Later this morning, we will play for you the 8-minute long audio segment of the UW Oshkosh professor who solicited recall signatures from students in his classroom. As much as I would like you to pay attention to what Professor Stephen Richards is telling his students--that more than 100 faculty members are doing the same thing, that he won't keep track of who signs the petition and who doesn't, that state workers won't be allowed to join unions anymore, that Winnebago Mental Health Center will be closing--costing Oshkosh thousands of jobs, and that without unions, state workers will make only $18,000 a year, that even if you don't live in Randy Hopper's district you can still sign the petitions--because they will catch that and just not count it--I'd like you to pay attention to what you don't hear.
One thing you won't hear is a stampede of students coming down from their seats to sign those petitions. I'm guessing more than a few of the kids were thinking "I'm not even going to be around here for this recall election--so why should I care?" Or maybe they were thinking "When I graduate and am making half as much as you and paying for 50-percent of my health insurance premiums and all of my retirement benefits I'll be feeling really sorry for you, Professor Richards". Most likely they were thinking "Dude, I'm $25,000 in debt to be here because my parents thought it was more important to have a boat that we used three times a year instead of saving for my college education--so can you start teaching us something about Criminal Justice please?"
Another thing you won't hear are any protests to open campaigning in the classroom. Some will believe that is because the students all support the "plight" of their professors--and that they were "appreciative"of the "courage" shown by those "persecuted" workers. Obviously, at least one student did have a problem with it--acting correctly and taking their complaint about Professor Richards' conduct to college officials--who I'm sure really dropped the hammer on the Prof with discipline that no one will ever learn about. But as you listen you'll probably find yourself asking "why are these kids putting up with this?"
The answer to that question is really simple: this is par for the course for many of these students. Remember, this generation has been used as political pawns their whole lives. These are the kids who were paraded in front of the School Board to put their Elementary Strings instruments in a cardboard coffin they spent all class period building to create the perfect "made-for-local-cable-access-TV-moment". These are the kids who were assigned to write papers on "What President Obama's Election Means To Me". These are the kids the Legislature required to learn about the history of labor unions. And these are the kids who were told they could walk out of their classes and gather in the gym to "protest" the elimination of courses that only six of them were ever going to sign up for anyway.
So while those of us on the "outside" of the education system howl in protest over the "inappropriateness" of Professor Richards' activities on March 7th--the students of Wisconsin's classrooms will just remember it as another regular Monday.