After writing last week about how Louis L’Amour acquired an education without attending school, I thought it timely to confess that I also didn’t let my schooling interfere with my education during my undergrad work at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State University) in Springfield.
For the record, I entered college in 1945 when I was 16 years old in an attempt to complete two years before being drafted. However, World War II soon ended, and I was afloat among a raft of returning servicemen who we referred to as “damned grade average raisers.”
Nevertheless, I buckled down and focused on a newfound love — economics — only to change majors quickly after receiving a D in the basic course. I floated around awhile in the music department, where I discovered that I created more discord than harmony.
Eventually, I settled on political science largely because of a professor who had just mustered out of the Army after leading a squad of infantrymen from Normandy to Berlin. He broke classroom convention by swearing during lectures and by bringing a radio to class so we could listen to 1949 presidential election returns. He challenged students to “think outside the box” and helped inspire me to become a teacher.
This was good stuff for an Ozark hillbilly who had spent most of his life milking cows and plowing corn and who had never traveled more than a hundred miles from home.
Meanwhile, I was working part-time in a print shop, acting as a Boy Scout leader, playing sousaphone in the symphonic and marching bands, building and flying model airplanes, running the half-mile as a track team member, helping organize a campus fraternity, leading a college class at my church and serving as editor of the college student newspaper during my senior year.
As a result, I didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on my class assignments, especially during my senior year when I met and courted a woman who eventually became my wife.
On one occasion during my senior year, my buddy, the campus newspaper sports editor, and I started to enter a classroom and realized we had failed to complete a written assignment.
“What should we do?” I asked my friend.
“Let’s go bowling,” he replied.
We did. We passed the course and eventually received our liberal arts degrees. In my case, I completed two years of required Latin without even a basic grasp of the vocabulary — and with D grades.
I did, however, complete my undergrad requirements with a C plus average, which was adequate for admission to grad school in those days.
Despite my sorry scholastic record, I figured that I received a valuable education during my four years in undergrad school.
Today, if I had it all to do over again, I would spend more time bowling.