This month, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose influence on society has been so profound and whose legacy is more important today than ever. Dr. King had an extraordinary ability to bring a broad range of people together to organize and put their own lives at risk in service of others and in service of humanity. Their message of peaceful civil disobedience to bring about equality resonated throughout the world.
Reverend King saw education as “the great equalizer.” Aside from its intrinsic value, education provides the socioeconomic mobility that allows individuals and families to build wealth. The current educational trends are troubling. Today our public schools are more segregated than a generation ago, according to a national study conducted by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California in Los Angeles. In 2001, more than 40 percent of black students attended schools that were 90 percent minority or more.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Cumberland County, only 13.8% of the adult population 25 years or older had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2014—compared to 36.4% in the state of New Jersey. While not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree, we can all agree that there is room for improvement around training and education in our community. We need to do better and part of the responsibility rests on us as educators and community members. We share equal stakes in the present and future of the county.
As Cumberland County College celebrates its 50th anniversary, we renew our resolve to work with our K-12 partners and the agencies serving the adult population to significantly increase the educational attainment rates of the youth and adults in our county. For many years, our county had high teen pregnancy rates. In addition, we have a population of formerly incarcerated people who also forewent an education in their youth. We cannot allow them to be the forgotten generation. We commit to advancing Dr. King’s legacy around education for a better, stronger society.
Previously published in The Daily Journal on January 24, 2017.