February 11, 2005

We're the top

The Strib today reported that, in a recent poll of Minnesota voters about University priorities, the goal of being ranked as a top national university came in dead last. University administration is trying to make the U of M one of the top three research universities in the world. President Bruininks acknowledges the "disconnect," saying, "I do think there is some natural tension. We are the land of populist thinking. But in a world of finite resources, we have to differentiate our responsibilities from other very valued parts of the higher education system."

Kids want to be on top, always. They want to be the best. They want the top bunk, the biggest dish of ice cream. When there's a bug eating contest, they want to eat the most bugs. When the coach says: "Jump higher, swim faster, play longer," they jump, swim, play their hearts out, wear their knees out, fast til they're toothpicks, bulk up til they're elephants. Simon says.....

From our leaders, maybe once in a while we could hear something that doesn't sound like it comes shouted across the playground at lunchtime, or chanted by somebody with pom poms and a little skirt. When President Bruininks says he wants to erode the pervasive hopelessness and resignation that drains our energy at every level of society, when he sets the university on a course to produce agricultural and medical and industrial systems that don't divide the rich from the poor, when he declares a war on stupidity and heartlessness at every level, I'll be there cheering. If he has the good sense to quote my old teacher David White about the supreme importance of "full humanity," I'll open up my ears and listen hard. But when he talks about being on top, I'll think about the kid who ate 34 grasshoppers and a frog, about the guy with the 16 foot ball of twine, about Jimmy the superlemming, first one over the cliff.

Posted by shea0017 at February 11, 2005 8:19 PM