“Gilded cage?” Maybe it’s not where you think.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as seeing those who should get it  — who by all rights should be your allies, your friends, your family — making silly and ultimately harmful observations.

Especially when those observations add to a miasma of half-truths, stereotypes and unfortunate political leanings that are slowly and steadily choking education in this country.

"Gilded Cage," courtesy of KayVee.INC through Creative Commons.

“Gilded Cage,” courtesy of KayVee.INC through Creative Commons.

Of all the dismal news and opinion I’ve read in the last couple of weeks, the most disheartening was this blog entry about a former academic who quit to form a business.  The company will produce an online app that pre-structures essays for students so they can “focus on content.”

Starting the company, author Lindy Ledhowski wrote, was preferable to being caught in the “gilded cage” of a tenure-track and eventually tenured position.

In such a position, she “would face no risks, but … be safe.”  Now there’s a contrast whose supposed oppositions and subtleties I likely never will grasp.

Ledhowski found it far more attractive to “make jobs for other people” than be in “a job.” The professoriate, she apparently believes, is an area in which “stasis” would be inevitable, at least for her.

Personal ephiphanies are fine. When those are gussied up in the language of education’s most ardent enemies, it’s a little more problematic.

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Metaphors: Is this life and death? Is it war?

In journalism, as in other forms of research, asking the right questions is often the best way to start organizing our thoughts about issues that are difficult to grasp fully.  After Black Friday, that’s what I find myself doing in regard to education in Wisconsin.

It’s easy to be in a funk after what might be the most severe one-two punch to higher education in Wisconsin history.  It’s difficult to decide what to do about it, but perhaps if we all — educators, students, parents, and stakeholders in the system — could find the right words and organizing concepts to examine what’s happening in our home, we could more effectively move forward.

Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself, because I’m also going to be asking my colleagues, my neighbors and my friends.

Does the University of Wisconsin System now, as this online petition  asserts, “stand at the brink of an inexorable death spiral?” Some faculty apparently aren’t waiting to find out.

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Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

A week that started with floods in Texas and ended with a near-drowning of higher education in Wisconsin needs a good blues version of a classic song.

One of my favorites is “Funny How Time Slips Away” by B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland.  It’s particularly relevant because King, as the New York Times put it, came home for the last time Friday.  The Times story and its accompanying slide show are worth spending a few minutes on.

I love King’s version of the song (written by Willie Nelson) because it has a sweetness not present in the original recording. That feeling is brought on primarily by the interpretation and interplay of King and Bland. Incidentally, the first recording, by Jimmie Walker, and Nelson’s early version are good listens themselves, and the Nelson version on YouTube is also fun just because of the picture of a young Willie on its album cover.

The words on all these versions are primarily about the ebb and flow of love in our lives, but the meanings of lyrics always have a way of transcending literal topics. All three versions end with the reminder that in time, we all have to pay.

That seems appropriate for those of us in Wisconsin. But no more so than for anyone else, and regardless of where we are, we strive to make the best of what time we have left.