“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.

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.

Continue reading

Reading foreign newspapers brings new perspective

What is wrong with these people? Why do they value education so much?

What is wrong with these people? Why do they value education so much?

On the first weekend in June, we headed over to the border of the Sensible Republic of Minnesota,  spending the night near what is apparently the Breakaway Principality of Hudson, where we visited Willow River State Park and attended the 2015 Yellowstone Trail Heritage Days.

Because I got up at 6 a.m. and the rest of our group was still sleeping, I picked up a couple of newspapers to read while having coffee. It was enlightening to see what the rebellious people outside of Wisconsin cared about.

I say “outside Wisconsin” because Hudson seemed to be in the midst of some action of breaking away from the rest of the state. This was apparent in the concerns expressed in the Hudson Star-Observer.  There were exactly five stories on the front page — three of them focused on education, one on increased funding for a state park, and one on the Heritage Days:

Continue reading

Help! I can’t teach!

The happy (and hard-working) graduate

Graduation weekends are always special, but this one was particularly fulfilling for me, as I got to award my niece’s diploma onstage at the UW-Stevens Point afternoon commencement ceremony.  They’re also bittersweet, because graduation means some of our favorite people will be moving on.  Our niece Ivannia Herrera Gonzalez is one of them, and we couldn’t be prouder — she graduated early and magna cum laude.

But it means she’ll probably be leaving town soon. That’s tough, because it’s been really great to have more family around during her time at UWSP.  I’ll also miss our Pointer graduates and a whole slew of other students in communication and other areas.

Their leaving, regardless of how happy I and other faculty members are for them, is made a little tougher by the fact that we get to stay behind and try to keep things running smoothly when it’s clear that public support for education in Wisconsin is in serious trouble.  I went to a picnic tonight that was attended primarily by folks at the university, and that trouble was a constant theme of discussion.  At the same time — perhaps because it is  the end of the year and so many of the picnic guests were still beaming about our new grads and the prospects of at least a little summer break — there was plenty of optimism that we’d somehow survive next year’s troubles, too.

Continue reading