Higher education should be balanced with ‘lower’ education

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist

Higher education. That’s what we tend to call college and graduate school. Fine. Some important things can certainly be learned there.

But the older I get, the more I am of the opinion that higher education ought to be balanced regularly with the kind of “lower” education that occurs on the end of a shovel. Turning over the ground, planting a garden, digging a worthwhile ditch, getting some dirt under your fingernails—those things are educational. Whenever I spend time in the dirt, I learn something.

I learned something from just such an endeavor last week.

I needed a ditch dug. It needed to be 12-18 inches deep and about four inches wide. When I stepped it off, I found that it needed to be about 25 feet long. Fine.

But it’s right at this point that my logic failed me.

I figured that 25 feet is not that far. I reckoned that since my mother had long ago taught me that the best tool in the shed is a grubbing hoe, and since I owned one and knew how to use it, I would limber up my trusty old grubbing hoe. I reasoned that, at age 53, since 50 is the new 30 (or something like that), I could dig the durn ditch myself in less than the time it would take me to rent or borrow a ditch-digging machine.

About halfway through the job, I realized the flaw in my logic. For a teenager or a tweenager, my thinking was right on target. After all, they have energy to burn, the kind that will indeed find a release, and among all their energy-releasing options, ditch-digging may be one of the very best, with least potential for any long-lasting carnage.

Nothing wrong with that logic. But my previous reckoning was going on in the head of a 53-year-old, and therein lies the problem.

But I did learn some things.

1) Next time I’ll get a ditcher (or a teenager).

2) My tape measure is messed up. No matter what it says, that ditch was at least 50 feet long and 9 feet deep.

3) A good heavy grubbing hoe is a great tool, but somebody should market one with a Teflon coating so dirt falls off nicely rather than sticking. Unsticking sticky dirt makes digging dirt 4.35 times harder than it should be.

4) “Born to command” guys like the pharaohs of old who lean back with a glass of tea or a palm leaf sour at their club and talk about how they built the pyramids are full of baloney. I’ll betcha ol’ Pharaoh wouldn’t know which end of a shovel to lean on, much less which end to stick in the dirt. Whoever really built the pyramids, I guarantee you it wasn’t the guy with the gold snake on his head wearing a silver miniskirt yelling orders at bean counters.

See? You learn things digging in the dirt. Higher education.

And you learn even more reasons to be impressed with the One who built the whole universe, the world we live in, and you, and me.


Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at ckshel@aol.com