Achieving Dr. King’s dream

Published 9:31 pm Monday, March 31, 2014

By Joseph Bass

Do you remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream?

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he said in 1963.


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Fifty years later, the great American question is how we go about realizing King’s dream.

What is our plan to go from focusing on race as a determining factor in many issues to race not making a difference?

I am an old guy. I remember World War II. I remember the Jim Crow era. My somewhat Native American ancestors, known then as “breeds,” migrated into the Chickasaw Nation (now part of Oklahoma) because of racial discrimination. Bur I cannot identify a national plan to realize King’s dream.

I say this because of continued government efforts to utilize race as the sole criteria for developing programs to “improve” society. This is particularly true of the Department of Justice, the Education Department Civil Rights Office, and other such agencies. How can we move forward toward King’s dream while the government continues to focus on race?

Except for a couple of years while in the U.S. Army, I taught in Oklahoma and California public schools from 1964 to 1980. When I first started teaching, communities were the focus for developing children’s readiness to learn. Children were delivered to the classroom ready to strive to better themselves just as their parents had done.

Students’ classroom achievement determined their advancement, just as it had when I was a child. Grades and advancement were in the hands of classroom teachers. Schools were safe places where teachers maintained behavioral standards through summary judgment and various types of discipline.

Those days are long gone. I left public education, partially because I could make a lot more money in business and industry, but primarily because federal government actions ignored the importance of communities in preparing children for school and learning, undermining vital support for schools.

Beginning in the late 1960s, people who previously lived in segregated communities could rightfully move wherever they wanted. This resulted in various positive and negative social dynamics, causing unstable communities.

Then, as now, government only cared about racial numbers, focusing on drawing and redrawing school attendance zones as community demographics changed. Such actions undermined, and continue to undermine, support for schools.

Weakened, unstable communities result in insecure children who act out their insecurities in school. When this occurs, government assumes the problems are caused by schools. In fact, negative student behaviors are symptoms of unstable communities resulting from government focusing only on racial numbers to drive public policies and actions.

We need an effective plan to move toward Dr. King’s dream. This should be done through transitioning away from “top-down” government efforts and develop stable, traditional “bottom-up” communities. These communities will become desirable areas for commercial builders to purchase land and construct homes.

With anyone being free to purchase homes in any area, children would attend local, community-based schools regardless of their race. As we know from history, traditional “bottom-up” communities are safe places to live. Children from stable communities will again strive to learn and achieve an education based on their classroom achievements.

 Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at