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Installment 8: Audio Transcripts

Clip 1: “Three Dartmouth Faculty Pound on Me: ‘Don’t go to Syracuse! Go to Harvard!”’

(Jung interview: March 2020, 1:05)

Jung: When did you think about applying to Harvard?

Kirst: Well, I was looking for programs that would equip me to work for the federal government. I had a general idea that I would be a career public servant, you know. And it might have included the state level, though I didn’t know much about it at that time. So, I look for schools that had that. And it was called public administration.

I looked very closely at the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University, which was more applied than the Harvard program. The Harvard program was more theoretical and more academic. And the Syracuse program was more applied; they had city managers and stuff like that. And so, I was pretty interested in Syracuse.

Somehow, I passed it along to some Dartmouth professors…that I was leaning toward Syracuse. I’ll never forget…I had a required audience with three of them who were there to pound on me to go to Harvard. [chuckles]

Don’t go to Syracuse! Go to Harvard!

 

Clip 2: V.O. Key Stimulates a Focus on State Politics, Culture, and “Characters”

(Jung interview: March 2020, 0:56)

Kirst: There was a professor of government: V.O. Key. He wrote a book called Southern Politics, which is a classic. And he was one of the first really strong empirical political scientists. He was a Texan. “Valdimer” was his Russian first name. He was my main person in government.

If you want to really understand the politics of the South in the ’40s to the ’60s, he was the guy. He combined it [his analyses] with states’ [analyses]: Mississippi governors, Georgia governors, and how Virginia was different…. They were deep into their state cultures….

He [Key] had a seminar which was on differences in state politics.

There was another professor up there who did state politics…with the last name of Beers. And he was into states, too.

 

Clip 3: Most Harvard Classmates Were Civil Servants, Older, and Some in the Military

(Jung interview: March 2020, 0:51)

Kirst: Public administration was a one-year program. But while you’re doing that, you are simultaneously enrolled in the PhD program in political economy and government…if you want to…. This public administration degree [could be earned] on your way to studying for the doctorate.

Now, most of my classmates…oh, wow…75 to 80 percent of them were civil servants who were coming back for work [on a one-year degree] in public administration after having been in the civil service. So, I was thrown in with mostly older people. Some of them were in the military and we’re coming back to be retrained to teach in the military.

 

Clip 4: John Dunlop: Mike’s Economics Advisor, U.S. Secretary of Labor, and “buddies with labor union guys…some of them “unsavory characters”

(Jung interview: March 2020, 0:42)

Kirst: My chief advisor on the economic side was John Dunlop. He ran an advanced executive seminar for trade union leaders. And so, I worked for him in helping with that. And I would go to dinner. And the first dinner, I sat next to the head of the Longshoreman’s Union. I mean, these guys [chuckles] are very different than Harvard!

And, you know, Dunlop got to be U.S. Labor Secretary. And…you know…and he was buddies with all these labor union guys. Some of them were quite unpolished characters, let’s say. Not the usual people you have dinner with at Harvard. And so, he was a big influence.

 

Clip 5: Harvard Ph.D.: “When you combine disciplines like this, you’ll never…teach in college.”

(Stanford Emeriti Council presentation: 2014, 1:13)

Kirst: So, I graduated from Dartmouth and went to the Harvard School of Public Administration…that was its title at that time…and wanted to be in public administration.

There was a lot of senior government people there, also. So, I really learned a lot from them. As I proceeded through that, a number of my professors there talked about…well you could stay and get your doctorate. So, I decided…well it’s not too much more than I’ve already done, basically with the coursework and dissertation.

So, I wanted to do the degree in political economy which would be called public policy today. And I was called in for a session. They said, “You know when you combine disciplines like this, you’re never going to be able to teach in college because they want one or the other.”

How different it is today.

And they said, “We’re not signing this paper unless you say you never want to teach in higher education. Otherwise this is a death sentence! And you know we can’t do this.”

I said, “I don’t ever want to teach, and I’ve never thought about being a professor.”

So, I sign a bloody paper, and they signed the paper. And I completed the degree in political economy there just before I was age 25.

 

Clip 6: “The First Course I Had in Education is the One I Taught at Stanford”    

(New York State Archives interview: 2013, 0:22)

Kirst: I went down to Harvard.

Hecht: Did that, at that point, have any relationship to ed policy yet?

Kirst: None whatsoever. In fact, the first course I had in education is the one I taught at Stanford in 1969. I wished to heck I had…we were right next…at the government school…to now called the Kennedy School of Public Policy. We were right next to the Education School. Never thought of going over there.

 

Clip 7: Dissertation on NIH Becomes First Book: Government Without Passing Laws.

(Jung interview: March 2020, 0:47)

Kirst: I got this dissertation topic I did called Government Without Passing Laws, which was my first book. I got that from the director of legislation at NIH who was back at Harvard, considerably older than I was.

He said, “You really ought to look into what goes on in these committee reports…subcommittee hearings…and how that really fills in all the details of what we do at NIH.”

He said, “Our appropriations [only say] ‘for the Heart Institute.’” Well, the rest of that was all non-statutory. Amazing! You know, the line item didn’t indicate all the congressional control, which got into quite a bit of specificity about what they did in the heart field.

 

 

 

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About the Project

The purpose of this biography project is to make a fascinating man’s life and accomplishments come alive. Dr. Michael W. Kirst, while recognized in influential academic and policy circles, is generally unknown to those most actively engaged in American education in the trenches of the nation’s classrooms and local boardrooms, including teachers, principals, and school district leaders.

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About the Author

Dick Jung first met Dr. Michael W. Kirst four decades ago. Mike, then Professor in the Schools of Education and Business, was completing his first year as President of California’s State Board of Education. During Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor, as Mike tacked between Palo Alto and Sacramento, Dick served as the Teaching Assistant for Mike’s Stanford “Politics of Education” course.

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About the Team

Dick is supported by a project team of content, digital research, and online experts that includes a senior education policy reviewer, a digital archives manager, and a website and multimedia design coordinator.

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