Integrity Matters
August 11 , 2004

When it comes to standards, ask these questions

Question: (A-004)

Dear Jim:

As I am about to enter college, a major discussion point has been affirmative action. Many universities across America employ an affirmative-action program. I personally believe the best qualified should be accepted regardless of race. Allowing sub-par students admission because they are considered a minority is still a form of racism. Does being politically correct in this situation debase the integrity of our nation's education system?


Long ago, my father passed along an interesting insight. He said that minor surgery happens to other people. When, as a young man, I asked for the meaning of the statement, my father replied, "When a surgeon was cutting on me, the surgery was always major." Other people, however, could call their medical procedures minor. But Dad's were major. Perhaps this inherited perspective has convinced me that when I am placing my life (survival) in the care of other people -- then, just like my Dad, I feel my situation is major, and my requirements for the surgeon's skills and performance are uncompromising.

So, given that simple parental wisdom, what might each individual reader's responses be to the following six questions?

  • What is level of surgical skill do you expect when you are on the operating table?
  • Would you be willing to accept a person's professional certification of competence simply because he or she was part of a quota system?
  • Will you accept a lesser set of medical or technical qualifications, simply because the "playing field" in our history, or in their professional specialty, has not been level?
  • Will you tolerate someone hired to fix your automobile's brakes or steering who lacks the talent and skill required to confidently make these repairs simply because he or she was "included" in the mechanic's certification process? Would you stake the lives of your family on that?
  • Will you be happy to work with a pharmacist whose credentials were marginally acquired, because in a politically correct world lesser talented people were licensed in order to fulfill a quota system? Would you trust the medicines dispensed by such a person -- even if a mistake could be life threatening?
  • Do you want to fly with a pilot who may have mastered most of the skills, but not all of them, simply because it was determined that selection of students for pilot training should not be based solely upon aptitude or talent?

Sooner or later, standards matter. In some professions, when mistakes are made, people die. As much as we want, and need, for everyone to move forward in achieving life's greatest personal and professional rewards -- excellence still counts. We want the best runners to represent our nation in the Olympics. Should we want anything less in other walks of life? Everyone can and should be afforded opportunity. Everyone can try out for the team. But not everyone wins a gold medal.

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