Pursuing equality of opportunity

Published 9:59 pm Monday, January 23, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

Some people are surprised to learn that my doctoral studies deal with motivational psychology in organizations and early childhood education. They see the two academic areas as unrelated.

I find the underlying concepts to be the same in my work as a business administration and an educational consultant. Both deal with designing work. The objective in each area is to create a work environment that helps people, regardless of their age, to be motivated, productive and satisfied.

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I’m an old guy. I can remember the last year of World War II. During these many years, I have witnessed a major shift in thinking and governmental practices that has not been helpful. In my early days, America did not have the negative rates of dependency, violent crime, imprisonment, unwed mothers and so on.

During the ‘40s, ‘50s, and mid-‘60s, emphasis was on self-reliance. Child rearing and learning were based on the same concepts included in my doctoral studies. To be successful in life and pursue the American dream it was understood that children and adults were presented with challenges they had to overcome to develop good character.

Today the emphasis is on government entitlements that greatly reduce life’s challenges.

Consider the social arrangements for getting a university education then, as opposed to now.

My personal objective was to get a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, the best school in the state. In 1960, entrance requirements involved filling out a short form and presenting evidence of an Oklahoma high school diploma. That was it. There were no other requirements. Regardless of race, color, or creed everyone was admitted.

This legal structure presented a problem for the university. Many unprepared, unqualified students enrolled. Having graduated from a high school sports machine with little emphasis on education, I was one of them. Fifty-five percent of high school students scored higher on the SAT than I did. My Dad told me not to enroll at OU. He said I should enroll in one of the easier state colleges.

But I was determined.

The university’s answer to its problem was to make freshmen and sophomore classes as difficult as possible. It was common knowledge that more than 30 percent of those that originally enrolled were not around by the beginning of the junior year.

Attending OU was a Darwinian experience. Self-reliance was key. Regardless of race, color or creed no one cared if you failed. To continue at OU, it was up to you. To say the least, it was a character-building experience, particularly for ones like me that were unprepared the day we enrolled. My freshmen roommate was not around the next year.

The effort hurt my health somewhat, but when I walked across the stage to get my bachelor’s diploma in Norman, I had one heck of an education.

It is unfortunate that in today’s world of entitlement and “equality,” many young people never have the educational and character-building opportunity I had.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.