Education, learning, and books have always been an important part of my life and the life of my family. My grandpa Wasden (mother's dad) had a 3d grade education and yet, despite his meager financial resources, subscribed to several daily newspapers, including Salt Lake's Deseret News, as well as magazines like National Geographic and a dozen others. When I went home one summer to the farm in northwest Wyoming, grandpa asked me what I had been reading, and I told him "The Diplomatic History of the United States." He asked me if I had the book and if he could read it. I loaned it to him and I am sure he read it from cover to cover. My dad quit school in the 9th grade. Yet he read all his life and when he quit farming and milking cows, reading became one of his passions. He read almost the complete works of Dickens, numerous works of history and biography, and for fun, he read every western by Luke Short and Louis L'Amour.
I loved school and books and reading from the time my older sister taught me to read a year before I entered first grade. When I was in high school, from which I graduated at the age of 16, I decided for some inexplicable reason that I wanted to be a college teacher. So that is what I became, teaching in four universities for a total of 45 years. Throughout my life, learning has been important. College degrees are important, also, but circumstances prevent everyone from getting a college degree, at least when they are young. Marriage, children, work, and illness can stand in the way of a college degree. Just having a college degree does not guarantee making the person with the degree better or smarter or more useful than those without degrees. I wouldn't trade some of my dear friends with minimal educations for some of the lumps I worked with in college who were so impressed with their doctorate degrees and the number of journal articles they published.
So I decided to count up the college degrees in my family. As near as I can tell, My children, grandchildren, and spouses of children and grandchildren, have collected 18 bachelor's degrees and 2 master's degrees with 4 more bachelor's degrees and 1 master's degree pending in the current school year, for a total of 25 degrees from Brigham Young University. One grandson and two spouses of grandchildren received degrees from the University of Utah. We have four with degrees from the University of Wyoming: me, my son Russell (J.D.), my wife Velna who labored for years and finally received her degree in her mid-30s, and my mother, who was truly a pioneer when getting to Laramie 450 miles from Penrose Wyoming was truly a miraculous accomplishment. I have another degree from Montana State and my doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan. Granddaughter Michelle's spouse, Josh, has a Ph.D. in biogenetics from UT Southwestern. Son Jim has a master's in international relations and a J.D. degree from George Washington University. His wife Sharman has a master's degree from Stanford. Granddaughter Whitney has a degree from Texas Tech, Courtney's husband James has a degree from Texas Tech plus a nursing degree, Tyler's wife, Michele, has a degree from the University of Colorado, and Tyler will earn his degree from UTEP in the current school year.
If I have counted correctly, that makes a total of 39 college degrees in my family. Again, I can't emphasize too strongly that I am not assuming anyone with a college degree is better than anyone without one. As I said above, not everyone finds themselves in circumstances that permit completion of a degree, at least at one or more times of their lives. What matters most, however, is that, no matter what our circumstances, we continue learning one way or another all of our lives. In my day, I graded correspondence courses for 15 years. Now students have access to infinite numbers of online courses that are automatically corrected. Books and information are as close as our iPhone or iPad. We don't have to go to the library and spend hours in a handwritten card catalogue and hours more searching for volumes in a five story library. My mother earned her degree at 57. My wife was in her thirties and my daughter in law Lani persevered so she could celebrate her bachelor's degree with those earned by her four daughters.
Continual reading and learning are what is important. We should never quit reading and learning. And then, what is even more important, is what we do with our reading and learning and whether we are prepared to make a difference in our lives and, especially, in the lives of others. The difference we make is more important than having our walls plastered with college diplomas. Love, consideration, help, compassion, teaching one another, are all virtues that outshine college degrees any day. Nonetheless, I urge everyone to continue learning and perhaps one day, you too, will have a diploma to share with your posterity.