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June 17, 2009 / howardmestas





“Badgers, we don’t need no stinking badgers!” Okay, a lame attempt at a famous quote about sheriff’s badges in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” (with Humphrey Bogart) and later spoofed in “Blazing Saddles.” My last experience with real badgers was actually years ago as I laughed watching my brother being chased by one of those fierce little devils as I kept driving my pickup ahead, not allowing him to reach safety. As it turned out, it was only funny to me.

But today there were no badgers to be seen, unless you had a good imagination. I looked extremely hard to see that long-clawed furry little creature on the head of that woman’s statue (as we were told) and found nothing! But according to the people of Wisconsin, every citizen there is a badger, if only in spirit. And really, that’s how everybody acted in the city of Madison today. Any research about badgers will reveal that they are tenacious, territorial little guys that will stop at nothing once they’ve established a goal (usually some poor little ground squirrel). That tenacity was in evidence by all the 2-legged badgers on the University of Wisconsin Madison Campus today. I found the speakers and volunteers to be, to the point, and totally focused on their task at hand and like their toothy namesakes, very bold and convincing. I found it hilarious, yet satisfying when Professor Stan Schultz said that he could convince you of a fact, even if it wasn’t really true; just to get the point across. That’s a teaching method I can agree with. And speaking of Dr. Schultz, Professor Rees was spot on in the promo of his teaching methods and his expertise of the Progressive Movement. I liked his contention that the movement started at the grassroots level and persevered for years until the opportunity to get established was realized; in this case the candidacy of Teddy Roosevelt . The whole plan was put in to play through the vision and courage of Wisconsin Congressman Robert La Follette, a real badger of a personality if there ever was one.

Jonathan Pollack’s presentation showed us an innovative way to teach with documents by showing us the changing standards for naturalization following the previous easy road to citizenship up to the 1890’s. I need to find out how to acquire similar documents because that is a great idea on how to teach other subject areas using primary sources. I can’t imagine how difficult the naturalization paperwork is today, but Pollack mentioned that it would require dreaded lawyers to get involved. His methods for teaching public sentiments on immigration were very interesting; I wished I could have asked him more about comparisons between then and now. I also regret there was not enough time to hear him present a historic moment using the voice of sportscaster Dick Vitale, as he did briefly during our great lunch. On a badger rating I would have to give him about a 6-out-of-10 since he wasn’t as aggressive as the others before him.

Harry Miller was the only mild mannered beast of the entire badger pack, but his savvy on how to navigate the incredible UMW history website was very useful. I can hardly wait to start using the webpage since I love historical maps, photos, and paintings.

Jonathon was right, Wisconsin is an interesting state and worth visiting without having to be on your way back from somewhere else. If nothing else, going back for the beer brats would be reason enough. I’m sure our four legged friends would enjoy them as well.


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