HOW DO WE FORGET?
How do we forget over two hundred years of the Wisconsin dream? How do we look at what our fathers and mothers bequeathed us, and throw it all away for the promise of more jobs, or less taxes? Are we so much less than previous generations that we can throw out any measure of the ideal we expect for our children and our children’s children? I am asking these questions of my neighbors and fellow statesmen, because that is exactly what Scott Walker is asking us to do with his current budget proposal.
In one fiscal proposal the governor is asking us to dump the Wisconsin Idea, a philosophical ideal that has guided this state’s university system, and hence the state, for longer than anyone still alive can remember. At the same time, the governor seeks to reduce the Department of Natural Resources to an advisory board with little or no legal authority to protect our natural resources.
Gov. Walker seems to think that all the University should be doing is creating workers for the shops and factories of the state, and not pursuing knowledge for the sake of personal interest or moving the human condition forward, which has been the goal of a college/university education since before the founding fathers. We have a technical school system for teaching job skills, we have a university system for teaching knowledge skills, and the two are different but certainly not mutually exclusive. I fail to understand how a man who has reached the level of the governorship is not able to understand the intellectual and economic value this university system has provided to the state since its beginning in 1885. The University Extension System alone has helped Wisconsin family farmers move from subsistence agriculture to modern day production agriculture, using the most up to date methods available to both family and corporate farms.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was once the model for the nation. Pointing the way to preserving natural resources, including the protection of ground water, air, forests and game, wildlife biology was nearly invented in Wisconsin because of our DNR. While we sometimes think that the DNR is too intrusive when it comes to regulations that possibly interfere with what we would like to do with “our” land, few would deny that the overall impact of what it does has led to a state envied by sportsmen and women in the Midwest and beyond. Is Scott Walker, the one person who is supposed to serve all of the people, saying that we no longer need science to show us how to protect our natural environment, or is he getting ready to allow business and out of state interests to run roughshod over the resources of our state?
In the last four years we have seen the degradation of the our public school system at the K-12 level, and now we see a full scale frontal attack on one of the best university systems the world has ever known. It is time for the people of Wisconsin to draw a line in the sand and tell the Governor, “We will not stand for any further degradation of our University system, our public school system, or the Department of Natural Resource.” These three institutions must be sacred to what it means to be Wisconsin. We cannot allow ourselves to be turned into a Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, or Arkansas. These states are home to the highest rates of poverty, the lowest life expectancies, the highest crime rates, and the lowest levels of literacy in America.
Is this what we are looking for? Is this what we expect for our children and their children? We had better think about this while we still have the opportunity, because once it is gone, it will be much more costly, if not impossible, to resurrect.