Ralph Kingsbury: With Higher Ed, Don't Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water


Remember when Bruce Gjovig won the national award from the conservative organization. A disappointing number of those who frequently write in with comments about what is wrong with higher education said you had never heard of him.

I have spent a great deal of my life hearing from those from western North Dakota how the “east” never pays any attention to the west. Unfortunately, there has been too much truth in that, but just as unfortunately it applies the other way, too. That is, too many of you are too provincial, especially now with your oil power and importance.

After some of your remarks were posted I wrote about who Bruce Gjovig was, including being from Crosby (you can’t get much more western {and northern} than that. I also think I pointed out he had an official appointment from the Norwegian government to represent them in relationships with the United States.

Among the things I wrote is that I think too many of you don’t realize how many conservative faculty, students, and even administrators there are on college campuses. I was writing particularly about North Dakota, but also about colleges in general. They not only believe it, but they practice it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply all the way through, at least as to democratic capitalism when it comes to the certain things in higher education. For example, the Governor allowing four of the eight voting members of the Board of Higher Education to represent one school. Never before, to my knowledge, has this happened. Never before no matter who was the Governor, or who controlled the legislature that I can recall, did one school and/or town with a school ever have more than two members on the board at the same time.

With a total of eleven schools there are plenty of towns in the state without doing what Governor has done with these last appointments. I am sure there are plenty of people just as qualified from Tioga, or Cooperstown, or…. Well, you get my point. I will just leave that as for me I am very disappointed.

Back to the schools and the reason I believe our universities have, specifically at UND in this case, become important teachers of capitalism and all of its elements. Some of that reason is because I know many of these people. They not only teach it, they believe it and they practice it personally.

As to proof, the University of North Dakota established the Center for Innovation under President Thomas Clifford and directed by Mr. Gjovig.  Through the years the Center has not only grown and become an important and recognized functioning innovation center, but it has been recognized with many meaningful and significant awards.

That is continuing with the most recent “Innovatively Increasing Access to Capital” program for which the Center received the National Business Incubator’s top award.

Within the College of Business the department of finance has a student run organization using real money donated by real people that is invested in real markets. That club, too, has won national competition many times.

I write this not to promote the University. I know that there are organizations at North Dakota State that do the same thing. I just am not familiar enough to write the details.

The point I make here is that much of the criticism I read about North Dakota higher education is valid, so I think. However, it is a fact that higher education in North Dakota has many openly conservative and openly capitalistic faculty, students, and organizations, and capitalism is taught and openly practiced on campus. Our sons and daughters do us proud with the courses they demand, and the education they receive.

Let us continue to criticize and demand changes in higher education, including some of the spending, but let us make sure that we criticize what is wrong. There is a danger in throwing the baby out with the bath water.