I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to allow myself to lose focus on my current projects and take on Chancellor Martin’s support for breaking apart Wisconsin’s higher education system. Right now I’m focusing on ideas of teaching, education, and – as my post earlier this week indicated – the way that these issues play out in science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM) fields. Focus is good and I need to work on that.
But, alas, I could not help myself. Too many important ideas are at stake and this should not pass unnoticed. Too many foundational values are being tossed around and misrepresented; and, somewhere between high rhetoric and self interest, the big ideas behind the real issues deserve at least a little attention.
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Last week, it came to light that UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin had been engaging in closed-door discussions (without the UW President or Regents) with Governor Scott Walker. The result of these discussions is an imminent proposal to separate UW-Madison from the UW System and establish it as a stand-alone public authority. The proposal has been met with support by some, apathy by others, and outrage by others still.
Differing opinions are good. They lead to healthy debate. However, as is typical of discussions about complex issues, some commentators have taken up the cause and put forth arguments that sound nice but turn out to be deeply flawed upon closer examination. Poorly conceived arguments and half truths are frustrating, but they are a fact of life in democracies. The right of an individual to say thoughtless things is – however distasteful – unassailable. However, the right to go off half-cocked and make cavalier use of language and reason does not include the right to go unchallenged or even to be taken seriously.