A Teacher Union Dinner

Wednesday evening I traveled out to suburban Minneapolis for what I believe is the 19th annual year-end appreciation dinner of the Union representing the teachers of the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

This is not an unusual trip for me.  I’m sure I’ve missed a dinner or two over the past 19 years, but that has been rare.

I was invited to speak at the first dinner.  It was a memorable event for me.  It was a Tuesday – May 4, 1999.  National Teacher Day.

Three days earlier I had slowly trudged up “Cross Hill” above Columbine High School in Littleton CO, viewing, with my son and family, the wooden crosses erected in memory of the thirteen victims of the carnage on April 20, 1999.  One of the thirteen was a teacher at Columbine High School.  My family lived, then and now, about a mile from Columbine.

May 4, I decided to wear the exact same clothing I had worn on that rainy and slow walk up Cross Hill – actually a pile of construction dirt – as one of hundreds of pilgrims to the site of the first school massacre in the United States.

I recall, that evening in Anoka, talking about a second grade teacher, Clem Gronfors, who was a special hero to my daughter, Joni.  In 1999, Joni was a teacher herself, and today, in 2018, she is a Middle School Principal.  I recall Susan Evert, formerly a President of the teacher union during its single strike in 1981, burst out in tears in the room when I mentioned Clem’s name.  That very day she had delivered “meals on wheels” to Mr. Gronfors, by then long retired from teaching.

Susan was at last nights dinner for a time, and we chatted.  She is the same Susan only, as with all of us, a bit older.


I wish I could just conclude this post with the above memories.  But it would not be honest.

Last nights dinner, while having  its usual share of light moments, including a delightful improv program by the Mystery Cafe, had a palpable and darker side, never mentioned by anyone, but hanging over the room full of teachers like the vog currently over the Big Island of Hawaii.

These are darker, more uncertain times for, among many others, public schools and their teachers.

Visible evidence have been wildcat statewide teacher strikes or major demonstrations in several states in the United States in past months – strikes and large and very visible public demonstrations occasioned by slow and deliberate strangulation of public education by legislatures and the federal government.

There is an ominous federal presence over public education policy.

The NRA seems to have successfully defanged, at least for the moment, the Parkland students campaign for common sense changes to gun law.  Money talks.

Probably on most teachers minds last night is the looming decision of the United States Supreme Court on the most recent attempt to destroy or at minimum severely handicap teacher unions – an effort that has been ongoing since the 1970s.

As I write, the Supreme Court decision is expected very shortly – it was actually expected this week – and when it is released, whatever it says will be national news.  No one knows what it will be, but few think it will do voluntary unions any favors.

Watch for it.  And look at the decision more carefully than most news, regardless of the verdict.

And take a moment to consider what we are doing to ourselves in this country, especially if we are in the vast majority called “working people”, whatever our occupation.


This has become a time where the rich are getting much, much richer, and the poor, poorer.

Where do you stand?

Dick Bernard, son of two public school teachers; nine years a junior high teacher; 27 years (1972-2000) field staff for Minnesota Education Association, then Education Minnesota, including nine years (1972-81) with what is now Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota; father of four, grandfather of nine, two of whom graduate from high school within the coming month.

LeMoyne Corgard, retiring President (4 years) of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, 39 year career in public education. May 9, 2018

Retired educators, from right, Julie Jagusch, Dee Buth, John DeSantis May 9, 2018

Mystery Cafe cast with guest teacher performer, May 10, 2018

Beginning a New School Year…and a “Sha Na Na”….

Thursday I dropped off a small gift for my daughter, Principal of a Middle School in the school district I live in. It was a 2017-18 computer produced calendar from the always popular Education Minnesota booth at the Minnesota State Fair. “Happy New Year” I said. Teacher workshop week was about over, and school begins (in almost all Minnesota school districts) the day after Labor Day. Here’s the Education Minnesota “welcome back” ad for 2017. Here’s more.

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Education Minnesota booth at Minnesota State Fair. Corey Bulman, 2017 Teacher of the Year, was guest in the booth.

(Best as I recall, the photo calendar idea began as an expensive experiment in about 1990, which was the first year digital imaging connected to computer became commercially available (see history of digital imaging here). Back then, the organization was named Minnesota Education Association. It was, as stated, an expensive experiment, but as best I know every year since the photo calendars have become very popular, a tradition for many, and, I suppose, less expensive, too. It is a great connection of educators with the community.)


In one way or another over 50 million students are beginning their public school year (in Minnesota, this happens tomorrow). Here’s another view of the same data. Another 5 million or more public school employees (teachers, administrators, secretaries, cooks, bus drivers….) enter school with them. In all, that’s about one of five Americans.

All, beginning with school bus drivers, will have (or already have had) the annual nervous night before the first day of school as they arrive at their assigned places of work. Remember your own first days of the school year: new everything, starting a new year.

Of course, many other students attend parochial, or charter, or home school…but by far the largest, always, is the public school whose charter is to serve everyone, never a simple task.

Daughter Joni (referred to in first paragraph) is beginning her 14th year as a school administrator. Time flies. One of her major tasks, in addition to being Principal, is to supervise the completion of a new Middle School, which will replace her 1951 building in 2018. She’s equal to the task.


I’m biased towards public education. Both parents were career public school teachers. Six Aunts and Uncles were public school teachers, most for a career…. I was involved in public education for 36 years – junior high teacher (9 years) and full-time teacher union representative (27). As mentioned, one daughter is, and has been for many years, a public school teacher or administrator. Nine grandkids are veterans of public schools. Another daughter was a school board member, very active in her local public schools.

Such a huge institution as “public education” is easy to criticize. All you need is a spotlight and a single someone on which to focus criticism, and a microphone to publicize it. With over 50,000,000 potential targets, there is someone there who will be in the negative spotlight.

But look at the totality before embracing the criticism….

Public education is a noble institution whose mission is to take all, and do the best they can given scarce resources: often too large class sizes, infinite varieties of individual differences and dilemmas, from family crises, to differing abilities, and even personality conflicts between human beings (teachers and students and other school employees are human beings too, after all).

Welcome back. Our country is a richer place because of public education.


As noted, I have been very fortunate to be associated with public education my entire life.

A down side of this, as one ages, is to be witness at endings. Within the last month, I attended three memorials of public school teachers I knew, each unique persons. About seven people I knew were at the most recent reunion of the junior high school at which I taught in the 1960s and early 70s. The most recent death, Jim Peterson, former Fridley teacher, was the teacher I knew the least. His wife preceded him in death by a year, and he was felled quickly by a disease lurking inside him, so he didn’t have much time to say goodbyes.

I wrote the family afterwards that I had been to many memorials, but Jim’s, which he planned himself, was the most memorable, in all sorts of ways which don’t need to be described, except for the final song at the time we processed out of the sanctuary for the church ladies lunch.

The singer, who said she knew Jim as a neighbor and almost like a Dad, said he’d given her two songs to sing at dismissal.

The one I’ll always remember was the last, a delightful rendition of the “Sha na na” song. Not familiar with Sha Na Na? Here’s the YouTube version sung by the composer of the song back in 1969, and here’s the wiki story about Sha na na.

Imagine yourself walking out of church after a memorial service with this send off!

Do you know a teacher or a school employee or a student or one who has been? Wish them well, as this New Year begins.

POSTNOTE: My message to public schools, from “outside the walls”, remains on-line as it has been for many years. Read the message at Rethinking Community here.

#1290 – Dick Bernard: “Judge not….”

POSTNOTE Sep 7: Kathy recommends this article by Neal Gabler, “The Conversation We Should Be Having”.

Today’s newsletter at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis had this headline:

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After Mass, I told the writer I considered the column a “home run”. You can read it here, and come to your own conclusions: Judge Not001.

And while I’m on the topic, beginning this Friday, September 8, there will be a several part series entitled “From Conflict to Communion”, surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation: 1517-2017.

The details are here: Reformation001

Reservations are requested for the first program. The program will open with a welcome from Abp. Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

In peace.

Global Solutions Minnesota: “Russia: The New Cold War” with Todd Lefko

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PDF format of the above poster is here: Russia Todd Lefto001

Mr. Lefto comes highly recommended as a knowledgeable resource on Russia, and an engaging speaker. Global Solutions MN President, Gail Hughes, said on May 7, “I attended a community ed Great Decisions talk by Todd last week. He drew a big crowd, and was engaging and knowledgeable.

Todd is a popular speaker and businessman with a background in international trade, specializing in Russia, where he’s lived and visits regularly.”

A longer bio of Todd Lefto from some years ago can be found here. (Andy Driscoll was a well respected twin cities journalist who died in 2014.)

PLEASE NOTE: The talk is a week from this Thursday (June 15). Reservations are requested no later than Monday for planning purposes. Later reservations will be accepted, but please respect the need for planning by reserving in a timely manner.

#1164 – Dick Bernard: A Friend, Annelee Woodstrom, turns 90

Annelee holds court, August 13, 2016

Annelee holds court, August 13, 2016

Today, up in Ada, MN, there will be a little party for our friend, Annelee (Anneliese Soelch) Woodstrom, who is about to turn 90.
I say “little”, facetiously. When someone has lived in a town for 57 years; was a longtime teacher in the area public schools (Twin Valley); is a well known author, still writing and speaking publicly about her experiences growing up in Nazi Germany, and living as a war bride in post war United States (Crookston and Ada MN), one picks up a friend here or there.
Annelee wrote yesterday “Tonight 11 people will be here, 10 arrive tonight. Well, we will manage. Four of my relatives flew in from Germany.”
A while back she asked for a print of the old barn at the North Dakota farm of my ancestors, so our birthday gift to her, received earlier this week, is
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Busch barn, rural Berlin ND, May 24, 2015

Busch barn, rural Berlin ND, May 24, 2015

She said, “Somehow, that photo gives me peace.”
I’m very happy to oblige, with special thanks to the family friend who took the photo in the first place.
I happened across Annelee 13 years ago, when I read in the Fargo (ND) Forum about her new book, “War Child Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany” (see link above). Our friendship started there, and I was honored to help her with her second, “Empty Chairs”, about her years in Minnesota; and now I’m assisting on her third, as yet untitled, which ties her abundant life learnings together. The reunion today puts the third book in the background, but only for awhile. She’ll be back at it, and I have no doubt it will be completed.
It was her lot in life to begin schooling in Mitterteich Germany, (walking distance from today’s Czech Republic) coincident with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Her parents refused to join the Nazi party, and at 13 her formal schooling ended and she was put to work as a telegrapher, living through the worst times of the war, reduced almost to starvation at the end.
Her father, a road engineer by trade, was conscripted into the German Army, and except for one home leave, he was never seen again. They believe he died in Russia, but are not sure.
She met her “Gentleman Soldier” Kenny Woodstrom at war’s end, and in 1947 came to the United States as an “alien” to marry him – a marriage of over 50 years, till his death in 1998.
In the late 1960s, she decided to go to college at Moorhead State, and commuted back and forth from Ada, and for 22 years she taught in Twin Valley Minnesota Public Schools, at one point being recognized as a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year. It was an honor she richly deserved.
One of her two children, a daughter, Sandy, was killed by a drunken driver, and her son, Roy, was a long-time librarian at a Minneapolis public library. Her son, daughter in law, Linda, grandchildren and great grandchildren and a great many others will be greeting her today in Ada.
Annelee’s is one of many life stories. She still does public speaking, and if you have an opportunity to hear her speak, make it a point….
Happy Birthday, Annelee.

#1162 – Dick Bernard: Labor Day, back to school for most of Minnesota's school kids.

From Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about the recovery of Jacob Wetterlings body more than 25 years after he was kidnapped near St. Joseph MN and killed in October, 1979: here is the local news.
Jacob is at peace, and the lessons of his tragic death live on through the dedication of his family and many others who carry forward the message of his tragic death. Here for more information.
Most Minnesota schools begin on Tuesday, September 6.
In rough terms, it appears there will be about 900,000 students enrolled this year, with about 125,000 school staff, of which licensed personnel are about half. Roughly one of five Minnesotans will be in public school tomorrow. Here is a snapshot. Public Education is central to a functioning society.
Public Education has been an important part of my entire personal and professional life, from growing up in a family where my parents were both career public school teachers, to, this year, having eight grandchildren in Minnesota public schools.
Each year for many years one of my mandatory stops at the Minnesota State Fair is the booth of Education Minnesota, formerly called MEA (Minnesota Education Association) and MFT (Minnesota Federation of Teachers). This year was no different. Again this year I got my photo at the “Ed MN” booth (see end of post); Saturday, back again, I stopped in and took a photo of a couple of Minnesota Kindergarten teachers.
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Minnesota State Fair Sep. 3, 2016, Education Minnesota booth.

Minnesota State Fair Sep. 3, 2016, Education Minnesota booth.

I have great admiration for Minnesota Public Schools and the staff who are their face every day. Being a human institution, they are not perfect, but their charge is to serve children from early childhood through 12th grade. They do it very well.
My experience as a school teacher began in 1963; this year I choose to remember 1969, the year my oldest son began Kindergarten at age 5 in the explosively growing Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Tom attended Franklin Elementary School in Anoka. His teacher that year was Miss Murphy, an older lady who was very kindly and a magician with kids. She retired a year or two later.
Kindergarten at that point in time was half day, as I recall. (Full day kindergarten was years away; kindergarten itself did not exist in my own growing up years.)
In 1969, I recall that Tom’s kindergarten class included 36 youngsters. If you can imagine it, Miss Murphy had no classroom assistance. Her way of coping with this was to work with half of the students at a time, and in some magical way keep the other half occupied more or less by themselves in the same room, all by herself.
That is how I remember it.
Anoka-Hennepin was then an extremely rapidly growing school district, with a very low tax base. I can’t find fault with what today would be considered intolerable conditions. Young families moved in, and the district just couldn’t keep up with the growth.
Fast forward to today, and conditions are better.
And it is now recognized that the earlier a child is exposed to all aspects of education, including socialization, the better off he or she will be in the years that follow.
Money spent on children is money invested, not spent.
I wish all Kindergarten teachers, indeed all teachers, and all of their students, a good year. And I also wish that the certain unforseen events are minimal.
Happy New (School) Year!
Solidarity t-shirt, Fall, 1981

Solidarity t-shirt, Fall, 1981

Sunday afternoon I flipped on the local PBS station, and happened across a sequence of three programs on early U.S. Labor Movement history: Minnesota’s Iron Range; Upper Michigan’s Copper Country; and West Virginia’s Coal Country. It was a gripping two to three hours, with characters like Mother Jones, and John L. Lewis. The programs may be repeated and are well worth watching.
Succinctly, management was terrified of organized labor.
In my opinion, in many ways it still is terrified, to everyone’s detriment, including management itself. (Organized Labor built this country’s middle class, which, in turn, built this country’s economy, both as producers and consumers. It is the most elementary economics.)
The programs caused me to revisit my stop at that Education Minnesota booth on Saturday: Education Minnesota is, I think, Minnesota’s largest single AFL-CIO Union.
A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to revisit my own part in the labor movement, going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, now near 50 years ago. The short essay was not written for this blog, but nonetheless fits. Here it is, if you’re interested: UniServ, one persons experience, Dick Bernard Aug 19, 2016.
It is easy to criticize unions. As for me, I’m very proud to have been part of the organized labor movement. When Unions die, our society will die along with them.
At the Education Minnesota Booth, September 1, 2014.  The hat is for Sykeston ND, where I graduated from HS in 1958 - third in a class of 8.

At the Education Minnesota Booth, September 1, 2014. The hat is for Sykeston ND, where I graduated from HS in 1958 – third in a class of 8.

#1161 – Dick Bernard: Two deaths on a lovely and lonely beach.

Thursday morning I woke up to a bit of news that two people had been found by a solitary kayaker, dead on a beach in Washington state.

Solitary Kayaker, from note card of Wenatchee Foothills published by The Trust for Public Land*

Solitary Kayaker, from note card of Wenatchee Foothills published by The Trust for Public Land*

Nothing about that kind of tragedy is particularly unusual: such events are every day on our news. It seemed to have been a murder/suicide. The death was 1500 miles and several states away from me.
But there was something else in this news: one of the dead was a teacher in a nearby Twin Cities suburb in which my daughter is a school board member. He was about to begin his 14th year as a teacher in an outstanding elementary school that has been attended by four of my grandchildren beginning more than 10 years ago. Indeed, two of them will return there with several hundred other students two days from now.
Over the years we’d gone to many school programs there; probably there will be more this year.
Last Wednesday all was probably normal over there. Overnight, everything changed in a single piece of news**.
This will not be a normal beginning to a school year for the young people or their teachers and other school personnel.
The teacher’s Dad had also once been Superintendent of the school district, and in fact, I had met him once or twice when he was employed as an administrator in another nearby school district. He was a decent person, doubtless a good Dad to this teacher who was now dead.
Succinctly, this anonymous tragedy far away had become, for me, a matter of family.
Now these deaths on a Washington beach intersected with my own “circle”, and with the circles of hundreds of others.
There was, of course, more to the story.
The deaths apparently were directly related to apparently credible allegations of sexual exploitation of at least one, and perhaps more, young people by those who were found dead. The couple were male, gay; their alleged victim, a minor male, also gay, probably high school age.
So, into the conversation comes the matter of sexual abuse by people – in this case, a teacher – of vulnerable children. And the business of sex, and gays…inevitable topics.
Suddenly, everybody in the circle becomes at least a little suspect…what did they know about their child, their colleague, their friend?
There is fear, and guilt and all of the attendant negative emotions.
For a period of time, everybody will be ensnared in the web which began for some reason at some point in the past.
Years ago I kept a handout from a workshop on how the response to such a crisis will go. It seems pertinent to share, now.
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Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Other than offering support, as a parent, as a grandparent, there is not much I can do.
All I can say is that we are all family, far more than by the narrow definition (parent, child, house).
Life will go on in this fine school, and school district; for the affected families what was normal will forever be changed.
My hope is that there will be lots of serious conversations about how we all can do better.
And my best wishes go out to everyone who is now or will soon be in the schools of America and every country.
Give them even more support than usual this year.
* – Trust for Public Land sent this card some months ago as part of a fundraiser. Their website is here.
** – I am deliberately not printing specific names, places, etc. The news is very well known in this locality. It is the sad nature of the incident and its aftermath that is the topic.

#1157 – Dick Bernard: Two Books Well Worth a Read: Shawn Otto’s "The War on Science"; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s "Unrestorable Habitat"

Back in January a mysterious e-mail appeared in my in-box from someone named Cynthia. She had googled the name Lois Phillips Hudson to see if anything would come up, and found me. More on Mrs. Hudson’s book, “Unrestorable Habitat“, “below the fold”…
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A few months later came an invitation to hear Shawn Lawrence Otto read from his new book, The War On Science.
I know of Shawn’s past work, always first rate, and I bought the book, and it made my summer vacation book list.
I read, and learned a great deal from, both books.
They are, on the one hand, very different; but on the other, very similar. One is by an old lady written when she was my age range. Mrs. Hudson, is a retired college professor, quite obviously grieving the loss of her daughter to illness. She writes about the deep conflict she sees between today’s natural world and technology, compared with her youthful days in the midst of the worst of the Great Depression and World War II which followed.
(The retired college professor died before she finished her book, so one has to speculate on what her ending would be, but that actually contributes to the richness of her passionate expression of feelings on her past and present, and our future.)
The other book is by an author who painstakingly and expertly documents not only the very real “war on science”, but on other areas susceptible to manipulation of public opinion. Shawn Otto expertly reviews the problem, and then devotes much of the meat of the book to ways towards solutions.
I highly recommend “The War on Science” to anyone with even a tiny bit of interest in topics like science, marketing, politics, and the incessant manipulation of personal and public opinion (propaganda) in our own country. Get to know the name “Edward Bernays”…. He enters the story by name at page 257.
You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the book, which is a very interesting history of science and its not always consistent position of esteem in our society (thus “war”); in addition, The War on Science is an equally interesting history of propaganda as it has been used in America especially related to marketing of products and ideas going back as far as WWI.
There is so much interesting and well argued information in the book that I would do a disservice by simply doing a once over in a review.
You need to read the book.
Best to take a look yourself. There are many formal reviews of the book at Amazon.com. One of them is mine.
You will see the book is being very well received.
Personally, I found “The War On Science” to be unusual in a couple of respects:
1. It nicks most everyone, including scientists, who get complacent and think they have found and can sit righteously on their own truth, as they define the term “Truth”. The book is heavily footnoted: 59 pages of sources.
2. Most importantly, fully 87 pages of the book discuss ideas for how individuals and groups in our society can move toward solutions to what seem intractable problems.
The War On Science is an excellent basis for book club discussion, as is Lois Phillips Hudson’s Unrestorable Habitat (following). Give both a serious look.
Unrestorable Habitat001
A few days ago I was at a nearby park, completing “The War on Science“.
This day my phone rang, and on the line was long-time friend Nancy, from Hibbing, calling to comment on Unrestorable Habitat which I had sent her some months earlier and she had set aside and was just getting around to reading.
She had set it aside, but was finding it to be a marvelous book, a strong compliment coming from a retired teacher of English.
Unrestorable Habitat is one elderly woman’s reflections about her life, a certain huge business in her hometown of Redmond WA, some local fish, the loss of ability to imagine, and really, about all of us, everywhere in the so-called “developed world”.
Hudson’s book centers on an issue much on her mind as she grew older: the conflict she saw between salmon and big business in her town with lots of looks back at remembered pieces of richness flowing from her own very real hardships as a farm daughter during the worst of the Great Depression in North Dakota, then in Washington state, and forward into WWII in Washington. (She graduated from Redmond WA high school in 1945.)
Hudson died before she completed her book, but there is far more than sufficient “meat on the bones” to be published exactly as left by her: her opinions about post-9-11-01 contemporary U.S. society.
Some years back, I had blogged several times about aspects of Hudson’s 1962 well known book, “Bones of Plenty“, written about the worst of the Great Depression in rural North Dakota, and that is what Cynthia Anthony found in her random internet search. Cynthia, this mystery lady from New York, had become archivist for Mrs. Hudson’s papers, and asked permission to link my posts, “numbers 490, 495, and 565, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson” to her Lois Phillips Hudson Project, a website dedicated to preserving Ms Hudson’s rich but now basically unknown legacy.
It was Nancy who had earlier called my attention to “Bones of Plenty“; and now I was the one who had called Nancy’s attention to “Unrestorable Habitat“.
(Nancy had Mrs. Hudson as a teacher at North Dakota State University 50 years ago, and had vivid memories of her. She was a great teacher, Nancy said. She mentioned one quote by Hudson – at page 24 – that particularly caught her attention: “As..the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a father who frequently assured me that the brightest woman could never be as bright as your average man….” Unrestorable Habitat is peppered with such reflections.)
Once into Unrestorable Habitat, she found the book very interesting and thought-provoking.
Unrestorable Habitat so caught my attention that I purchased and distributed 100 copies, starting about 100 days ago.
Nancy was one of the recipients.
Here is the letter I enclosed with each book: Unrestorable Habitat
Let me leave it at that. “Unrestorable Habitat” is worth your time, as is “The War On Science“. Each can encourage you to “Do Something”.
The two books complement each other.
I hope you “take the bait”.

August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016

1. Some readers might say, about “The War on Science“, that I don’t know enough about science to learn.
Not at all true. In my own review of the book (it’s probably the 22nd or so, link above) I acknowledge that I had virtually no science education in the tiny schools I attended growing up. My opportunities to know science were basically ad hoc, like watching Sputnik blink in the North Dakota night sky in 1957, or getting the Salk Vaccine not too long before. “The War On Science” is more than just a primer, but written to an audience who knows nothing about science. It is a learning tool in itself.
2. In the solutions section of “The War on Science“, Shawn Otto has a section entitled “Battle Plan 1: Do Something” (p. 371).
In her own way, Mrs. Hudson in Unrestorable Habitat was (I think) trying to begin a conversation: where can or should the new ways fit with the old, and complement, rather than compete with, each other? She wrote at least some of her draft on a laptop in a coffee shop, so what some might perceive as a rant against technology, at least part of her text was simplified because of the very technology she railed against.
There is room for conversation. She was Doing Something.
Earlier today I was at Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and afterwards noted again the three trash containers downstairs (photo above).
This experiment goes back a couple of years, when my friend Donna and her committee got a small grant to get recyclable containers for use in the coffee area. They were Doing Something.
The experiment has never worked as it was supposed to. If one looks in the bins, there are admixtures of items, despite the verbiage on the containers. One can say it failed.
But I don’t agree. Who knows, among the hundreds of us who visit that area each Sunday, there is someone who gets an idea for use back home, maybe if only in their own home? Great ideas start with experiments that seem to fail. But to start them, someone has to “Do Something”.

#1152 – Dick Bernard: The Newspaper; Government by Twitter

Those interested in why I very strongly support Hillary Clinton for President can read my post from Sunday here. The post includes several comments pro and con as well.
Personally, I always find the perspectives of Just Above Sunset informative. The latest is here.
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The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

Dubuque paper001
Monday evening came one of those far too infrequent “faceoffs” (as Dad would say) with my cousin and her husband from Winnipeg. We had a too-short but animated visit over dinner in Edina, and covered lots of bases, a small part of which touched U.S. politics, which is a natural point of interest (and concern) for Canadians, who share thousands of miles of border with us.
My relatives, who grew up in the border area just north of the Minnesota/North Dakota border, still speak their native French as first language. At the same time, they are equally fluent in English, and have been dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada for years.
The conversation drifted to Ovila, my Dad’s first cousin, and my cousins father, born in the early 1900s.
How did Ovila learn English in the days before television, living on a farm in a section of Manitoba whose first language has always been French?
The answer to this question is complex, but as I recall, the newspaper was a primary vehicle, and as I recall from my own conversation with him years ago, catalogs, a primary source of information about goods for the farm. He self-taught himself English.
Ovila read every word of the newspaper, as did his neighbors. They were very well informed. Made no difference who wrote what, agree or not, it was consumed.
It caused me to think about my German grandparents, whose now-former farm has been my preoccupation for the last two or three years.
Being male, my focus was on Grandpa. Their country mailbox was full of paper: the weekly newspaper from LaMoure; the Jamestown and Fargo papers; the Farm Journal; catalogs; on an on. And they were religiously read. People like my Mom occasionally contributed a piece of poetry; I have articles Grandpa wrote soliciting membership in the fledgling Farmers Union in 1928. And on and on and on.
Last year, while going through the abundant detritus after my Uncle died, we looked through a well constructed coffin like packing crate obviously used to bring possessions to the North Dakota farm from Wisconsin when Grandma and Grandpa moved there in 1905 (see photos above, and following). Among the precious contents (at the time), Grandma’s wedding dress, and assorted ‘stuff’, then to be saved, now of little interest, except in passing.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

In the box were two crumbling Dubuque newspapers, one in English; the other in my grandparents native German. Probably they had been delivered to the Wisconsin farm, and were handy when they were packing stuff for shipment to ‘Dakota. The articles in the English edition covered the waterfront (photo above); I’m sure the same was true for the German edition. What is certain, every page of each of these newspapers had seen many eyes. (Grandma and Grandpa married Feb. 28, 1905; he, his brother and his cousin came west first to build a house and such; Grandma came about six weeks later. The crate likely carried her belongings.)
Fast forward to today, August 3, 2016.
Those old newspapers, with readers whose education seldom was past 8th grade, were astonishing pieces of literature.
Today’s small town newspapers, like the LaMoure Chronicle, carry on the tradition of the past. They are a treasure to be savored.
But now we’re in the “Twitter Generation”: news by headline. I don’t need to define that any further. We can pick our own particular bias, and pretend that it is not only the only perspective that matters, but that it is the only perspective. We know that’s not true, but…. Our collective narrowness, made possible by infinite organs of “communication”, serve us ill. I think we know that, but it is easy to deny this reality.
Today far too many of us choose, freely, to be uninformed, EXCEPT to confirm our own biases. Our Elders had less means to receive and share communications, but in many ways they were much better informed and prepared to participate in a civil society than we are.
We are not at our best, these days: watch the political polemics. Hopefully we’ll survive our collective and intentional ignorance particularly of other points of view.

Part 2. Nobel Peace Prize Forum June 6-8, 2016: The Drowning Child and the Shoes…2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum focused on “Globalizing Compassion”, particularly children, and gave a very large role to the co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a native of India who passed over a career in engineering to invest his life work on issues relating to child trafficking. More about his Children’s Foundation is here.
Satyarthi is an immensely engaging and persuasive man. You can see and hear him speak at this years Nobel Peace Prize Conference at the weblink listed below.
(click to enlarge)

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Many of the talks at this years Forum are accessible online here. They are all worth your viewing time.
The brimming-with-information Program Booklet for the 2016 Forum can be read here: 2016 Nobel Forum001
My comments, Part One about the 2016 Forum is here.
Wednesday afternoon, June 8, the final day of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, we were on our final coffee break. One of my colleague participants asked me what I thought of this years Forum. I said I always like workshops like these, where I know hardly anyone, including the speakers. It never fails, I said, that I leave without some insights, useful to me.
The conference adjourned, and I went home exhausted.
There was a final program, a film, The Same Heart, in the evening that I almost decided to miss.
Along with perhaps 50-100 “remnants” (not unusual after long conferences), I was at the theatre, and it was during The Same Heart that I experienced one of those insights I’d mentioned a few hours earlier.
The film is about the realistic possibility of eliminating the worst poverty for perhaps a billion children world wide. The film opened with a camera focusing on what appears to be a lake, and then panning back to a narrow stream.
Peter Singer*, ethicist at Princeton University, posed a question to the viewers: suppose that you are standing on the banks of a brook, and you look across to the other side and see a toddler going in the water, almost certainly about to drown. You are the only adult. The brook is shallow, but entering the water will ruin your new shoes.
What would you do?
His basic point was that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions of such toddlers around the world today, in effect drowning in circumstances out of their control, and most of us in varying degrees of affluence are unwilling to sacrifice our personal pair of new shoes to help them out. The message has stuck with me since I watched the film last week. It will not soon go away.
What would, what will I do?
The other insight came in bits and pieces, but it came together during a session on Tuesday afternoon.
An official of UNICEF, Olav Kjorven, Director of Public Partnerships, was talking about a UNICEF “My World” survey, about the “World We Want”, where millions of people expressed their opinion about priorities for humanity.
Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Almost off-handedly he commented on the unlikely creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the UN at the beginning of the 21st Century, ending 2015. It seemed (my opinion) that a major reason these goals were adopted relatively easily was not so much because anyone thought they could be attained, but that they really were seen as a set of informal goals for the world which would not upset anyone’s “apple cart”, be stuck with commitments, and especially wouldn’t require much funding.
The MDGs have turned out to be much, much more substantive. “Grassroots” people have taken them seriously, and in a sense policy is being proposed and implemented from the bottom up, rather than imposed top down.
I was somewhat familiar with these goals. In 2005, I had attended a session on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the featured speakers was Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a powerful Twin Cities businesswoman who came out strongly about tackling child sex trafficking: her business, as we Minnesotans know, is the hospitality industry, worldwide. My notes about that meeting are here: MDG Workshop 2005001
Ms Carlson Nelson was part of a panel at this years Peace Prize Forum, and in her time period she said her insight moment came in 2004 from someone she said was “Amb. Miller” who heightened her awareness that her industry had a major problem with child sex trafficking. She took a very serious look at her own industries cause in the matter, and has taken action, and is still taking action, and most importantly has become a public witness for closer attention to justice in other areas as well.
She quite clearly became a behind the scenes leader in settling the Minnesota Orchestra lockout three years ago; most recently Mark Ritchie mentioned her as a very positive actor. The saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” comes to mind; or be careful about “painting with a broad brush”.
Progress is a process, often slow, but progress happens with effort.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

At the same meeting in 2005 was my friend, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who decided to take on the problem of child malnutrition in his native India, implementing one of the MDG’s. Here is a talk given by Dr. Parekh in 2014, talking about the then-progress on his work towards a goal.
I don’t know what his aspirations were, but Dr. Parekh had a plan, and he worked it hard – I watched what he was doing as elements began to come together – to the extent that now he is a Board member of a major organization called Toddler Food Partners, and is making a big difference.
Back at the conference, Mr. Kjorven noted that at the end of the 15 year MDG period, the “World We Want” survey (previously mentioned) gave great grassroots impetus to the current UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I left the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum exhausted and, at the same time, renewed and refreshed.
People can and do make the crucial difference. They just need to believe their capacity to make that difference.
A WONDERFUL POSTSCRIPT: The final session of Wednesday afternoon was dryly described as “Closing Remarks” with a two line descriptor: “Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Director Gina Torry will close the final afternoon of the 2016 Forum.” This was a “don’t judge the book by its cover” descriptor, as the session began with a wonderful tribute to my deceased friend, and stalwart of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum from 1997 on, Lynn Elling, deceased Feb. 14, 2016. Featured was a video by public television made about 1993 which needs no elaboration. The segment concluded with a hashtag #peaceitforward…a wonderful tribute.
June 25: Recently the Aitkin Independent Age newspaper featured a long article about Lynn and his work in his lake country community. You can read it here: Big Sandy Lake and dad article
* * * * *
* I note that Dr. Singer’s views on certain issues have excited some controversy which is hi-lited on the internet. That is of no concern to me, here. We all have points of view. His drowning child and shoes image will always stick with me.