From Mun­dare to aca­demic star­dom

Al­bert Ban­dura thrilled to be named to Or­der of Canada

Edmonton Journal - - CITY & REGION - SHEILA PRATT

As a young boy, Al­bert Ban­dura did his share of sheer hard work as his par­ents carved a homestead out of rocks and trees near Mun­dare, in the early decades of the 1900s.

It’s a fa­mil­iar pi­o­neer­ing story of strug­gle and en­durance on farm­land east of Ed­mon­ton, but with an un­usual end­ing.

Ban­dura, 89, rose from the one-room school in Mun­dare to be­come one of the most in­flu­en­tial psy­chol­o­gists of all time, a gi­ant in his field along with B.F. Skin­ner, Sig­mund Freud and Jean Pi­aget.

This month, Ban­dura was ap­pointed an of­fi­cer in the Or­der of Canada — an hon­our that he’s thrilled to re­ceive from his home coun­try.

“I felt a pro­found sense of grat­i­tude,” said Ban­dura.

“I also feel my par­ents share the hon­ours,” he added quickly in an in­ter­view from Stan­ford, Calif., where he has been a univer­sity pro­fes­sor since 1953.

Well-known Ed­mon­ton en­tre­pre­neur Cal Ni­chols was also named to the Or­der of Canada. Ni­chols, who started his business in Saint Wal­burg, Sask. in 1962, is best known for his key role in re­tain­ing lo­cal own­er­ship of the Oil­ers hockey team in 1997.

Ban­dura’s Pol­ish fa­ther worked on the rail­road and his Ukrainian mother at the Mun­dare store to save enough to buy their land. They had no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion but be­lieved in it for their chil­dren.

Ban­dura, born in 1925, was the youngest child and only boy in a fam­ily of six chil­dren. He lived mostly in Mun­dare, where the fam­ily by then also owned a mill and sta­bles. The young­ster played hockey, had the run of the town and worked on the fam­ily farm in the sum­mer.

Ban­dura re­calls with a chuckle that he was not im­pressed with his first day at school in Mun­dare.

“I told my mother when I got home: ‘I’m not go­ing back, they speak some kind of funny lan­guage there.’

“My mother replied: ‘I think that’s English.’ And sent me back.”

Life was hard at times. In the De­pres­sion, his fa­ther lost some of his land. But the fam­ily pros­pered and Ban­dura learned im­por­tant lessons of self re­liance or “self­di­rected learn­ing” that would in­flu­ence his aca­demic life.

After he com­pleted high school there, his par­ents sat him down for a chat.

“They said: ‘You have to de­cide what to do. You can stay here, go farm­ing, play pool, drink, or get an ed­u­ca­tion.”

The teenage Ban­dura chose ed­u­ca­tion. To make money for univer­sity, he worked in Ed­mon­ton learn­ing car­pen­try at a sash and door plant. The city’s pop­u­la­tion was just 87,000.

Then he was off to the Yukon to work on the Alaska High­way, another “broad­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” among con­struc­tion work­ers who ran their own still in the woods. (He still re­calls the day six griz­zly bears got to the still first.)

By ac­ci­dent, he dis­cov­ered the dis­ci­pline of psy­chol­ogy at Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia and grad­u­ated in 1949. He ar­rived in Stan­ford in 1953 with his PhD and be­gan a re­mark­able 60-plus year aca­demic ca­reer, and a long mar­riage to Vir­ginia (now de­ceased).

They raised daugh­ters Mary and Carol.

Ban­dura would chal­lenge many stan­dard the­o­ries, lay the foun­da­tion of mod­ern so­cial psy­chol­ogy and re­ceive nu­mer­ous honorary de­grees, in­clud­ing from the Univer­sity of Al­berta.

He made his mark early, study­ing the ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour of young men from well-to-do fam­i­lies in his first book Ado­les­cent Ag­gres­sion (1959). He chal­lenged the tra­di­tional no­tion that par­ents shape the child, with a more com­plex view that chil­dren play an ac­tive role and learn from ob­serv­ing their par­ents. That was the ori­gin of his new “so­cial learn­ing the­ory.”

He also de­vised his the­ory of “self-ef­fi­cacy” (the de­gree to which in­di­vid­u­als have the ca­pac­ity to in­flu­ence their cir­cum­stances).

Two years ago, at 87, Ban­dura be­gan another book also on a con­tentious new is­sue — a shift in moral­ity that al­lows peo­ple and cor­po­ra­tions to carry out and live with con­duct that causes harm.

Moral dis­en­gage­ment — How Peo­ple Do Harm and Live with It, is the ti­tle of the book that will be pub­lished in 2015.

In the book, Ban­dura cov­ers a range of ex­am­ples of moral dis­en­gage­ment — to­bacco com­pa­nies and as­bestos com­pa­nies that deny harm­ful ef­fects of their prod­ucts, Wall Street ethics that caused the 2008 fi­nan­cial crash, acts of ter­ror­ism and the “moral dis­en­gage­ment around the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Ban­dura iden­ti­fied eight fac­tors that al­low peo­ple to ra­tio­nal­ize harm­ful acts th­ese days. They in­clude sim­ple tech­niques such as denying harm (as to­bacco com­pa­nies did) and us­ing eu­phemistic lan­guage to de­scribe the harm, such as “col­lat­eral dam­age” in war. De­mo­niz­ing and blam­ing the vic­tim are also ef­fec­tive in ra­tio­nal­iz­ing harm, as is push­ing off re­spon­si­bil­ity, (“I was just fol­low­ing or­ders.”)

For years, Ban­dura vis­ited Mun­dare when­ever he could — though he doesn’t fly any­more. The vil­lage still holds a place dear to his heart, he said. spratt@ed­mon­ton­jour­nal.com

“I felt a pro­found sense of grat­i­tude. I also feel my par­ents share the hon­ours.”

AL­BERT BAN­DURA

SUP­PLIED

Al­bert Ban­dura, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of so­cial sci­ence in psy­chol­ogy at Stan­ford Univer­sity, and a new of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Canada, stands in front of the farm in Mun­dare where he spent his child­hood. Ban­dura, 89, rose from the one-room school to be­come one of the most in­flu­en­tial psy­chol­o­gists of all time.

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