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

“Well, we did do the nose. .. and the hat … but she is a witch.” (YouTube link)

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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An infuriating day, but potatoes will save Wisconsin

What's the matter with these people? Don't they know any better? (Click photo for original site -- BTCGM International Union)

They should just eat potatoes, right?  Right?  (Click photo for original site — BTCGM International Union)

A day that started off wonderfully, in a class with some remarkable sixth graders, ended with news of yet another pay cut in disguise for Wisconsin state employees.  In honor of our civic-minded state legislators, I therefore offer my newest post category — “Preposterous Ideas” — and simultaneously introduce the term “general strike” to my blog, which has heretofore not hosted that particular term.

But this isn’t about a general strike, which isn’t at all preposterous.  No, it’s about potatoes, which are indeed.

Let me back up a little bit, because I want to put in a few good words for the sixth-grade classes of Tiffany Reindl and Kim Boden at Jefferson Elementary School in Stevens Point.  Ms. Reindl teaches my son’s class, and I had the honor of spending Monday and Wednesday mornings visiting with both groups to talk about journalism (see bottom of this previous post).

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