Okay. So at this moment, I’m posting away from home. I’m up at Stevens Point, Wisconsin for the orientation of my stepdaughter for the upcoming fall semester.
The experience so far has been interesting. The city seems nice enough for a very small town (~25,000 in the City proper, about 9,000 students total, and the whole county has about 62,000 people..) and the campus, although really small by my standards, seems decent enough. Within the UW-system, it is definitely one of the better-known schools and ranks up there with UW-LaCrosse as a legitimate place to get a decent liberal arts education, if you aren’t going to go to UW-Madison at first.
What was most interesting to me so far in our university experience, was the stats we just got about the campus as well as an interesting description about the kind of education that they want to give you here. First things first, the overall composition of the student body is about what you might expect if you know anything about Wisconsin at all. Fun facts: 92% of the students come from Wisconsin; 5% of the student body are what they described as “multi-cultural citizens” by which I think they mean minorities; 2% of the student body are international students from 55 different countries.
Anecdotal experience to back this assessment up–everyone in the room we were in was white and the blond/brunnette ratio was probably somewhere between 35/65 to 40/60.. This is what central and northern Wisconsin looks like.
To me, this would be shocking if I hadn’t already been shocked when I moved back from Germany to Wisconsin over 10 years ago and was struck by the whiteness of the state. To quote Fight Club, the state was obviously just too fucking blond. I, myself, am a pretty big cracker as things go–blond/brown hair, irish white/pink skin, green eyes–but I grew up in a place where 40-50% of the population were minorities (mostly black with much lower levels of hispanics and Asians) and until I went off to college down at Shampoo-Banana–where the number of blacks was cut by 2/3’s and overall minorities in half–I really had expected the entire world (or at least the USA) to be like where I grew up. When I was in Germany, however, I wasn’t shocked by the lower level of minorities–perhaps because I expected it to be different–but when I got back to the good ole USA, I stupidly assumed that things would “go back to normal.”
Wrong. Still, Madison, WI still has about twice the minorities of Stevens Point, so I’m more comfortable there, but I did have to smirk rather largely (if inwardly) as these statistics (which were actually presented as “450 multi-cultural citizens” rather than just “5%”–oh.. how numbers can be used to deceive!!!) were touted as something that would truly broaden a person’s perspective on the world.
Anyway–the second point that I found the most comical was how one speaker explained that the goal of this kind of university was to give students a good liberal education. However, he then spent the next 5-10 minutes elaborating that he specifically did not mean that kind of liberal, you know, like lefty-democratic socialist “liberals” who hate America and God and the like.
No, no. He meant “liberal” in the sense of teaching students to think for themselves and to be aware of the world around them (which is definitely something that those kinds of liberals generally tend to think is part of their liberal-ness…). He also then broke out the can of etymological whup-ass and noted that “liberal” came from the latin word “liber” which meant FREE, and FREEDOM, and who could not not want their kids to cherish an education that taught them all about FREEDOM. You’d have to be one of those commie-socialist types. You know, liberals.
Anyway.. that was just hilarious to me. It was doubly hilarious to me in that while this spiel might have actually been somewhat necessary for a good chunk of the parents in the audience who were likely to be more politically conservative, when it comes to the actual city of Stevens Point, we are talking about a relatively liberal bastion in the heart of far more conservative territory. Politically, the city/county has voted Democratic consistently and has a Democratic Representative in Congress (the powerful David Obey) and it voted for Obama in 2008 by an almost 2:1 margin (see results here: here…).
Thus, this warning about how a liberal education from Stevens Point that teaches students to think for themselves does not mean that students are being “indoctrinated by leftists” (actual words he said) must be matched up to the fact that this education does seem (although there is no hard evidence here, obviously) to correlate with a much more politically liberal climate and voting record of the population here.
Okay–enough for now. My best-half and I need to go find some real coffee now before we head back…