet; in doing so we judge their value.

And of course, we also judge schools. We judge schools by their results, be they academic or sporting. We judge them by their teachers’ qualifications. We judge them by how many pupils go to universities, win scholarships, play for national teams. Then too we judge our pupils by their achievements. In so doing we are rating them; we are saying that those who achieve are worthy and those who do not achieve are less so. We judge and reward them and hand out prizes, Colours, awards to those who attain high standards. In short, as with books, we judge everything by its cover, not simply its colour. We judge them by what we see on the outside.

Interestingly, Stephen Covey perceptively stated that “We judge ourselves by our intentions. And others by their actions.” We are quick to judge others but are slow to judge ourselves, allowing ourselves greater freedom and excuses. In contrast perhaps, Voltaire, the French writer and philosopher, wrote that we should “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” The answers may well simply be what we want to hear, what he has learned is the appropriate answer, but the questions may well reveal much more what that person is thinking. The inside matters.

So, to adapt what Martin Luther King said, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, we must still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the educational dream. We must have a dream that one day each school will rise up and live out the true meaning of its calling. We must dream that our four million children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by all those blinding things that consume us presently but by the content of their character, not by their background, achievements. Do we share such a dream today?

Do we get cast down by education at times? Do we despair at the situation we see in education right now? Well might we despair when we continue to see education being judged by the superficial things. “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair”, as Martin Luther King Junior said to his friends. He had a dream, remember! And just as we are constantly urging our children to have a dream, to dream big, so we must have a dream too. We must dream that all our children are seen for who they are, not for what they achieve. We must reward them for their character, not for their cover. We must look at their heart, not at their flesh. What are their values — not, what is their value? In such a way, “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony”. This is our hope. This is our future. This is our dream. Read the book; do not look at the cover. It will take longer but it will unearth the truth and in doing so will reveal true riches. Read on; dream on!

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.

Email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw

website: www.atschisz

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