Things That Make Me Go Hmm....(Part 1)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sincerest apologies for the silence on our blog. The summer has wound down, school is starting, federal grant deadlines are approaching--and most importantly, our son just started 4-year-old kindergarten! All in all, it's a very busy time of year. So with that, I'm beginning a new series, intended to highlight and raise a few questions about news that intrigues me. Perhaps Liam will pick up on this too, and we'll make a series of it.

(1) Why am I so cranky/ out of shape/ exhausted / or otherwise morose? Sometimes I wonder. And the day I read the New York Times Magazine's brilliant piece on the perils of too-much decision-making I felt a tad bit better--and then a whole lot worse. Because it seems that people who are asked all day long to pick or choose, often on high-stakes tasks, tend to put decisions about themselves last. So when the question is: what will I eat tonight? the answer is often "who cares? just feed me." Where's the solution, New York Times? I really don't see one.

(2) As I send our kid off to the phenomenal Madison Waldorf School each day, I feel a pending twinge of hypocrisy. What will we do next year, when there are public school options? Will we continue to invest in private school, even though we--the Education Optimists--are deep believers in public education? Then I read an article like today's New York Times cover story on the uninhibited spending on technology in classrooms that is eating up money we could otherwise spend supporting teachers-- and without a shred of evidence to support it. I hear tales that here in Stoughton, Wisconsin my kid's kindergarten will have a Smartboard and plenty of laptops, for his focused "reading time"...and I want to run screaming in the other direction. The last thing I want to raise is a glazed-eye kid who stares at screens all day (like I do), who develops back and posture problems from the classic "slump" and who would rather listen to someone say something cool than say it himself. I suppose this makes me a Luddite. My iPhone, iPad, and Mac might say otherwise. But what I want most is for schools to invest in what we know pays off-- and that's child-human contact. Give my kid teachers who feel appreciated and well-supported, please. Forget the laptops.

(3) On a somewhat related note, that "esteemed" publication Newsweek/Daily Beast just named UW-Madison the third least rigorous university in the nation among those serving students with average test scores of 1250 or higher (SAT). While I've written about my concerns regarding the institutional focus on teaching and whether we deliver everything we're capable of, let me be the first to say: THESE RANKINGS SUCK. Look at their "methodology"--Are you kidding me? Using "College Prowler" and "rate my professor" to develop metrics? Did the writers have NOTHING better to do with their time than to craft this worthless drivel? Puhleeese.

(4) Can Scott Walker read? Survey says: No. In a recent press release, Walker claimed that the new Wisconsin-Minnesota tuition reciprocity deal, which ended some of the subsidy provided to Wisconsin students who chose to attend college out-of-state, "make college more affordable." this kinda reminds me of someone else's recent claim that privatizing the university and jacking up tuition would make UW more affordable. Listen, I served on the legislative committee that developed this reciprocity change last summer, and the purpose was to save Wisconsin some money, and perhaps provide a little disincentive for Wisconsin students to leave the state for college. Nothing to do with affordability. My question is this--how much are you paying those staffers of yours, Governor?

That's it for today. Stay tuned for a busy year, as UW-Madison searches for a new chancellor and Wisconsin works to recall Scott Walker...and of course now that I'm tenured, I'll tell ya what I REALLY think!