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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RUBEN LACKMAN: NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES - WHEN DO THEY BECOME “DYSFUNCTIONAL?”

As a graduate of DSU and also an ex-faculty member of DSU, I do believe that the state Board of Higher Education, to use Lloyd Umdahl’s  word, has become “dysfunctional.” It also appears that, given some of its attempts at self-diagnosing and  cleansing, that it cannot “heal” itself, but needs some radical surgery—removal of fossilized  body parts, new heart implant, and circulation of learning to the world outside of itself.

In a brief essay, it is impossible to trace the collapse of ND Higher Education into its “dysfunctional” from when it, its faculty, its graduates stood on their own merits.  They did not need “Made in China” recruits to cheer their teams: they did not need NCAA  to “OK” their sports teams; they did not need a $2 million Presidential Palaces to obtain authentic “Higher” education-oriented Presidents.   All they needed were classrooms in which to teach, teachers capable and willing to teach, students willing and capable to learn, and a purpose and goal for both teacher and student which, as the result of their time together, gave the world outside the campus, an enrichment, a blessing, a benefit, at least equal to the cost that the world outside the campus paid to this intellectual “academic birthplace” to produce these new “higher” educated minds, minds driven by the “higher” values of ethics, honesty, morality, freedom, honor, and a love of excellence in everything they do, say and are. When Higher Education no longer represent these values, no longer seeks achieve them, no longer even seeks to pursue them, or worse yet, replaces them with goals that even the blind can achieve, then Higher Education has indeed become dysfunctional. When did it begin?

I will use my own experience in the world of academia.  My English teacher during my 1952/53 senior high school year was a WW11 Navy veteran, as were many teachers during those years.  In Literature he taught us the difference between the excellent and the trivial by using classics in which some characters chose excellence, others chose the expedient.  We watched the consequences. The outcome a classic ALWAYS mirrored reality, which is what makes a classic.  It faithfully exemplifies life.  If “lower” education builds the groundwork and foundation for education, then “higher” education must enlarge the student’s view of greatness and excellence in his/her development as a “humane” human being.  After all, in all past ages of historical greatness, it was the study of the Humanities that lit this fire for knowledge, the beautiful, the worthy, the lovely, the honorable, to go “boldly” as STARTREK  taught, “where no man has gone before.”  And none of this was a collapse into the easily attainable, the unworthy, the vanity of pretending for the sake of “academic democracy” that “Fighting Sioux” is a demeaning logo. All the great heroes in past Classical history were warriors.  In the history of the Lemmings, there never were and are none now, nor will there ever be, any heroes. 

So Higher Education must, by its very nature must always have as it highest goal, the seeking, the never-ending search for the truth, the excellent, the honest, about humanity. When it abandons this quest for greatness in the truly great things, and seeks values in numbers and mass instead of intrinsic self-worth, it has become dysfunctional.  Most of these are clearly visible to any honest “searcher” for truth in North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education and its arrogant blatant display of power and wealth , neither of which motivate the quest for excellence and truth and honesty in the human.  Ask any lawyer!  (to be continued).

 

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