Meet the new boss …

While reading the back-to-school posts of fellow blogging academics Chuck Ryback and Rachel Ida Buff this week, I realized I was hesitant about my own writing because I hadn’t yet figured out which question I was trying to answer.  Then, an attitude common to each of their blogs — a readily apparent, fierce dedication to serving students — pointed the way like Scott Walker directing billionaire donors to the pork barrel.

Just who is it I’m working for?

Same as the old boss. (YouTube video)

Ask any dedicated teacher and you’ll know the answer for the rest of us.  The idea that it’s all about the students becomes such a mantra that it can appear as no more than lip service, but the most committed among UW System faculty make clear, over and over, that our calling is to help students become well-rounded, capable citizens who think critically.

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A reblog of sorts … Chuck Rybak’s “UW Struggle: The Impractical Dream”

I like that UW-Green Bay’s Chuck Rybak, an associate professor of English, writes in a way that appears to channel anger and outrage into passionate, strong, clear argument.  Maybe he’s not at all an angry guy and I’m just reading my own resentment into some of his work.  He’s clearly, however,  a hell of a writer and among those I respect for telling a story that needs to be told, over and over, until the people of Wisconsin are convinced that we need to do something about our so-called leaders.

I believe the rest of us in the UW system also need to work harder to find ways to make similar messages heard. Although we should be as civil as is useful and warranted, this isn’t necessarily about playing nice.  Unfortunately, so many of the people who should be reading this kind of blog are probably the last people who do, and they probably aren’t going to until most of the rest of the state is practically up in arms.  The best way to make that happen is to remind others of the incredible damage we’re allowing various miscreants to do.

Public education, and public higher education, is not only a great achievement, it is one of the most amazing human achievements in all of our history. If there’s anyone out there in Wisconsin who cares, and happens to read this, know that supporting this system, this public good, is easy. Let’s try to remember the infinite rewards within our reach for what seems like such minimal effort. If that’s not practical, then I don’t know what is. It’s more than practical. It really is miraculous. — Chuck Rybak on Sad Iron

Normally I just share these posts on Facebook, but I’m convinced that part of what we need to do as leaders in education is network with, encourage, and work together with others who are speaking out. Even something as simple as giving a post like this a second home on another blog may bring a few more readers and maybe even help change a mind or two.

Dr. Rybak gave me permission to reblog his latest post, which I then found I couldn’t do because his “reblog” button isn’t active.  But you can read it by clicking on the illustration below.  And it’s not a bad thing to share it further.

rybak

Democracy Inaction: Video of Seawall Stonewall

Whether or not you’ve been following the story of the downtown Stevens Point seawall, this video is instructive.  I’ve argued that there was a clear mandate from citizens attending the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting about this issue, and the video below is a very accurate  summary of how things went.

(Mike Richards video)

As I’ve noted before, not a soul who spoke — and there were a dozen — thought this was a fair assessment, including those who don’t live in the former floodplain and aren’t being assessed. Continue reading

Waning days of a beautiful Wisconsin summer

The end of last week brought us some of those spectacular Wisconsin summer days that make this place like no other.  Wispy clouds, a deeper and clearer blue in the sky, a crispness to the sunlight that highlighted the contrasting greens, yellows, purples and other colors of our Northwoods palette without making anything too sharp.  Pines, birches and tamaracks, rivers and lakes, red barns and rolling hills, all with just enough focus to spotlight their beauty, but enough softness to remind us of the fragility of those passing, perfect days.

We were fortunate to be able to share our Wisconsin with a niece from Texas.  She got to try Paul Bunyan’s donuts in Minocqua and camp at Copper Falls State Park, eat a garlic-asiago roll from Ashland Baking Company and a sub from Penokee Mountain Deli and Sausage, and run the trails and throw rocks into the water at Amnicon Falls State Park.

It was a fantastic time.  There aren’t suitable words or space to relate how wonderful it was and how blessed I felt to be able to share it with two rambunctious little girls — my 7-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old cousin.  There’s nothing like being around kids who are likely to burst into loud Christmas carols at the mention of the town of Rudolph or shriek with unbounded joy at finding a better stick to play with than the last one.

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Stevens Pointless: A message from your so-called leaders

Participating in the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting as a citizen was like trying to swim from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the upstream side. Even if you’re strong enough to go against the current down at the base, you’re not going to get past the dam shaft.

I’ve watched many Point council meetings on video, but I’d never attended one until Monday.  What I saw convinced me that, at least for now, many of our so-called local leaders are great at pinching pennies but don’t recognize good sense.

They still couldn’t figure out how to help the residents of Edgewater Manor.  They also rubber-stamped an opportunistic shafting of more than 200 homeowners in the former FEMA flood plain, who are being required to pay for seawall improvement near downtown Stevens Point.

The council’s peformance could be described in many ways. I may have a lot more to say about this, and perhaps other council issues, in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the council and the city of Stevens Point only seem to hear what they want to hear.

This was particularly true on the flood-control assessment issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision-making body get such a clear and unanimous mandate from its constituents, yet seem to care less about what any citizen said.  The homeowners stuck with the bill made their hardship clear; other citizens strongly affirmed their willingness to share the cost as a city and thought the rest of the city would be willing, too. The consensus was as solid as a concrete seawall. Continue reading