a little levity
Values derived from attending college
By STEVE LANG
“I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice….I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently….I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis. But I have not yet gone to college.” – Hugh Gallagher
Education, despite its critics, remains a vital component of society.
For example, education provides a certain percentage of the population employment as purveyors of knowledge; keeps political parties/elected officials at odds over the amounts of money and influence to allocate toward and wield over its dispensation; and reduces the amount of time students spend skateboarding on the sidewalks outside the facilities, thereby improving pedestrian traffic flow.
The purpose of higher education, one sage noted, is “to entertain new ideas, to entertain yourself and to entertain your friends.”
Whenever I am asked if a college degree helps one in his/her respective endeavors, I respond as truthfully as possible. I am uncertain if or how much a college degree helps, but I know for a certainty holding a degree does not hurt…
…unless the framed diploma slips out of your hands and lands on your foot.
In many instances, a college degree serves as a license to practice, and earlier in my career, I learned painfully that without a degree, despite other qualifications, certain desired jobs were unattainable.
Therefore, I adhered to the axiom that education is valuable at whatever time of life it is received. When approaching receipt of my bachelor’s degree, I was asked what I would be when I graduated.
“About 39 and a half,” I answered.
College enhances imagination and creativity, even when forsaking regular class attendance and study periods. I refer to the saga of a young man in my old Minnesota neighborhood, the first in his family to attend college.
The neighbor, call him Carl, was a particularly brilliant student. But he had no designs on attending college before a persistent high school teacher convinced his parents that he should apply for a scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota, 150 miles and a universe away.
Carl’s parents consented, and Carl applied for and received a generous scholarship. His parents added an ample living allowance. When it came time to leave home, Carl’s parents insisted the family dog, Shep, should accompany their son lest he grew lonely in the big city. So Carl loaded his suitcase, Shep and lunch for the journey into his pickup and departed for college.
A week into fall semester, Carl was rushed by various fraternities and soon found a home in the campus’ most notorious “Animal House.” He passed his courses by the bare minimum, but his carousing cost him his entire family funding by Thanksgiving. Carl wrote home:
“Dear folks. I love college and all the learning opportunities not only afforded me but Shep as well. A psychology professor has met Shep and determined that he is so intelligent he thinks he could teach Shep to talk. I am all for the experiment, but it would cost $2,000, so I’m writing to you to get your opinion.”
“You know, Henry,” Carl’s mother, Cora said, “a talking dog would be the hit of the neighborhood.”
Henry agreed, the money was sent, then spent by spring break.
“Dear folks,” Carl’s next letter began. “College is great, especially now that I have an old friend to talk to. Shep is very interested in current events and keeps up with CNN and other current events programs. The psychology professor is so impressed by Shep’s growing vocabulary that he believes it is possible that Shep could be taught to read as well. Of course, I applaud the idea, but it would cost another $2,000. What do you think?”
“I think it would be nice to have another opinion around the breakfast table after reading the weekly editorials in The Beacon, “ Henry told Cora.
Once again, the money was sent, then spent in riotous living by semester’s end.
Carl, once a brilliant prospect, packed up his C-plus grades, his suitcase and Shep, then began the long drive home for summer.
Two miles from the farm, the lad looked at the dog, no more learned nor articulate than nine months earlier. He pondered the wasted $4,000. He thought about explanations. Jerking to a stop, he opened the door, motioned Shep into the ditch to chase an imaginary rabbit, pulled a shotgun from behind the seat and shot his long-time companion.
Carl chugged into the farmyard, was met by his ecstatic parents and after hugs, Cora went inside to fix a little lunch.
“By the way, son, where’s Shep?” Henry asked. “We were looking forward to his take on that Wall Street Journal article on corporate farming.”
Carl paused, fixed a sad gaze on his father and said, “I had to shoot Shep, Dad.”
“It was like this. I was driving home, Shep was riding The New York Times and we were enjoying the scenery. Then, he folded up his paper, lowered his reading glasses and asked, ‘Is your old man still flirting with the waitress at the Chatterbox Café?’
“Pop, it’s one thing to have a talking, reading dog, but nobody needs another gossip!”
“Son,” his dad replied somberly, patting Carl’s shoulder. “I’m pleased to see that sending you to college was not a waste of money.”
Steve Lang remains dogged and determined in his quest for knowledge. He’s also a transplanted Minnesotan who is often lost in time and stuck in space. He serves as director of News and Publications at Sul Ross State University. He is a native of Erdahl, MN, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Morris, and received a Master’s degree from Sul Ross. He has spent most of the last 45 years in various journalistic endeavors, including community newspapers in Minnesota and South Dakota and news bureaus at four universities in Minnesota, South Dakota and Texas. He came to Sul Ross in 1998 and lives in Alpine with his wife, Clarissa Kaiser, four cats and two dogs.
Story filed under: Big Bend Blog