Kingsbury Column: There Are Many Paths To Success


I am not sure if writing this column is a mistake or not. This is about higher education in North Dakota and of all the subjects written about in this blog higher education is, well let’s just call it the most controversial element of public spending.

Higher education governance is just the type of government structure that is going to be open to a lot of criticism. The criticism has been financial, it has been academic. There has been criticism of the relationship between the schools, between the schools and  their  community and between the schools and the state.

Before I begin I have a personal note. As I always have tried to do in my columns I want you to know where I am coming from. Everyone in my family including me have advanced degrees. Two thirds of my family have different doctorates (not me). They include degrees from both private and public institutions. All of us have worked at various jobs within those institutions including holding academic teaching rank and academic administrative posts. Some have received honors for their teaching (not me).

I tell you all of this so you do know that besides other loves some of us have had we all love education. We consider education to be more than a job. We think it is a calling. We think we should be paid of course, but having a student come to us and thank us is a form of remuneration that for me is like sitting in a combine and watching the monitor run to the top of the yield graph.

One person in responding to one of my columns said I “played the for the children, the grandchildren. What I said is playing to nothing. Education came first from the family teaching their children how to live, and then it was “religion” which  established education in the formal sense.

In the European tradition at least it was only when parts of society wanted to limit, even eliminate, the influence of the church that public education began. Of course some think that public education, like parochial schools has quit listening to what many want education to be.

Too much time is being spent on things that parents don’t want, or so we think. Still, most of us look at our own adult children as they finish their formal education and are happy with the result. We made it in spite of some of those changes.

That doesn’t mean everyone who received a college degree thinks they have something of value from it, but that is to be expected. It is also what some of those who did not complete the formal procedure will admit to, but even within this group many understand what happened.

I remember one time while I still was working at the University I was at a local entertainment spot doing what you have to do after having too much entertainment when this big guy next to me said, “Mr. Kingsbury”. I looked over and said hi. He said I probably didn’t remember him, and it was a little difficult especially under that hard hat he was wearing. Anyway, he said I had been his econ teacher. I said I hope he learned something. He said, “Nope, you gave me an F”. I don’t know what my expression was like, but then he said, “I deserved it. Never was a student. That’s why I am wearing this hat”.

I don’t know where he is now, nor do I know how successful he has been except that I suspect he has done just fine, because doing it for our children and grandchildren means doing it in a way that they learn how to live life in whatever manner it comes to you. Some have never been students in the sense of sitting at a desk listening to a teacher.

They learned something of value in other manners. Good for them.  As some say, they received their degree from the school of hard knocks. That too is a valid education.

So, as I write additional columns about North Dakota’s higher education system please remember that I have respect for several different types of success. I don’t think of any one of them as being better than any other. I am only writing about the formal higher education system.