On September 28, 2014, there were two men who retired from baseball, the one more publicized than the other, but both equally great. This blog post is about the “other guy.” The one who showed a city what it means to be loyal—to be one of them, a guy who was the Captain, but never needed to wear the “C” to prove it, and a guy who played the game with his whole heart.
Paul Konerko (No. 14) was traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Chicago White Sox on November 11, 1998 and remained with the White Sox until his career retirement. During his time with the White Sox, he made six trips to the All-Star Game, five seasons in which he gathered MVP votes—finishing fifth in 2010 and sixth in 2005—and a World Series ring. He’s second in White Sox history, with 432 homers and 1,432 RBI, to Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, but no one has generated more total bases.
But on September 28, 2014, there was more than just stats celebrated in the career of Paul Konerko, or Paulie to White Sox fans. The most celebrated attributes was not his athletic ability or helping to deliver a World Series Championship for the White Sox in 2005, the first one for the city of Chicago in 88 years; no, it wasn’t either of those things. What everyone remembered and admired most was his quiet leadership and consistent loyalty. Paul Konerko is to the White Sox what Derek Jeter is to the Yankees, only one has better PR, but the impact is no less great.
Having just finished presenting and attending the DETC Fall Workshop in Austin, Texas, the comparison struck me. While regionally-accredited institutions have better publicity, there is something to be said for the “other guys” in higher education. Those institutions who are nationally-accredited are maybe not as well publicized, but fulfill just as great a need to the students they serve and society as a whole.
While there has been a lot of negative attention focused on higher education in recent years, there are institutions who are doing the right things for the right reasons and never receive the positive publicity they deserve. To the students these institutions serve, they have exhibited a quiet leadership and loyalty amid the noise.
Media, government, students, employers, and the public all want higher education to be held more accountable for academic quality, especially when federal financial aid is involved. Higher education is scrambling to find a solution, but the answer to the perceived quality question isn’t one solution. The American education system is great because of the options it provides to reach across socio-economic barriers. The real issue is greater acceptance of these options within all segments of higher education. No two students learn the same way and educational options that work for one student don’t always work for the next student.
Baseball wouldn’t be the all-American sport it is today if its only team was the Yankees. It’s the fan base built by other teams, like the White Sox, that bridges the divide and brings people together who are united by common interest. The same is true for education. American higher education wouldn’t be as sought after if all it had was Harvard. It’s the diversity of educational options which meets the needs of a growing student population.
Yes, accountability is important and so is demonstrating academic quality, but equally important is establishing academic equality when those criteria are met. Today, the goal is helping students make the right decisions in order for them to achieve their goals in the way that makes most sense to them. Collaboratively, higher education should be leading the way and lighting the path.
“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” ~ Babe Ruth
What could be accomplished if we looked beyond existing traditions to see what’s possible?