Jan 21

Honoring Dr. King’s Birthday With a Day Off?

Martin_Luther_King_Jr student debt survivor

On October 20th, 1983 the US Senate voted to make Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. Although the symbolism of this vote is important, I’m not sure that Dr. King would appreciate what the holiday means to America’s children.

Each MLK day, I ponder are we really honoring Dr. King and his powerful messages by closing school for the day? I suspect many children (especially those children from working class families) are spending the day home alone, playing video games and watching TV. It’s not their fault that they’re home alone and unable to participate in learning about the value of Dr. King’s dream. But how can we use this day to teach the importance of equal rights, voter enfranchisement, the importance of education and the rights and responsibilities of being a US citizen when so many of our children are at home alone?

Why can’t we use Dr. King’s birthday as a day (in school) to celebrate and honor the very things that Dr. King wanted all children to have; good schools, quality educations, and equal opportunity for ALL children to succeed?

For this grave disservice, I blame the US Senate. Clearly they did not see the huge disparity they were creating in making a US Holiday that only some Americans are able to celebrate. For working class parents who still have to work and their children who are at home alone, MLK day is a “holiday” that perpetuates the very disparities that Dr. King was trying to eliminate.

Image: Dick DeMarsico


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  1. Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

    I think many holidays are probably the same. The true message gets lost with only a handful of people taking the time to really appreciate what the time off is for.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Unfortunate, but true.

  2. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I second what Glen said. Most people don’t celebrate/appreciate the true meaning of MLK day (and other holidays).

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      I agree, it’s sad the “message” is usually lost and it just becomes a “long weekend” with no meaning.

  3. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets

    I think it’d be great to have the school day dedicated to teaching the history and significance of the day. I also this it’s really up to the parents to do this at home, whether the kids hear about it in school or not.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      True. Sadly, I’d imagine many parents don’t know or understand why we celebrate MLK day and Dr. King’s life.

  4. Grayson @ Debt RoundUp

    I agree with each of the other comments. I don’t get this day off and have to work, but don’t think children should have this day off. This day should be used as a reflection day of what MLK accomplished and teach children to respect each other. There is no need for a federal holiday where only a handful of people get to have the day off.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      BF, like many people, had to work yesterday. Hard to teach the meaning of the holiday, when so many people have to work. I like the idea of a national day of service at least.

  5. AverageJoe

    While I agree with Jacob, sadly this just doesn’t happen. it’s crazy that so few parents teach anything at home. What a thoughtful post. I’d never thought of MLK Day in the light you described. Why wouldn’t we change this and also realize that Columbus day might be just a little misplaced, too?

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Oh lord, don’t even get me started on Columbus day 😉

  6. Pauline

    You make a very good point. Although I’m sure it would start a lot of protests if the motion went through, who likes one less day off?
    In France we still get a day off for the end of WWI. The last survivor died a couple of years ago, and as much as remembering the soldiers who fought for our freedom is important, we could have one day together with WWII like you have veteran day (not sure it is called like that, sorry). But there is no way the French will go with one less day of holidays!

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      At this point there’s no way we could “take it away”, but I just think the whole meaning of the day and Dr. King’s message is ruined when parents don’t know what to teach, or aren’t at home to teach it. I appreciate the day off like everyone else, but I also try to keep in mind why we get the day off.

  7. femmefrugality

    Isn’t today now a national day of service in his honor?

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Yup, that’s what Obama has been pushing for since he was first elected. I think it’s a great idea. I know Americorps volunteers around the country volunteered and encouraged others to do the same. Something Dr. King would appreciate I’m sure.

  8. Holly@ClubThrifty

    I didn’t get it off work. We were still open =/

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Yup, many people including bf, still had to work.

  9. Brian

    Where I work they have a program to do a “Day of Service” in honor of MLK. It seems to be a fairly popular program. I did not participate in it this year.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Love that! MLK would be pleased.

  10. Debt and the Girl

    I still had to work too but at least I got to work from home:) I agree though that for most people, the message is lost.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Unfortunately. I hope the day of service really takes off over the next few years and more employers get on board.

  11. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    Sadly most school kids get nothing from holidays, MLK, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, other than a day off school. The meaning gets lost for sure. If the only ones off are schools, banks, and government workers and the rest of us are slaving away, what’s the point?

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