Nel's New Day

February 14, 2015

Walker Short on Education, Truth

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

The Koch brothers may want to reconsider their choice for the 2016 GOP presidential candidate after Scott Walker has continually tripped over his tongue. His most recent gaffe was in London where other presidential candidates—namely Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal—have also looked foolish on the world’s stage. As the Daily Beast described his performance, “Scott Walker Goes for ‘Bland,’ Ends Up ‘Moronic’ on Evolution Softball.”  Asked whether he believes in the scientific theory of evolution, Walker said, “I’m going to punt on that one.” The amazed moderator, Justin Webb, asked him again, and he continued to “punt,” adding that he came there to talk about foreign trade and the “evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

According to Walker, the debate between science and religious dogma is “a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” Webb responded by saying, “Any British politician, right or left, would laugh at that question and say, ‘Of course, evolution is real.’” The audience laughed. Walker also said it was “polite not to respond” to questions about Britain, refused to mention the president, and dodged all foreign policy questions because he was “on foreign soil.”

Earlier this month, he said that “we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world.” When ABC News host Martha Raddatz asked him what that meant, he called for “boots on the ground.” She asked further, “U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?” He said, “Well, I don’t think that’s an immediate plan.”

Recently, the press has started to delve into Walker’s lack of a college degree. After four years at Marquette University, he was 34 credits short of graduation, over one-fourth of the requirements for graduation. The last president to lack a college degree was Harry Truman who left the office in 1952.

Part of the questioning may have come from his attempt to remove the statement, “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth,” from the mission of the University of Wisconsin. Walker also tried to take out the words, “to educate people and improve the human condition” and “serve and stimulate society.” Under Walker’s vision, the university would focus on “the state’s work force needs.” Called out on his move, he claimed that the changes were “a drafting error.” Unfortunately for Walker, his administration gave orders for the change in terminology two months earlier.

Walker hid his plan to change the university’s mission in his budget bill. Notable for that document is his $300-million cut for the state university system while he plans a $500-million new basketball stadium in Milwaukee for the Bucks. The plan freezes tuition for several more years and almost guarantees a massive tuition spike when the freeze expires in 2017. At this time, the projected shortfall for Wisconsin’s next two years from his tax cuts for the wealthy is $1.8 billion, worrying even Republicans.

megan simpsonOne of Walker’s claim to fame is gutting the unions in Wisconsin, and he particularly hates education. That’s why he used a first year teacher in his speech in Iowa to show how badly the unions treat educators. He claimed that the 2010 “Teacher of the Year” in Wisconsin, Megan Sampson (right) was laid off after her first year of teaching. Despite the massive cuts to the education budget that Walker gave to Wisconsin, Sampson was offered her place back but chose to take a job in the suburbs. She wants nothing to do with Walker.

teacher awardEven worse, however, Sampson didn’t even have the title that Walker gave her. The real 2010 Outstanding Teacher of the Year is Claudia Klein Felske, a former classmate of Walker’s at Marquette University. She wrote a letter to the Marquette Educator, calling him out for his lies and pointing out that the man who never graduated from college is attacking education in the state of Wisconsin from his position as the governor.

Dear Governor Walker:

I was both surprised and bewildered last week when I saw a news clip of you stumping in Iowa about Megan Sampson, whom you called “The [2010] Outstanding Teacher of the Year in my State.” This was baffling to me since in 2010, I was named Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year (Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Middle School Teacher of the Year; Peggy Wuenstel, Special Services Teacher of the Year; and Michael Brinnen, Elementary Teacher of the Year). In a most humbling ceremony, we were each surprised at our respective schools by State Superintendent Tony Evers and later honored at the State Capital as the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

And so, as one of the bonafide 2010-2011 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year, I feel the need to engage in one of the most valuable skills we teach our students, critical analysis.

Verified by multiple news sources, it turns out that Megan Sampson did win an award in 2010, but it was the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award given by a relatively small organization of Wisconsin English teachers (WCTE) for “an outstanding first year teacher of language arts.” She was one of less than a dozen teachers across the state who self-nominated for this award.

You failed to mention these details as you used Sampson’s lay-off from her first year teaching position as an opportunity to bash Wisconsin schools on the national stage. You blamed the seniority system for Sampson’s lay-off when, in good conscience, you should have done some serious soul searching and placed the blame squarely on your systematic defunding of public education to the tune of $2.6 billion that you cut from school districts, state aid to localities, the UW-System and technical colleges.

This Wisconsin Teacher of the Year would like to clarify precisely what you’ve done for education.

2010-2011 was a surreal school year to be named Teacher of the Year as that was the year your passage of Act 10 marked the exodus of thousands of outstanding veteran teachers from the profession they love and marked the beginning of an extreme strain on our ability to continue providing the excellent public education Wisconsin has always been known for.

And what have you done lately? In just the past month, it seems you have once again actively declared war on education in your own state:

You’ve directed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to devise content exams that would certify anyone with a degree to become a certified teacher. The ramifications of this move are nothing short of catastrophic and would grossly diminish what data has repeatedly shown to be the single most important factor in student learning: the quality of the classroom teacher. Allowing someone to teach without any training in HOW to teach, in effective pedagogy, in student behavior, brain research, motivation, and classroom management is akin to allowing someone who says “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on t.v.” to give you a heart transplant.

Continuing your bellicose streak (war is war, right?) you cut to the jugular by proposing a 13% across-the-board budget cut from the Wisconsin University System, our cornerstone of higher education, the source of much of our skilled and educated workforce, the center for research and development for our state. Aside from clearly being anti-education, this move is clearly anti-growth.

Psychological warfare has been your most recent tactic when you attempted to (and later tried to blame it on a clerical error) revise “The Wisconsin Idea” the sacred credo of the UW system articulated over a century ago. You sought to omit mention of public service and improving the human condition (you do realize that as Governor, you are considered a public servant?) You also tried to delete the phrase: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” Truth. Hmm…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that one.

Your tenure as Governor has demonstrated nothing less than a systematic attempt to dismantle public education, the cornerstone of democracy and the ladder of social mobility for any society.

How our paths have diverged from that August afternoon in 1986. True story: it was freshman orientation just outside Memorial Union. We were two of a couple thousand new Marquette University freshman wistful about what our futures held. Four years later, I graduated from Marquette and later became Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. You never graduated, and you became the Governor of the State of Wisconsin bent on dismantling public education. Ironic, isn’t it? Situational irony at its best. I’d laugh if its ramifications weren’t so utterly destructive for the state of Wisconsin.


Claudia Klein Felske

2010-2011 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year

Marquette University Class of 1990

Scott Walker called Felske’s argument a “petty distinction,” but he needs to do some thinking before he claims to be the “education” candidate for the President of the United States.


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