ESSAY 1 – College
It is a long time ago now, but believe it or not, I once started in college. It was a small liberal college in a University that had a Dental School, a Law School, and a School of Education. Its name was the University of Kansas City. There were only about 700 students counting all the day and night students in the Liberal Arts College. In those days, many students worked in the day and went to school at night.
This school was unusual for several other reasons. Perhaps what would seem most unusual to many readers is that they purposefully eliminated sports such as football and basketball played between colleges. Secondly, the school purposefully brought together students from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
The school was located in Kansas City, Missouri, a city with a history of separating black from white people. The public schools were separated – schools for Negroes, and schools for Whites. No Negroes (this was the politically correct term which replaced the previous term colored for people who were of African descent in that period of time) were allowed in the large PUBLIC swimming pool. Negroes and Whites had separate public drinking fountains. But the University of Kansas City admitted Negroes and Whites.
World War II was over in 1945, and soon after that a number of students came to the University from Japan. Keep in mind that this was a time when the GI Bill brought many ex soldiers to college to study. So we had a motley group of soldiers (returning from war), Japanese, Negroes, and Whites – all mixed together in the school.
In addition, we had a number of students from various South American countries, and several students from Europe, including a guy who grew up in one of Hitler’s youth groups. As you can see, with such a conglomerate of cultures and with such a diversity of philosophical views, it was an interesting arena for learning.
Did such a mixture work? Let me fast forward for just a second to around 1951, 1952, 1953 and so on. In about 1951 a group of students in a Club called Pan America went together (White, Negro, and South American) to the public swimming pool, and it was integrated from that day on. It was no longer segregated. In those days I drank. Lothar Knauth the German from Hitler’s youth group and Donald Gibson, a Negro student at the school (who was best man at my wedding in 1955), and many others would frequently get soused together. Or, we would be involved in working on some school- related task such as the school newspaper or something. Yes, it worked.
I graduated from High School in 1949, a very mediocre student. My grades and behavior were of such poor quality, that the University only admitted me on condition that I take summer school and do very well in it. I on the other hand was not sure I wanted to go to the University. I didn't like classes all through high school and had not done well in most classes. My parents wanted me to have a college education, though, so I went.
So in June 1949 (soon to be 18 – in August), I began. I took an English class and an Oral Reading class. I had been in plays and on the debate team in high school and thought Oral Reading would be a very good class. Several semesters of English was required by the college, so I took the English class just to start whittling away at that requirement.
The English teacher was an older lady, Mrs. Cockefair, by name. She was then about the age I am now, although perhaps just a little bit younger. She was a Professor Emeritus at the school meaning that she had taught there forever, and was teaching in her retirement by request because of the respect for her. Well, let me tell you, she was terrific. She turned my mind on and twisted it around – stirred it up – woke me up – made me see the world in so many different ways. She was a magnificent person who changed my life in many ways forever. I write here about her, because my current life in one way is being influenced, still, by her teachings.
I took many courses from her. In addition to her academic work, she was a leader of a group called “Great Books”. Great Books was an organization set up by the President of Chicago University, which was devoted to adult education through the group discussion of well known books such as Hamlet (by Shakespeare), Common Sense (by Thomas Paine), and many others. The main method utilized by the person that led the discussion group was the Socratic method. It was designed to run many years and had a list of books for the first 5 or 10 years. BUT, all this and how it has influenced my life for the good is better left for another auto biographical essay at some future date.