GRAVES: The view from the mountaintop
Recently, I was reading a popularized account of modern physics, specifically an attempt to explain how certain really tiny bits of matter could suddenly appear where no matter had been before and, just as suddenly, blink back out of existence. Now, to be frank, the frontiers of modern physics are very confusing to me and much of it just flat out eludes me.
But occasionally, I read some aspect of it and am able to make a connection to some experience I have had or some concept I do understand. I can thereby integrate it into my view of the universe. This was one of those occasions. Matter flashing into existence from the void is a very old theological concept, creatio ex nihilo, i.e. creation out of nothing. Theologians posit that this is how God, in fact, created the universe. Out of nothing.
Such synchronicities between the most modern of sciences and some of the oldest of theologies caused American astronomer, planetary physicist, and NASA scientist Robert Jastrow to once predict, in his work God and the Astronomers,
"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends
like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer
the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
In yet another synchronicity, I felt a bit like one of those theologians when I read of an action by the House Appropriations Committee to institute the 'Strengthening Community College Training Grants program,' funding it to the tune of $150 million. The idea of the program would be reducing the costs of two-year programs which prepare students for high demand jobs.
In other words, the mission of the program is to incentivize students to take coursework and programs which will lead to their quick, decently-paid employment in the economy. Rather than simply offer a vast array of programs, all at the same cost to the student, reduce the net costs for those which result in employment, which meet the needs, sometimes desperate needs, of the American market.
Hmm, where have I ever heard of such an outlandish concept? Oh, yeah, it's the clear mission of South Dakota's technical institutes. MTI, along with its three sister institutions in our state, are tasked with the job of training students in technical fields, resulting in their quick entry into the economy for high-demand, good-paying jobs.
As a result, MTI's retention, graduation, and placement rates are so high, they could reasonably be an object of study for Jastrow. It is why MTI was recognized by the Aspen Institute this year as being in the top 10 of such postsecondary institutions in the country. It is why, last Friday, 485 students, in 37 programs, from 16 states and one foreign country, from 135 communities here in South Dakota, graduated from Mitchell Technical Institute, grabbing a diploma in one hand and the brass ring that is a job in their field of study that pays well in the other.
And as I sat on the stage of the Corn Palace at the conclusion of that splendid, joyful ceremony, I couldn't help wonder how long I'd have to wait before the Feds finally arrived.
Arrived on the mountain top where MTI has been sitting for 51 years.