Monday, July 23, 2007

Imagine: The Wisconsin Idea revived

Consider this possibility: For decades, the notion of service to the state was central to the University of Wisconsin. This is the great Wisconsin Idea (here, what, you thought wikipedia wouldn't have that?), which …
holds that the boundaries of the university should be the boundaries of the state, and that research conducted at the University of Wisconsin System should be applied to solve problems and improve health, quality of life, the environment and agriculture for all citizens of the state.
While the University still pays constant lip service to this, in practice many people have grown disconnected from UW and vice versa. As pointed out repeatedly on this blog, I'm utterly convinced that a real and renewed commitment to this great idea would be the single biggest step UW could take toward getting the state to commit adequate funding, and to moving education back toward something more than turning out cogs for the MegaCorp machine.

Imagine if every student in Madison were required to do — I mean, had the opportunity to do — some hands-on project that connects with the state. Your job as instructor is to make sure that you have projects that help understand Wisconsin, past and present.

For linguists, this would be tremendous: An explosion of work on documenting old immigrant languages like Polish and Norwegian, newer ones like Hmong and Somali, working with Native communities on preservation (to the extent involvement is welcome) and on second language pedagogy for their language teaching programs, tracking distributions of various regional features spreading through the state or following them through time in historical recordings and written documents.

That is a university I could stand to work for.


The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. Sounds like a great idea - really great.

Joe said...

Ain't that the truth. Where do I sign on?