Saturday, February 28, 2009

Updating mental and physical facilities at UWWC

Hi everyone,

I'm taking a break this week from shooting at the fish in our community well, so here is some reflective and amusing fluff for the end of February.

Actually, some of this is even scarier than the Puritans now vetting our public library.

Keeping up with students: mental physical facilities are involved

The University of Wisconsin-Washington County is celebrating its 40th year serving our corner of Wisconsin and, last week, rededicated itself to this task by opening a new floor of classrooms and engineering labs, all designed to meet the needs of our rapidly changing student body. But if the facility needs to keep up with the students, so does the faculty.

I’m in about my 30th year coaching students through logic, ethics and the Federalist Papers and I have to keep pace, too.

The students today have had experiences far different from students 10 or 20 or (gasp) 30 years ago. To remind ourselves of how much students have changed, faculty all over the country turn to a list published by Beloit College.

Every year a new list appears and, every year, I shake my head at how fast time has gone by. See if you shake your head too. Here's an excerpt.

The Beloit College Mindset List for the class of 2012:

  • Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born around 1990.
  • For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson and Stevie Ray Vaughan have always been dead.
  • Harry Potter could be a classmate.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • All have had a relative – or known about a friend's relative – who died comfortably at home with Hospice.
  • Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
  • Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
  • Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
  • Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
  • WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  • The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
  • Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
  • There have always been gay rabbis.
  • Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
  • McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
  • They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
  • There has always been Pearl Jam.
  • The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno.
  • Authorities have always been building a wall along the Mexican border.
  • Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.
  • The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
  • They never heard a gas station attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
  • Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

To those of us who grew up in the pre-Favre era, it’s impossible to imagine what it was like to grow up with Brett running the show. (For me there was only ever Bart Starr.) To today’s students – 21-year-olds who have, in their lives, watched 20,000 hours of TV, played 10,000 hours of video games and sent or received 250,000 emails or instant messages in their lives – I look like a dinosaur; a strange experience for me, considering I was once a cutting-edge computer geek who had a BITNET address and who was the second person in his class with a personal computer. My future was so bright, I had to wear shades. But that was 25 years ago.

And so, this past week, Washington County’s own UW campus rededicated itself to making sure our current students can compete in a world we can barely imagine.

Einstein once said that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Today, everyone’s job is to help make sure students have the tools to think their way into the future they’ll be creating.


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