The Eighth grade just ain’t what it used to be.
I remember taking ILA (integrated language arts), science, math, social studies – mostly a basket of stuff like geography and economics – and of course PhyEd (gym class).
The political and ideological indoctrination didn’t really begin until around our senior year. Mostly, at my public middle school, we were just a bunch of kids learning stuff and hanging out like 13 year old kids do. Ok, some snuck off and smoked or whatever – but the school didn’t offer lessons in cigology or evading the cops.
That quaint old paradigm seems to be eroding, at least in Abigail Swetz’s alternative-universe eighth grade class at O’Keeffe Middle School in Madison. Not only does she permit the exploration of some very adult topics that many parents would prefer to keep within the realm of their home and family, but she actively encourages these kids – the ultimate captive audience – to literally talk trash. The classroom and the extracurricular off-campus events she brings the kids to seem to be bubbles of a parallel universe in which all social norms have been completely eviscerated and anything goes.
While these kids are using adult works to talk about adult topics, I wonder how many are at grade level on Algebra, or can identify a photo of John Adams or a real social justice warrior like oh, I don’t know, Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Twitter war to shape a news cycle, for better or for worse. Congressman Sean Duffy, who represents Wisconsin’s 7th district, started one recently after he called Madison a “communist community” on Fox News.
The comment might strike some as a minor gaffe, but Duffy is no out-of-control, off-script flame thrower. He’s strategically savvy and very much in control of his message.
Instead, I see a potential strategy for Duffy: leveraging his cable news appearances to grow his statewide conservative credibility. If that was Duffy’s intent, another Wisconsin congressman, Mark Pocan – who represents the Madison area – took the bait by demanding an apology.
— Greg Neumann (@gneumann_wkow) December 7, 2016
Rep. Pocan, who is quite cordial but also very progressive, boldly went on Tucker Carlson’s new show (already famous for Carlson’s relentless grilling of his progressive guests) to explain that Duffy is misguidedly “Trumpizing” Wisconsin politics by slinging insults in the model of Donald Trump. Pocan advertised the appearance on Twitter, extending the social media battle.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) December 9, 2016
Carlson read the Wisconsin Communist Party’s platform on-air and asked what part of it Pocan disagrees with. Brushing the question aside, Pocan criticized Duffy’s tongue-in-cheek response to Pocan’s apology demand. Duffy had tweeted in reply that The Left has no sense of humor and offered to send puppies to Madison’s safe spaces as a consolation.
The PC crowd is humorless. For those offended by my "communist" comment, I'll send a therapy dog to your "safe place" of choice in Madison.
— Sean Duffy (@RepSeanDuffy) December 7, 2016
Within one media cycle, the story had made its way into the mainstream media. More importantly, conservative commentators – mainly seated in deep-red southeast Wisconsin – saddled up to defend Duffy and, in the process, repeat and magnify Duffy’s comments about Madison being a communist enclave, as well as his poking fun at eminently mockable lefty concepts like therapy puppies and safe spaces. What do those statements have in common?
They’re ambrosia – red meat – for conservatives.
As for “Trumpizing” Wisconsin politics, Pocan might’ve missed Politics 101 and the entire 2016 presidential election. Trump was successful by constantly picking on a foil – the mainstream media, by the end of the campaign. Democrats have tried in the past few years, unsuccessfully, to use the Koch Brothers as their foil.
By picking a city he will never come close to winning in a hypothetical statewide contest – one that most Wisconsinites look at in the Dreyfusian witticism as 76 square miles surrounded by reality – Duffy couldn’t have chosen a better foil.
Duffy leveraged one comment on Fox News into a multi-day media cycle aimed at conservatives in southeast Wisconsin. A congressman from far-northern Wisconsin, Duffy would need to make rapid and solid inroads with voters in the super-conservative Milwaukee suburbs, which is an indispensable puzzle piece for any Republican looking to win a statewide race.
The question is whether Duffy is looking to mount a statewide race, which at this point is pure speculation. I’ve previously written that Duffy would be an ideal contender to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (also a creature of Madison) in 2018. I also said one of Duffy’s unique strengths versus other possible Republican contenders is that he’s all but immune to being dragged down by his support of Trump, as Pocan tried to do:
That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial.That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial…
Trump won Duffy’s district handily. He also won Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd District. If the Trump trend holds, Duffy would enter the race with a decided advantage among rural voters – not just because of Trump, but because of the rural appeal Duffy has maintained since voters first sent him to Congress to replace retiring lefty Dave Obey in 2010.
Duffy has handily won re-election ever since.
In addition to winning Wisconsin overall, Trump won the all-important Fox Valley by a considerable margin. Further, a Duffy candidacy for Senate – should he emerge from a potential primary – would certainly be embraced by voters in the WOW counties, among the deepest-red counties in the country.
Pocan’s Trump attack could only enhance Duffy’s standing in much of the state’s rural counties that led Wisconsin to becoming a Trump state:
If Sean Duffy wanted to expand his name ID to crucial conservative enclaves beyond his own vast northern Wisconsin district and others that went for Trump (like Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd district) – which are areas the Democrats have relied on in the past to tip the balance in narrow statewide races – then he could’ve executed no more perfect a strategy to endear himself in places like Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties and the Fox Valley than he did via the “commy-gate” comment.
It appears that the leader of the Senate Democrats plans to solve her party’s problem of persuading Wisconsin voters to choose their ideas by giving up on offering ideas altogether.
Scott Bauer, Wisconsin’s chief Associated Press reporter, tweeted this earlier today:
.@SenShilling:"Republicans own this.They own this Legislature right now.I don't think it's up to the minority party to have all the answers"
— Scott Bauer (@sbauerAP) December 7, 2016
Evidently, Sen. Shilling doesn’t think it’s up to the minority party to have any answers. In fact, in a radio interview on WPR several years ago, then-Representative from the 95th Jennifer Shilling said “it’s hard to get anything done when you’re in the minority.”
Indeed, especially if you throw in the towel before the match even begins.
There was a rare sense of bipartisan unity during the Assembly Committee on Transportation’s marathon hearing on transportation funding yesterday – for better or for worse, depending on your position on raising the gas tax or other fees to pay for more transportation funding.
Apparently Sen. Shilling doesn’t want any part of that – and doesn’t want to lift a finger to help forge a long-term funding solution for Wisconsin’s roads.
Sen. Shilling recently won re-election after a recount confirmed her 60-vote victory over Dan Kapanke. Perhaps if Kapanke had won, voters in the 32nd would have a voice at the table as the debate over transportation rages on.
The Senate Democratic caucus has shrunk to a core consisting largely of urban senators that will be strongly affected by the decisions the next legislature makes. One has to wonder what they think of Sen. Shilling’s proclamation that Republicans “own this legislature right now.”
Sara Goldrick-Rab is upset that college students are broke.
In a Cap Times article describing her recent research, it is ominously reported that “half of community college students risk hunger, homelessness.” But the data buried under the headline and after the jumpline are pretty par-for-the-course in the eyes of anyone who went to college.
Her first set of questions deals with a buzzword of late: “food insecurity.”
For example, anywhere between a quarter to nearly half of respondents to an email by the UW sociology professor say they bought less food, ate less food or fewer meals, or were hungry at one time or another because they couldn’t afford “balanced” meals.
If a skeptical reader wonders whether I’m just some rich kid whose mom and dad lavished his bank account with weekly windfalls during college, it’s quite the opposite. I would’ve answered yes to every food question Goldrick-Rab’s email survey asked – both in college and beyond. This is despite the fact that I worked a full-time job throughout college, often adding another on the side.
Apparently the age-old meme about college being as much about ramen and Romas as reading and writing is now a crusade within the Ivory Towers of academia.
The next set of questions deals with “housing insecurity.”
While 52 percent reported difficulty paying rent, only 1 percent said they stayed in a shelter (duration of the stay wasn’t defined), didn’t know where they’d sleep, or didn’t have a home. While the headline paints a picture of a seething mass of college students sleeping on park benches, the reality is that the vast majority simply had problems paying their rent. This is not a travesty, it’s a longtime reality through which most young people can and do trudge, along the way learning things that colleges don’t teach.
Let’s not ignore that this study was conducted via email. The fact that an academic study was done via email is…strange. Anyone with six credits in statistics would confirm that the method lends itself to self-selection bias, and critically injures the study’s legitimacy.
Those one-out-of-100 cases in which a community college student was “homeless” are almost certainly much more nuanced than the story portrays. Perhaps an individual’s roommates got sick of a freeloader; perhaps they were honestly struggling.
In short, the story tries to hype a problem that has heretofore been a hallmark of college life – being broke and making do. I personally attest to that, I just never felt compelled to complain about years of skipping breakfast and lunch because my checking account was full of goose eggs and my credit cards were maxed out.
Nor did I seek out food stamps or other assistance programs, which the Cap Times article inevitably suggests as a solution to an age-old problem: college students being broke.
The study and article totally ignore a more pressing problem: the rising cost of higher education.
With outstanding student loan debt easily topping $1 trillion nationally, the real issue isn’t that college students need to turn to cheap food and skip a lunch now and then. The real issue is that many graduates are saddled with a debt the size of a home mortgage, prolonging the poverty of college years after graduation.
It is progressive administrators who have jacked the cost of tuition from their Ivory Tower perches, overseen by progressives in government bureaucracies, and using progressive dictates to squelch free-market competition from alternative colleges. Downward pressure on tuition inflation has instead come from dictates from legislators like Republicans in Wisconsin.
Goldrick-Rab so disapproved of those measures that she went on a highly publicized series of Twitter rants attacking Republicans. She compared Gov. Scott Walker to Hitler, Republicans to fascists, and trolled random high school graduates celebrating the end of their senior years by tweeting, encouraging them to find a different school than UW-Madison.
She chose to risk her credibility in a fit of rage over successful Republican efforts to limit tenure privileges of professors who work on the public dime and other changes to the UW System that many Wisconsinites believed were long past due, including a tuition freeze.
None of these measures have damaged education in Wisconsin. A stroll through any UW campus or tech school will reveal that there are no piles of garbage, students sleeping under newspapers on park benches, or biker gangs commandeering student unions a la the dystopian scene of “Hell Valley” in Back to the Future II. Times are as fat as ever in academia.
SG-R’s Twitter rants are not an ancillary issue; as the Inside Higher Ed post describes, she was an erstwhile respected sociologist. That she unrepentantly behaved this way on the most public of forums is a profound statement about her lack of professionalism, dearth of self-control, and – most importantly – her lack of respect for her role as a prominent researcher at the UW.
For various reasons, including the source of the data, it’s quite easy to dismiss this study as just another hyped-up non-issue by an Ivory Tower academic who discredited herself in spectacular fashion.
Sam weighs in about the recent protests in Madison.