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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 01/17/2011

A quiz: Martin Luther King’s unusual education

By Valerie Strauss

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had something of an unusual education. Test yourself on how much you know about it, and then read the answers, which include information that may surprise you about him.

1) True or false: King was kicked out of school at the age of 5.

2) King skipped two grades. Which were they?
a) 2nd and 9th
b) 2nd and 10th
c) 9th and 12th

3) At Morehouse College, King was:
a) At the top of his class
b) A solid ‘B’ student
c) Called an underachiever by his professors

4) King eventually earned two bachelors degrees. One was in divinity studies. The other was in:
a) psychology
b) sociology
c) philosophy
d) history

5) At Morehouse, King was exposed to a work that greatly influenced his philosophy and influenced his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” What was it?

6) What was the title of King’s doctoral dissertation, which he was awarded by Boston University?
a) "A Comparison of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Wieman"
b) “God and Civil Disobedience in A Democratic Society"
c) “The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy
d) “The Professional Socialization of the Negro American Protestant Clergy: A Theoretical Study

7) Finish the following quote from King:
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... ______ plus _____-- that is the goal of true education.”

8) Finish the following quote from King:
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere _______ and conscientious ______.”


1) True. At the age of 5, King, an especially bright child, was enrolled at the Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta. But students had to be 6 years old to start school, and when his true age was discovered, he was told not to come back until he was of age.

2) True. King skipped 9th grade, and then did so well on his college entrance exams in the 11th grade that he also skipped senior year and went to Morehouse at the age of 15.
In college, King was said to be an unexceptional student.

3) C

4) His first bachelor’s degree, earned at Morehouse, was in sociology, and he considered going into law or medicine before becoming interested in religious studies. He then earned another bachelor’s in divinity at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa., the first integrated school he attended, where he graduated at the top of his class and was elected president of the largely white senior class.

5) Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

6) The answer is A. King was awarded his doctorate at Boston University in 1955. The second title is made up, the third is a title of a speech once given by Pope Benedict XVI [corrected from XX in earlier version] and the last one is the title of a dissertation by a man named Ernest Colvin Baird in 1967-68.

7) “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically ... Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education.”

8) “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 17, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  History, Quizzes  | Tags:  about martin luther king, day, facts about king, king and education, king facts, martin luther king, martin luther king day, martin luther king jr., mlk, mlk day, mlk facts  
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Next: Martin Luther King Jr. on education: In his own words


Pope Benedict XX?

Posted by: gannon2 | January 17, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

As the nation continues to cope with with the political, economic and social fall-out from the Great Recession, it seems appropriate to reflect on the American promise, the "dream" envisioned by Martin Luther King.

Throughout our nations's history, progress has been stymied by conservative ideology and its adherents. Conservatives of the day, Tories, were against the American Revolution. Conservatives of the time were against ending slavery, and were against the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. They opposed women's suffrage. During the Gilded Age and the roaring Twenties, conservatives opposed regulation of businesses. In the 1950s they were aghast at the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

Conservatives of the era opposed Dr. King's civil and human rights work, just like conservatives today remain opposed to efforts to better realize the core values and principles embedded in the Constitution (a document they rhetorically "revere").

On the 25th anniversary of the day designated to celebrate Dr. King's achievements, perhaps this is a fitting tribute to him and to all of those who continue to believe in and work for a country committed to popular sovereignty, equality, justice, freedom, tolerance, and promoting the general welfare.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | January 17, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Intelligence plus character should be the hallmark of education. The high school students I teach are most receptive when our lessons on literature and conflict extend beyond the immediate lesson and consider the implications of choice and character in the personal and national landscapes. For more of this approach, please visit my blog at

Posted by: dcproud1 | January 17, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

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