Archive for Tuesday, August 8, 2006

KU Country?

History offers some insights about why western Kansas residents are partial to K-State.

August 8, 2006


The western Kansas preference for Kansas State University over Kansas University isn't particularly startling news, but a historian's explanation for how that trend got started is food for thought.

Craig Miner's latest book, "Next Year Country: Dust to Dust in Western Kansas, 1890-1940," was featured in Monday's Journal-World. In the book, Miner, a history professor at Wichita State University, chronicles the peaks and valleys of western Kansas, where harsh weather often spelled the difference between success and failure for the agricultural economy.

While compiling the history, Miner turned up several clues about why residents of the western two-thirds of the state have a good feeling about K-State. The school set up experiment stations across the area to test crop varieties and develop new hybrids that were resistant to pests and drought.

K-State, the railroads and the local Farm Bureaus took information on the road, traveling to different cities giving lectures and sharing information about better agriculture techniques for men and home economics for women.

When times got tough, such as during the drought of the 1930s, K-State officials were helping farmers in western Kansas survive. The only bright spot Miner could point out for KU is that it was home of Francis Snow who was well known for his weather-predicting efforts. Great. Who's going to be more popular in western Kansas during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s: someone who is reaching out to help farmers or the guy who tells them there's no rain in the foreseeable forecast?

It's no wonder, as Miner pointed out, that western Kansas was dubbed "K-State Country" and continues to be partial to the state's land-grant university in Manhattan.

The state's history provides an obvious challenge for KU officials as they try to explain their university's relevance and value across the state. But looking at history also may suggest some new strategies for spreading KU's mission and worth in areas that are finding it increasingly difficult to survive on an agricultural economy - even with all the help K-State can give them.

What many western Kansas towns now need are new options, ventures that KU experts might be able to support through research and technological developments. If KU faculty and researchers can figure ways to take their knowledge and expertise on the road to help prop up failing communities, it seems likely they could find a friendly and appreciative audience in western Kansas.


xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago

Western Kansas is precariously dependent on rainfall and the Ogallala acquifer, which is being depleted by irrigation. A case could be made that, with the effects of global warming - that conservatives deny exists - western Kansas will cease to be a credible agricultural region sometime in the next half-century.

The few cities and towns left out there should prepare for massive depletions of population, so much so that many cities and towns will cease to exist, much like many of their school districts have recently.

BTW, KU owns and farms some 26,000 acres+ of wheat land in central and western Kansas. The late Odd Williams, who with his brother Skipper was a guiding force behind the creation of KU athletic Williams Fund, went out annually for the last twenty years of his life to oversee the operations on the land and touch base with the locals.

fletch 11 years, 10 months ago

KS Geological Survey has been one of KU's best programs to "mend the rift" between them and western Kansas.

But let's face it, there are just a lot of parents out there that would rather kill their own child than let them go to a college with minorities, gays, and no agriculture program. I'm not trying to be funny or petulant. I'm being honest. I've met more than a few of these people while traveling out there. If they find out you're from KU, they'd rather spit on you than talk to you. If you try to ask them why they dislike KU, they'll inevitably pull out Gay-U, then walk away. Their only main interest in K-State is their football team, not their academics.

Solve the culture of 1930s thinking and intolerance, and Ku will do better out there. In the meantime, don't ask me to cry about their cities and counties having negative population decline. If you turn your area into a crappy place to live and work, you deserve to end up there alone. Enjoy retirement.

countrygirl 11 years, 10 months ago

Much as you narrow minded folks from Eastern Kansas would like to think, not all people from Western Kansas are uneducated. My parents both have college degrees, as do all 3 of their kids. K-State simply does more to reach out to rural people and a lot of that is done through the College of Ag and the Extention programs. People pay attention to those who try to help them within their line of work. Face it---the backbone of the Kansas economy is in agriculture. And it's not the football team. That sucess has only come in the last 15 years. Those with loyal ties to K-State started with other connections many years before that. As for minorities and gays? Go take a walk on the Manhattan campus and you'll see lots of minorities, foreign students and flyers posted for gay support groups. KU does not have the market cornered in Kansas for those groups. If KU wants more support west of Topeka, it needs to find ways to identify with the rural people and lose the snob hill reputation.

countrygirl 11 years, 10 months ago

And just where do you think the snob hill thing came from? Come down from the mountain and act like a regular person. Don't look down on those who grow the food that you eat and maybe KU will get a little more support from those out west. KU and Lawrence both get caught up in their own little world and forget that there is life out there.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 10 months ago

I think it's more basic even than these. The agrarian economic drivers in western Kansas align themselves more closely with K-State's agricultural-and-mechanical heritage than with the liberal arts heritage of KU. KU's academicians don't "get caught up in their own little world" any more than K-State's. The pragmatism of each is very different, though, and the focus is different. I think that's what those of us like countrygirl are reacting to. We as individuals (or even groups) don't understand the need for pragmatism which K-State offers or the emphasis on a liberal education brought by KU, and it creates a schism between us and one or another educational institution.

countrygirl 11 years, 10 months ago

Yes, as a matter of fact I can. I've got lots of friends who farm in NE Kansas and the funny thing is that most of them identify with K-State more so than KU. I think Wilbur hit the nail on the head. We all deal with what concerns us the most. For some it's things that lean more toward the liberal arts. For others it's agriculture. And I'm sorry if where your family lives they connect KU with Gay U. I don't hear that when I go home.

bunnyhawk 11 years, 10 months ago

Gee, maybe if KU didn't offer a tour of Western Kansas for new faculty that smacks of circus sideshow to the university's "BIG TIME"!

Perhaps not unlike how many of you might feel about snobbish New Yorkers!

countrygirl 11 years, 10 months ago

Thanks---I'd been following that story. A friend of my husband's is a state trooper who used to be stationed in Meade. We're going to have to call him and get his take on all this. I have a feeling there's more to what's going on that what is in the papers.

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago

Young people attend the University of Kansas to become citizens of the Country of the Mind, to join the wonderfully magical devotion to learning and knowledge that uplifts and enriches lives.

Young people attend Kansas State University to learn about herbicides/pesticides.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 10 months ago

Sigh. Another thread degenerated to mindless name-calling.

whistlestop75 11 years, 10 months ago

Young people may go to Kansas State to graduate with a degree in Nuclear Engineering...hmmm...does KU offer such a degree...I think not...not all degrees are based on agriculture... K-State turns out Chemical Engineers...Mechanical Engineers...and Rhoades Scholars...Face it ...Kansas State is a good school...

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago

Actually, it's "Rhodes Scholars," and K-State is a vile place where people have to scrape cow dung from their boots before entering any civilized abode.

Face it . . . you can't put lipstick on a pig. K-State is a drab, mediocre cow college; always has been, is now, and always will be.

Those of us who love Kansas also recognize that a place so beautiful, so wonderful, deserves better people. The narrow-minded bible-thumpers who seek out the secrects of pesticides and Round/Up at K-State should go somewhere else . . . like Texas.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 10 months ago

Kansas State is indeed a very good school. A bit of rivalry exists largely because both schools are of good quality. And you're right that it is unfair for us to pigeonhole K-State. Or KU, for that matter. My point was not that K-State is limited to ag, but that as a land-grant institution it has a different heritage than does KU. The Morrill Acts that created K-State focused on agricultural, mechanical, and military training--practical skills. Even the engineering programs whistlestop75 cites are pretty practical things. And honestly, if you spend some time comparing the theses and dissertations that KU spits out to those that K-State spits out...K-State is still training students in much more practical matters that are directly related to Kansas and Kansans. KU's are noticeably more philosophically oriented.

whistlestop75 11 years, 10 months ago

Thank you spouse and my children are all graduates of K-State and have had a wonderful education...we are not of western Kansas...we are an hour away from Lawerence. In education it is all about the degree and what you want to do with it.

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago


Not at all. KU is a wonderful, magical place; K-State isn't.

An important reason KU is magical is the people. The best and brightest in Kansas go to KU; it seems that the relatively graceless go to K-State.

In preceding posts, you may have read that those who wanted to preserve small-town mindsets and prejudices went to K-State, and reserved animus toward KU. That can lead us to surmise that relatively enlightened people are attracted to KU, while "the salt of the earth" are attracted to K-State.

While simple people have their attributes and attractions, enlightened people create the magic that takes life up to another level.

Have the feeling I'm not saying this right, but hope you can decipher what I mean.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 10 months ago

xenophobeschild, your feeling is correct. You aren't saying it right at all. Your surmise assumes premises not present in the posts. The premises that do exist in the posts and from which you proceed are, well, wrong...and your conclusions are thereby invalid.

You see, JLoh21 might also have read that K-State is an institution of relevant, practical education whose students regularly achieve the highest levels of academic accomplishment. That KU's grounding as a liberal education school abstracting the process from the subject. So, JLoh21 might just as easily infer that KU is populated with persons who are "book-smart" and lack in common sense, and that K-State is populated with those who can apply their education to the benefit of themselves and society.

They're both good schools. They both have terrific talent both on faculty, on staff, and in the student body. They both have utter idiots in each of those populations, too. They have more in common than different. And they both do Kansas--and should do Kansans--proud.

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago


Read nschmi04's posts of 11:54 and 1:55, and fletch's post of 9:23, then explain to me how my surmise assumes premises not present in those posts.

There is only one premier university in our beloved Kansas . . . and it's not Purple Puke.

whistlestop75 11 years, 10 months ago be such a conservative in other posts at LJW and to come off as such a liberal idiot on KU is beyond me...

kg52 11 years, 10 months ago

Born and Raised a Jayhawk (in Lawrence).
Love those Hawks. ROCK CHALK! My daughter-in-law graduated from K-State. Best thing that ever happened to my son! GO CATS!

fletch 11 years, 10 months ago

I'll just finish with this: During my first trip to western Kansas to visit a friend and see his hometown, I had "Gay-U" smeared in what I can only assume is cow poop on my car for having a KU liscence plate holder. During my second tirp to western Kansas, I was challenged to a bar fight because some guy (and I quote) said "college is for sissies and queers." On my third trip to western Kansas, I was denied service at a cafe because I was wearing a KU shirt on a Saturday K-State was playing (and they weren't even playing each other).

It's not that I think eveyrbody in western Kansas is an ignorrant jerk. I just think there is an above average concertration of them out there.

And as for growing my food, ever since my first trip out there, I've tried to buy as much of my produce as possible from the Farmer's Market and the Merc. I'd just rather not support the economy of western Kansas.

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago


You showed your true colors in your first post - "considering lawrence and ku as part of Kansas is certainly unfair to Kansas" - 8 August 6:33 p.m.

"God forbid that urban "elites" even gain total power over this land."

Yeah, well, that's more or less what we think about you yahoos and your bible-thumping idiot brethren out there in the sticks setting - or trying mightily to set - public policy in this state for generations.

You are an embarrassment to Kansas. Evolution, sex education, the environment: you are bad for us, you hurt us all.

Please go away. Move to Texas with others of your political-religious afflictions.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.