Ava Williamson ‘18: On Monday, January 8, The Macomb Daily put out an article with Romeo and Richmond Community Schools at the forefront. The article’s topic? This upcoming Monday, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. Out of all Macomb County Schools, only Romeo and Richmond attend school that day- a federal holiday. Previously student got the day off, until a contract switch during the 2014-15 school year. Richmond later followed suit during the 2016-17 school year. The article created a new wave of discussion surrounding Romeo’s decision to attend school, but this attention poses nothing new. Since the switch in 2014, countless amounts of backlash found their way to the schools, ranging from plain confusion over the switch, to harsh accusations. Most commonly, however, comes a simple question: “Why this day?”

A three word question. But with no clear answer, these three words seem to go the farthest. The Macomb Daily puts the source of Romeo’s switch as the then-upcoming school year expansion of 2016, going from 175 required days, to 180. In order to accomplish this, Romeo’s scheduling committee removed certain off days from the schedule, one ending up as MLK Day. According to superintendent Eric Whitney, the switch provides opportunity.

“Having students in class on this day affords us the opportunity to teach them about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the positive impact he has had on the world,” Whitney stated.

It’s a nice thought, and appeals in some ways to those who throw accusations that RCS ‘doesn’t care about Dr. King’. But at the end of the day, it’s not as if lessons about Dr. King find relevance only one day of the year. The districts that choose to observe the day from home still teach about him, just incorporating him into lessons throughout the year, and spending time on that Friday before and Tuesday after. When it comes to fitting in the required 180 days, it still isn’t a necessity to make MLK Day one of instruction.

In a poll of 100 people of all ages throughout Romeo, 71% percent said that they prefer the day off, and another day added on at the end of the year. They believe that the importance of the day highly outweighs getting out a day earlier in June. These 71 people also believe the negative spotlight placed upon Romeo causes inaccurate thoughts to form in the heads of others.

“We have Presidents’ Day off, and all of those [other federal holidays] and the fact that we don’t get the day off puts the idea that a civil rights leader is less important than the rest of them,” Grace Konnie ‘18 said. “We shouldn’t be picking and choosing between them.”

MLK’s cause, his movements over roughly 8 years, his pure determination to improving the rights of not only African-Americans, but all minority citizens: women, the poor, the uneducated, and everyone oppressed, sat at the forefront of one of the most important movements in American History. Without his non-violent protests, and persuasive speeches, and the inspirational aura he projected to the citizens of the United States, the amount of progress this country made in the past 60-something years goes away. The 9th president of the United States, William Henry Harrison, held office for 8 months. Which carries the greater impact?

Of course, that 29% in favor of the day as one of school still remains, and their opinions still hold weight.

“MLK was so into everyone having an education, so it wouldn’t make sense to sit at home and learn nothing,” Katarina Jarmoluk ‘18 said.

It makes sense. MLK’s passion for education always shined through. He believed education a key to improvement in society. If alive today, yes, maybe he’d push for students to go to school and learn that day. But honestly, if MLK lived today, his focus wouldn’t be whether or not students attend school on his birthday, but rather the fact that oppression and racial tension still cause so many issues throughout the country, and continually make headlines daily.

Conflicting opinions surround MLK Day. It’s fairly new, he passionately promoted education, and not every holiday provides means for no school. But with it previously a day off, it still a day off in almost every other school, that it puts inaccurate thoughts into people’s heads, and that he inspired and created a greater impact in this country more than most people even dream far surpasses that. MLK Day needs to fit in not just as a day off, but as a day of reflecting, remembrance, and respect towards one of the most influential people this country ever created.

Sources:

Gardner, Don. “Romeo and Richmond only school districts that hold classes on MLK Day.” The Macomb Daily, The Macomb Daily, 8 Jan. 2018, www.macombdaily.com/general-news/20180108/romeo-and-richmond-only-school-districts-that-hold-classes-on-mlk-day.

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