Despite having just returned from the holiday break, all schoolchildren eagerly await the middle of January, as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day marks their only reprieve during the cold, grueling month. Yet, while the three-day weekend has become tradition, affording kids the opportunity to sleep late hardly awakens them to Dr. King’s incomparable contributions in the fight for civil rights.
Instead of allowing children to slack off on MLK Day and other such commemorative holidays that spawn those long weekends everyone adores, students should spend the day learning about the person or event the given day was designed to honor.
On Presidents’ Day, schools should devote the day to teaching kids what our nation’s leaders have accomplished since signing the Declaration of Independence. On Columbus Day, schools should teach kids how the explorer’s discovery impacted the native population throughout the country. On Veterans Day, schools should teach kids about the sacrifices countless women and men make every day in their effort to serve and protect America.
And on MLK Day, schools should honor his legacy by teaching children about the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing battle for racial equality, which seems especially prescient in today’s volatile social climate. When the President of the United States insists on using foul language in reference to those of racial and religious minorities, it’s crucial to teach kids that intolerance isn’t the answer. Dr. King never backed down, no matter how much oppression he faced, as we should honor his persistence by continuing his fight for justice.
Of course, this doesn’t mean students should be confined to the classroom. In fact, MLK Day stands as an ideal time to encourage kids to volunteer within the community. Helping those in need in any regard remains right in line with Dr. King’s goals for society.
Students often learn more from hands-on experiences, as interactions with those in need can teach them more than any textbook ever could. By getting involved, they’ll learn that they, too, can make a difference in the world, as even the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact on others—and that’s definitely something you can’t learn by spending the day at home.
(This post originally appeared on Storia.)