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The Purpose of Education

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947


Writing in the campus newspaper, the Maroon Tiger, King argues that education has both a utilitarian and a moral function. Citing the example of Georgia's former governor Eugene Talmadge, he asserts that reasoning ability is not enough. He insists that character and moral development are necessary to give the critical intellect humane purposes. King, Sr., later recalled that his son told him, "Talmadge has a Phi Beta Kappa key, can you believe that? What did he use all that precious knowledge for? To accomplish what?"

This essay, written sometime during King's junior year at Morehouse, explores the dual function of education. According to King, education must "discipline the mind" and orient human life around a set of morals. Without this latter component, King warns, education is "a ship without a compass.

Famous Quotes

"To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education

"The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education

"Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education."
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education

Full text of King's letter, The Purpose of Education

Read in Full: Full text of this speech is available at
Also available as PDF at

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