This fall, Chicago Public School teachers took to the streets. Pundits proclaimed the strike a test of the continued relevance of American labor unions; outsiders said the teachers were lucky to have jobs at all. But most Chicago parents stood with the teachers. I know why.
My own children, now seventh and tenth graders in Eugene's District 4J, attended Chicago Public Schools until this year. As resourceful parents, my husband and I were able to navigate the complicated school-lottery system, gaining our children access to high-performing schools. Our daughter, armed with a foundation provided by dedicated teachers, landed a spot at one of Chicago's few selective-enrollment high schools. I'm grateful for our good fortune, but the fact that the system excludes so many infuriates me.
My friend Lisa Hutler is a teacher at a very different school, where the student population is 98 percent African American and 96.5 percent low income. The strike was not about pay, she says. It was about "placing students within a classroom environment that sets them up for success." Her classroom reached 95 degrees on September afternoons. She had 50 students and 25 chairs, so students sat on the sills of open, third-floor windows. The strike, she says, was about working conditions. And teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions. Is this the degree to which we value education?
Here in Oregon, we've set an ambitious education goal for ourselves: the state's "40-40-20" plan asserts that by 2025, 40 percent of adults will have a bachelor's degree or higher, 40 percent will hold an associate's degree or career certification, and 20 percent will have at least a high school diploma. It's an admirable goal, but a lofty one—as of last year, those education-attainment rates stood at 30-18-42, with 10 percent lacking high-school equivalency. Will we realistically be able to graduate 100 percent of our high school students, given continued budget shortfalls and decreasing funding for education? Will 80 percent of them be prepared to continue on to college?
David T. Conley, a professor of educational policy and leadership in the UO's College of Education and director of the university's Center for Educational Policy Research, says that projects like College Ready Lane County are a start. The program, a partnership among the UO, Lane Community College, and Lane County school districts, strengthens alignments between secondary and postsecondary schools to support college readiness, particularly for first-generation college students.
But even if students are ready for college, will they be able to afford it? State appropriations for higher education have plummeted—from 14 percent of the UO's budget in 2008 to less than 6 percent currently—and a difficult economy has left many students scrambling to finance their educations.
"For a very long time, the foundation in this country has been that there was some degree of equal opportunity for all students to continue on to postsecondary education, regardless of their background or income level," says Conley. Federal initiatives from the Morrill Acts, which created land grant colleges in the late nineteenth century, to the G.I. Bill have supported this ideal. But if current trends toward disinvestment in public education continue, Conley warns, "We're going to deprive an entire generation of that opportunity at precisely the moment when we most need to close the gap."
While jobs and the economy were the central theme of this fall's election cycle, education—such a critical piece of the recovery puzzle—has been only a low murmur in the background. Discussions of this country's economic future must include real commitments to public education, in Oregon and beyond. That's what the teachers in Chicago were striking for, and it's something we should all demand.
Readers Quack Back
Absolutely fabulous article on The Duck! ["The Duck Abides," Autumn 2012] I have only two comments: On page 37 Alice Tallmadge writes, "However he made it, today the Duck is close to the top of the college mascot heap..." First, he should properly be identified as The Duck, and he IS the top of the heap; he looks down on the other mascots! GO DUCKS!
Tom Beltram '67
Rancho Cucamonga, California
May I add some information to the local history of the UO Duck? While working as art director for "Oh Shirt!," I was the first (and at the time, only) artist licensed by Disney to draw Donald Duck for UO T-shirts. I was also the first to copyright a T-shirt with a mascot. I created the "Hugga Duck" in 1982, which I noticed is still selling as a keychain design. I also created the first "Quack Attack" and "Duck Fan" designs for T-shirts, selling them to the UO bookstore. We were the first to have the mascots actually doing something on the shirts, then the first to use the long sleeve to show a design, and the first to print on the back. As an alumna of the UO, I thoroughly enjoyed designing for the Ducks.
Claudine Lundgren '67
I thought it was a bit ironic that you featured Bill Bowerman's picture in "The Duck Abides" article. Having been one of Bill's Men of Oregon ('69–'72), I recall that Bill really didn't have much love for the Oregon Duck. At the time Oregon was known as the Fighting Ducks, and Bill would let us know that he had never seen a fighting duck. He would insist that the track team members be referred to as the Men of Oregon.
I also recall a story that there was actually a mallard duck that would be brought out to events to represent the Ducks. Seems this particular duck would chase the cheerleaders around the field, to the delight of the fans. This otherwise tame duck would spend the summers in the care of one of the coaches. When it was Bill's turn, Bill introduced the duck to his pet raccoon. The career (and life) of the duck ended that day and I guess Bill proved his point.
Gary Wolf '72, MBA '74
As the coconspirator, with John English, behind the Retain Class in Your Bird (RCYB) committee—the 1978 "Save Donald" group—it's always amused me that histories of the Duck misinterpret what that election was about. It was a joke.
The Emerald was running a series of house ads promoting its editorial duck—Steve Sandstrom's Mallard Drake—as mascot. John and I, both freshmen that spring, didn't really care about Donald's honor. We just wanted in on the gag. So we created our RCYB (riffing on the acronym of a campus protest group), stapled photocopied posters across campus, held an "upper-class sit-in" at the Emerald, and otherwise made merry with the campaign—which led to that 2–1 vote that outpolled the ASUO presidential race on the same ballot.
Best part of the joke? The referendum itself had nothing to do with Donald. It was merely whether to approve Mallard. But it's been regarded as a Donald confirmation ever since.
Mike Lee '81, MA '91
San Diego, California
My boyfriend is a huge Ducks fan, and although we live in Orlando, he makes it up to see a Ducks football game almost every season. In addition to the Ducks, his other great passion is Disney. We're both cast members in Orlando, and he almost fell out of his chair with excitement to show me the Puddles article in the Autumn issue of Oregon Quarterly. Go Ducks!
In the picture of Walt Disney and Leo Harris that accompanies the Autumn 2012 Oregon Quarterly article "The Duck Abides," is that singer Phil Harris next to Leo Harris? What was the occasion of this picture being taken?
Editor: John Bauguess, whose photographs frequent our pages, also wondered if that was Phil Harris in the photo. The photo was taken in Los Angeles, and Phil Harris worked with Disney, so it's likely him in the picture. We’re unsure of the occasion being photographed, but do know that it was successfully used as evidence of Disney's agreement with the UO involving the use of the duck mascot.
Water Is Everything
Kudos for the article "Watershed Moment" in your Autumn 2012 issue. As a youngster I waterskied on algae-filled Upper Klamath Lake, and lived on the arid hills above Lower Klamath Lake, now a drained peat farmland. I know in my bones that water is a precious resource. While our current wars might relate to oil, it is commonly accepted that future conflicts will be for water. Even now, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has as much to do with the control of scarce water sources as with the control of land.
The drama Salmon Is Everything, mentioned in the article, gave me hope that before again resorting to violence, we could use the arts as another way to come together, to explore the issues, and to develop constructive solutions.
Mary (Andrieu) Ryan-Hotchkiss
I congratulate and welcome Michael Gottfredson to the huge task and job known as the president ["Michael Gottfredson Appointed President," Autumn 2012]. That said, the easiest steps have been taken. Michael now needs to prove that he can be the advocate that the university requires to move forward. With the current governor, OUS board, and chancellor, his is a gargantuan task indeed. They have proven that they require a person who will toe their line, a person who will get along with the group, and not a person who will look out for the best interests of the UO.
I hope that Michael is smarter, more devious, a better politician, and a better communicator than most of the rest of us. I will be rooting for him, and worrying about the University of Oregon.
Steve Jacobson '73
In "The Hardest Working Band in (Halftime) Show Business" [Autumn 2012], Paul Roth was incorrect in stating, "In 1970, though, the OMB was dead." As a senior that year I can attest and affirm the existence of the Official University of Oregon Marching Kazoo Band.
Immediately following the end of funding for the original, official Oregon Marching Band, a small group of happy jesters and musicians formed what became the most anticipated distraction to the travails of our mighty Ducks football team (led by the inimitable Dan Fouts). Each home game this merry band (possibly influenced by Ken Kesey or other interests) took to the Autzen turf, marching up and down the field in their own imitation of the more traditional musical halftime entertainment. Their ragtag presence not only livened up the game, but possibly served as the impetus to bring back the OMB!
John La Londe '71, MEd '72
San Rafael, California
We now have our oldest grandchild (26-year-old Erin) living with us after completing eight years in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is working, but decided after returning from her last deployment in Kuwait that she also wanted to go to college. She's enrolled at Centralia College. Yesterday, after she had returned from a college orientation session, I let her read your "Success" piece ["Editor's Note," Autumn 2012]. She was emotionally moved (as I was when I first read it) by Kari Sommers's quote about education. As college-educated grandparents, we're so proud that Erin's making the "journey." She's doing it!
Craig Weckesser '64
Remembering a Mentor
Sitting in Manhattan on a Sunday morning, I picked up the latest Oregon Quarterly I'd tossed in my bag to read on the plane, and read about the recent death of Jim Davies ["In Memoriam," Autumn 2012]. Professor Davies was my faculty advisor when I was a poli sci major at the UO back in the '60s. His advice and insight was valuable to me as a student, a veteran coming back into the academic community, and as newly married. While I did not see Professor Davies after my graduation, I thought of him often. I have recalled his personal therapy of apprenticing as a watchmaker and even considered that myself, but never did. I will miss him now that he is no longer with us.
Tom Underhill '69
The beginning of fall coincides with the start-up of the professional and college football season. The UO team is of intense interest to me (Duck sports keep my memory of the happy time on the campus alive). Consequently, I first look in the just-arrived issue of Oregon Quarterly for mention, however meager, about the current football team. Unfortunately, one has to wait until after a bowl game. But what will happen if the Ducks don't play well enough to earn a bowl berth? There will be nothing in the Quarterly, I suspect.
John Vazbys '57
Mahwah, New Jersey