John Livingston News

Congratulations to Both Sides of the Boise State Diversity Debate

One point was made that made me reconsider a small corner of my position. Mat Erpelding, the Minority leader in the Idaho House, related a story that was interesting but not relevant to the issue. He is an Assistant Professor of Recreational Studies. When he held a similar position at Texas A&M he had 20 instructors under his domain that were all men. They were all Eagle Scouts and outdoorsmen. He said that all the male students were also Eagle Scouts and Great Outdoorsmen as most Texas boys are. There were 20 introductory courses offered per year and only men signed up.

When Matt chose to expand his department he chose two women to be instructors over many more qualified men. By having women instructors ten new courses were opened and were filled with mostly women. This was an issue about a disparity and marketing, and discrimination was a solution to the problem not the cause. So what was the point of offering the course? To give people an experience they might not have had and broaden their horizons? Was it to make more recreational specialists available to the work force? Was it going to make them a better chemist, physicist engineer, accountant? Arguably the answer to all these questions could be yes, but it misses the point and purpose of higher education.

We need more people graduating with skills that will help them earn a living and be contributing members of society. Higher education is designed to facilitate the learning of skills to make a living and give students experiences to be better citizens. I believe sports—especially sports and music and cultural clubs are important in rounding out an individual’s college experience. But at Boise State the average graduate takes 6 years to graduate, only 44% of students graduate, and only 7% in a STEM major—The national average is 15%.

Maybe we should put scarce resources toward graduating STEM students and fewer funding into culture studies and recreational studies. Maybe we should spend more money in helping entering minorities in basic math, chemistry, and physics so in later years they can graduate with a STEM major. This was an opportunity given to me at Wittenberg that allowed me to go on into Organic Chemistry.

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In the military, all officers are exposed to all elements—air, ground, logistics, supply engineering infantry etc. before specializing in a specific field. In medicine doctors in their last two years of medical school are exposed to all specialties—medicine, surgery, ob/gyn, psychiatry etc. It is important to note that exposures to various disciplines are important but team building requires assimilation—a word I found out last night was anathema to diversity rights supporters—as is “melting pot”.

Tell that to the Basques who 2 generations ago came to Idaho and now are in positions of influence in all walks of life in our community. Have they lost their cultural identity? Are we better for the diversity that they have brought to our world? Absolutely.

Many in the diversity movement don’t want to assimilate and bring positive aspects of their culture and heritage into the mix, but they want to replace what is good and already proven to be efficacious, with completely foreign values and in Aquinas’s words “first instances”.

We are a great country and we welcome all people’s and cultures. Every person in that debate forum is better off because of the liberties and opportunities they have by either being an American Citizen or by being a guest in this country. They could go nowhere else in the entire world and find such opportunity and liberty. In fact very few countries could you have such a discussion in public like we had at Boise State.

What disturbed me the most about the forum was when this point was brought out I heard boos and hisses in the audience. There was no American Flag in the room. No pledge of Allegiance before the event. Maybe before a student is allowed to take a course in “Recreational Studies” they should be required to take a course in Western History and American History. Maybe students should be allowed to more openly pray and express their political opinions on campus. I absolutely love the Boise State football entrance when a player carries an American Flag at the front of the team this is arguably the most diverse group on campus, and the great majority of the team kneels in the end zone and prays. I wonder what the assembled crowd thought about that?

Those in charge of ensuring that we continue to improve opportunities for young people in our State—including our State Board of Education and Legislature, should look at what the football team is doing. Coaches place demands on young people—what other group is up conditioning at 5AM in the morning 4 days a week in the offseason? They hold them accountable to each other and over a period of time confer upon them increasing levels of responsibility. There is no “safe place” or “safe room” for them when they fumble the ball or miss a tackle or a block. They learn to deal with failure and adversity as well as winning. They create a situation where teamwork is required for 1st of survival and secondly success. Because they have a common goal an environment is created where teamwork can and assimilation are critical. There is no more diverse group on campus than the football team and very few organizations have had such success over many years. Because of Title 9 women have been offered similar opportunities in sports.

The experience of the football team is repeated over and over again on other sports teams, in STEM studies—one learns early on in the laboratory that theories and hypothesis don’t always work out, in accounting classes and in the band and the performing arts—to name just a few areas where students are challenged and inspired to learn about themselves and how to be better citizens—which is also a function of education.

Our legislature should spend more money funding teacher’s salaries with an emphasis on helping students from all economic and cultural backgrounds who may have had disparate and inadequate preparation for STEM programs. Using scarce resources to fund a blotted administrative staff is a folly that won’t succeed.

Students should be inspired and challenged, not coddled. They should leave College prepared to be good citizens with a valuable skill. The job market is waiting and wanting for them to succeed and is waiting for them to invent, create, build, discover, compose, and make a better world for their families, their country and their State.

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