“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” – Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address

On this anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday, I’ve been thinking back on a conversation I had about 9 years ago. My oldest niece, Emily, then 9 years old, announced to me during a car ride, “Abraham Lincoln is my hero.” I asked her if she had been studying Abraham Lincoln in school, and she explained that because of President’s Day, her teacher had told her class about him, and she had read a book about him. At that time, Emily was adjusting to life without her mom, who had passed away just a few months before. She said that Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when he was 9 years old, and that even though he didn’t have his Mom, he went on to do important things. I was so taken with that conversation that I kept notes on it. I remember being impressed with her comprehension of what President Lincoln stood for and how she connected with his values. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

Aunt Vicki: Emily, why is Abraham Lincoln your hero?

Emily: I think he was very brave. He stood up for what he thought was right. People should stand up for what they believe in even if other people don’t agree.

Aunt Vicki: What do you think he believed in?

Emily: Well, he thought that everybody should be treated the same. He didn’t think people should be treated differently because of their color and didn’t think it was right that people were slaves.

Aunt Vicki: So, what did he do to change that?

Emily: He fought to stop slavery and he won. A lot of people didn’t agree with him and got mad that he wanted to do that, but it didn’t stop him. It was what he believed was right.

Aunt Vicki: What happened because of what President Lincoln did to help the slaves?

Emily: The slaves got their freedom. But, a very bad man who didn’t like President Lincoln shot him and he died. That was very sad because he was a really good man.

Aunt Vicki: What did you learn from studying President Lincoln?

Emily: I think he overcame a lot of stuff to become President. And, he believed that all people should be treated the same and be free. It doesn’t matter what color someone is or where they come from. We should treat all people equally.

Emily is now 18 years old and off to college in the fall. It is interesting how the value of treating all people equally remains important to her. She is a fighter for the underdog, believes that we should give all people equal rights, and detests anything that represents anything else. I’m grateful that there are examples like President Lincoln who stood up for what they believed in as they provide lessons for others of valuing freedoms of all kinds. We could all learn a lot from President Lincoln, and from Emily, about the importance of freedom, education and equal rights for all.



Education is a civil right.

Education is a civil right.

Education is a civil right?

Here in the United States, we are privileged to have a public school system that makes learning available to everyone. Is it always quality education? No. Is it the best education system in the world? Certainly not. But as American citizens, we have a basic right to an education.


The theme of EDWorks Early College High School Conference this year is “Education is a Civil Right: Early College Delivering on the Promise.” It’s had me thinking about that notion of education and civil rights. A lot. Is education a civil right and, if so, why?

Inherently, I know the answer is yes. Articulating why I know that is more difficult. As I too often do, I looked to my bookshelves for help.

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, he tells of when his master learned that the master’s wife was teaching Douglass to read and write.

Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, “If you give a n—– an inch, he will take an ell. A n—– should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best n—– in the world. Now, if you teach that n—– how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would be unfit for him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. And to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.”

Although the incident is unsettling in its recounting, Mr. Auld was smarter than I might be initially inclined to give him credit for. Learning does lead to discontent and unhappiness with injustice. Learning does make us unfit to fall in line with the status quo when that no longer makes sense.

Learning makes us free.

Although we’ve stood in our own way countless times, the United States was founded on the idea that all people are created equal and have fundamental rights, like liberty, free speech and due process of law.

Without education, we cannot take full advantage of these freedoms.

And so. Education is a civil right. Because learning makes us free. Learning makes us discontent and unhappy, just like Mr Auld said of Frederick Douglass, but empowers us with the knowledge and know-how to make change and improve the world in which we live.

Our challenge is to increase the quality of the education being delivered. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited about the March EDWorks Conference, where we’ll be talking about how to expand opportunities for students through a quality Early College education.


A Straight A for Marion City Schools

February 3, 2016

Congratulations are due to Marion City Schools in Marion County, Ohio. They were recently awarded not one but two grants: a Straight A Fund grant, and a $50K Local Government Innovation Fund (LGIF) Grant to continue their work ensuring that every Marion graduate leaves high school with more than just a diploma. Some will take […]

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Early College High Schools Challenge Traditional Thinking

January 11, 2016
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Success in a rigorous early college setting is not easy, but it is possible, as graduates from more than 300 innovative schools across the nation will attest. The idea that students who may have struggled in school, or even average high school students, can be successful in college courses challenges traditional thinking. But with careful […]

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A Bond Between Father and Son

January 6, 2016
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It is often said that a child’s first teacher is his parents. No truer words have been spoken for one of EDWorks senior technical assistance coaches, Dr. Dan Hoffman and his wife Peggie. Dan and Peggie lost their oldest son Todd recently. In honoring Todd’s memory, Peggie selects quotes from Todd’s readings and markings and […]

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“I’ll accomplish whatever I put my mind to.”

January 5, 2016
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Tyler Maben is a 2012 graduate of Lorain County Early College High School. We checked in with her to see what she’s up to now! After graduating from Lorain County Early College High School in 2012 with my High School Diploma and Associate of Arts Degree, I went straight to the University of Toledo. During […]

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