Dangerous Unselfishness

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I have listened to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Mountaintop” speech dozens of times over the years. The concepts that he talks about in the speech resonate as well today as they did in 1968 when he gave the speech. Recently, I was listening to the speech again and one line jumped out…”Let’s develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”

My definition of dangerous unselfishness

Dangerous unselfishness is when a person stands up for a principle enough to be slightly uncomfortable with what they are doing. The discomfort does not come from questioning their resolve about the principle. Rather the discomfort comes from getting out of your normal (comfortable) routine.

Those of us in education are creatures of habit and routine. We succumb to the idea of “inevitable thinking.” Without realizing it, we can quickly fall into the trap of performing our daily duties without considering the larger ramifications of our actions. Worse yet, if we are not careful, we do not consider what example we are setting for those students in our care or the staff in which we lead. Actions speak louder than words

Dangerous unselfishness happens when our actions let those people around us know what we stand for.

We find ourselves in an interesting time in education. COVID-19 has upended a lot of the education routines. In these times of uncertainty and habit rebuilding, do your actions reflect your values?

Are you ready for dangerous unselfishness?

  1. What can you do tomorrow to show dangerous unselfishness?
  2. How can you move your team to practice dangerous unselfishness?
  3. How can you encourage caring and support in your school?
  4. Does your staff feel that they are more than just a “staff member” to you?
  5. Do students know that you and your staff look at them as more than number creators for a test?
  6. Do you dare to move beyond the benign platitudes of education-speak and allow vulnerability to creep into your conversations?

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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1 thought on “Dangerous Unselfishness

  1. I love the concept of “dangerous unselfishness.” But, I am a little confused by its definition. If you say we should let others know what we stand for, then it becomes subjective. If you mean that we should stand for something totally void of our selfish ways, then I think that thought becomes more objective and easier to accomplish. Dr. King stood for a universal standard of freedom and respect for ALL mankind (and womankind). That principle has never been challenged. I think I know what you mean and definitely love the thought of “dangerous unselfishness.”

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