We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Larry Sechrest gets into some Texan bother

This is quite a little story, and with my libertarian stirrer hat on I say that the more it gets around the better, because the more it will draw attention to the existence of the libertarian journal Liberty, and of the libertarian movement generally. And when a little story gets written about in the New York Times, I guess that makes it not such a little story:

ALPINE, Tex., Feb. 16 — The first indication that Dr. Larry J. Sechrest’s neighbors and students had read his article titled “A Strange Little Town in Texas” was when he began receiving death threats and obscene phone calls and his house was vandalized.

The article by Dr. Sechrest, an economics professor at Sul Ross State University, was published in the January issue of Liberty, a small libertarian magazine with a circulation of about 10,000 and only two local subscribers, one of whom is Dr. Sechrest. But it was weeks before people heard about it in remote Alpine, which is three hours from the closest Barnes & Noble, in Midland, Tex.

The article lauded the beauty of West Texas, the pleasant climate, the friendliness and tolerance of the locals. But Dr. Sechrest, who has a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Texas, also contended that “the students at Sul Ross, and more generally, the long-term residents of the entire area, are appallingly ignorant, irrational, anti-intellectual, and, well, … just plain stupid.”

Well, death threats and obscene phone calls does sound pretty plain stupid to me, so although Sechrest may regret his candour, he has nothing to apologise for.

Sadly, Liberty seems to be one of those paper publications which is reluctant to give all its writings away on the Internet until several years have passed (which you can understand), so the actual article by Larry Secrest that caused all the fuss is not linkable to. But in addition addition to the NYT piece linked to above, there’s also this from the Desert-Mountain Times:

Sechrest said he regretted publishing parts of the article that have caused such a strong reaction in the community.

“I thought there were two libertarians in the community,” he said. “If that’s true, I thought, ‘Who will ever see it’ – it never crossed my mind it would cause such an uproar. If I knew the reaction it would cause, would I have done it? Of course not.”

Ah, but the libertarian movement is bigger and more pervasive than you think!

The New York Times piece ends on a positive note:

Last week Dr. Sechrest said he had begun to receive more positive e-mail and phone calls. He noted in particular an e-mail message from a former student.

“As I read your article I found myself laughing out loud and saying things like ‘amen’ and ‘true,’ ” the former student wrote. “At the same time I felt somewhat guilty because it really did offend people I really care about. There’s no denying these are legitimate concerns. The lack of interest in anything beyond Brewster County lines also baffled me.”

The student added, “It is my sincere hope that all involved can extract what is true and good from your article, and get over the rest.”

The message was signed, “A former clod.”

Maybe getting a not unsympathetic write-up in the New York Times will stir Alpine into being less cloddish, and Sul Ross State University into improving its standards. It certainly sounds as if that could be the longer term outcome. Maybe Sechrest has done the whole area a favour, in other words. If he has, it would not be the first time in human history that criticism was met first with anger, but then with a resolve by the people criticised to do better in the future.

18 comments to Larry Sechrest gets into some Texan bother

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    Maybe getting a not unsympathetic write-up in the New York Times will stir Alpine into being less cloddish, and Sul Ross State University into improving its standards.

    And maybe pigs really will fly.

  • Ralf Goergens

    Weird. I was in Alpine a bit over ten years ago, and it’s so small that I never expected to read about it anywhere.

    The article is right about “the beauty of West Texas, the pleasant climate, the friendliness and tolerance of the locals”.

  • Chris Josephson

    One of the many problems caused by the social experiments taking place in US public schools is that Johnny -or- Janey can’t read and write properly. From gade school through high school many schools did away with standards they disliked, for one PC reason or another.

    This is changing, but very slowly. Parents are demanding their children actually learn English grammar, math, science, etc.. Communities have instituted city-wide tests that must be passed before a child can be promoted to the next grade. Graduating from high school may now depend on passing an exit exam.

    Some of the measures, to ensure our children have actually mastered certain subjects, are being challenged by various special interest groups. So far, most of the testing requirements have been left intact, in those communities who have instituted them.

    Much of the opposition to standards-based tests for advancement comes from groups who think the tests are racist, may harm Johnny’s or June’s self esteem if they fail, or are just too hard.

    I’m glad we’re starting to revert back to standardized testing for our children. For too long, the ‘educational theory of that year’ was what determined what children learned, how to test to see if they’ve learned it, and what to do with those who have not mastered it.

    As a result, we have young adults entering the workforce and/or college who can’t compose simple correspondence that’s not loaded with errors.

    (One educational theory held that teaching a child to express him/herself creatively should not by hampered by pointing out the spelling and grammar errors. How the child was to learn good spelling and grammar if their mistakes weren’t pointed out wasn’t 100% clear…. I was teaching in a grammar school when this particular theory was very popular. )

  • Henry Kayeh

    Oh yes! Education can be improved without spending a single penny – just by re-introducing LEARNING!!!

  • Henry Kaye

    Further to my previous posting, the report from Alpine demonstrates what can be achieved if the responsibility for education is returned to the people affected by it rather than a centralised bureaucracy that is concerned only with egalitarianism and political correctness.

  • M. Simon

    Liberty the Magazine is a moneylosing enterprise designed to get the word out about Libertarian thougt.

    I can see waiting a month or two possibly to internet publish but the two year delay is just plain stupid.

    The folks at Reason are way more reasonable. They get it.

  • Charles Copeland

    If its website is anything to go by, Sul Ross University is the pits. Remember you can take a kennel and call it a university but that doesn’t mean the residents are going to stop cocking their legs and sniffing one another’s heinies.

    The Sul Ross site contains virtually no lowdown on what you can actually study there – but oodles of information on ‘athletics’, the ‘game room’ and ‘recreation’ in general, and there are images of some nice-looking chicks also, so I presume you can actually get a fair bit of legover if you’re in the right age bracket. And they’ve even got a ‘Women’s Studies’ department.

    As their site says: “There is always something going on at Sul Ross to help our students, staff and faculty help maintain a healthy balance of our philosophy: “Work hard, play hard!””

    Geddit? That’s third-level education jargon for “We’re open to every deadloss and we’ll toss you some kind of toy degree after three or four years if you’re not a card-carrying moron and don’t torch the admin building.”

    Sul Ross University – losers of the world, unite.

  • Heh. If someone called me stupid I’d be pissed too. 🙂

  • Ed

    Now why would Dr. Sechrest work somewhere that he hates and then publicly gripe about it, then regret that he griped about it? Why would he criticize Sul Ross State University for the academic ability of graduating high school seniors in that part of Texas? Why does he think that of the hundreds of thousands of college professors, he’s the only one who has figured out the methods of best elevating his students’ understanding of the topic at hand? Where is the empirical data that his students fare better in his courses than in other courses taught by other professors at Sul Ross State University? This guy calls himself a professor? Where is the academic rigor behind his assertions?

    And one more thing…..Why is he so fat? I think there needs to be a new burrito at Alicia’s Burrito Hut and it should be a really big fat burrito with nothing in it and it shall be called the “Larry’s Liberterian Burrito – get your own damn fillings!”

  • Shannon Love


    How dare the people of Alpine and Sul Ross react angrily to Dr. Sechrest’s article? Don’t they understand that their proper role in life is to be mocked and degraded by their intellectual betters? The nobles get to ride by and kick the peasants into the mud and if they have absolutely no right to fight back.

    I am a little confused about how someone with such a contempt for the wisdom of ordinary people could subscribe to libertarism. It would seem that if ordinary people are to stupid to run their own lives then some sort of collectivist regime run by an intellectual elite would be for the best.

    I suppose one could point out that some of the greatest minds of the 20th century thought collectivism was a good idea where as many of those who opposed it were dumb as box of hammers.

  • An American View

    Given the “no child left behind” with its requirements for validation (= testing) teachers seem to have little control over curriculum and “teaching” is geared towards passing the next test with little concern for “education.” All the paperwork that’s related seems to be especially difficult to keep up with in the smaller schools in states like Montana, Wyoming, etc. leaving the schools in danger of loosing monetary support from Big Brother, effectively killing them.

    There seems to be some scattered trend towards the local citizenry giving up and supporting education themselves but it doesn’t appear to be very widespread. The U.S. Dept. of Education seems to have suggested recently that some of these problems can be “worked out.” One can only wonder what that means.

  • Sean

    Given his suprise at the response of people he calls idiots – he’s not too sharp himself.

  • Shawn

    I agree with the issue of the decline in educational standards, but if anyone is just plain stupid here it is Dr. Sechrest. I mean he didint just have a go at the students, he had a go at virtually the whole town. Now anyone who decides to insult most of the population in a small town in rural Texas is not playing with a full deck. Texan’s shoot back.

  • ed

    “Texan’s shoot back.”

    And they practice a LOT and can hit what they shoot at!

  • alpineproud

    Larry Sechrest has shown himself to be nothing other than an elite racist. While I will acknowledge that some of the problems outlined do exist, I would also like to point out that these same problems exist nationwide. For someone as knowledgeable and wordly as Sechrest he has shown himself to be slightly above retardation. Sechrest pridefully displays his honors in who’ s who as a show of his success. Let’s not forget that the way to be included is to cough up some dough.

    Sechrest is a recluse whose students despise him. He has singlehandedly prevented several students from graduating college due to his inablity to teach effectively. He had long ago worn out his welcome in our community. While I do not condone death threats and acts of vandalism, I am at least intelligent enough to know what will follow such hateful speech.

    If he held a fraction of the intelligence he would like us to believe, he would have never written such a piece until his car was packed and past the county line!

  • Monica

    I’m a Sul Ross State University student and damn proud of it, too. Reading Sechrest’s article, I felt bad for the poor man. He needs joy more than anyone I’ve ever met; this man is a sad, pathetic, and ignorant excuse for a professor.

    This campus is a place where I came to learn. Am I an “illiterate” student? No, I’m the Valedictorian of my high school and on the Dean’s List here at SRSU. Do I study hard and make an effort to do the best I can? Definately. School, in general, is what you make of it. I’m proud to be here and to be a part of what goes on at this university. In fact, I recommend this university to anyone who is serious about higher learning.

    As for Sechrest? He can find a university that fits him. We won’t miss him.

  • ken

    Sul Ross U – affectionatley known as Drive Through U to those of us who have ever met a stupid assistant principal in El Paso. This is the place that ex-coaches go to get a “masters” degree in driving for four hours in order to move up the pay scale into administration. If you want to see people who really care about education, then look no further.

  • Laloyo

    Watching CNNJapan, I found the coverage of Dr. Sechrest`s article and the reaction to it by the people of Alpine very interesting. I am wondering why most of the reactions to the article do not respond to the specific propositions the Professor made. Seems to me that most of the published/broadcast reaction from Alpine residents as well as the University community is aimed at Dr. Sechrest personally. While I agree that the townspeople are probably right in feeling aggrieved at what must seem a betrayal, there is a glaringly obvious absence of rebuttals of his ideas. So now I know he is not a nice man, but could someone please discuss his ideas?