Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Caged Bird

Maya Angelou's book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" will remain part of the English curriculum at the Fond du Lac High School. It was interesting to see how many people weighed in with some kind of opinion on the book and whether it should be removed from the curriculum after a student's parents asked for its removal.

I've never read the book, but can sympathize with students who are assigned a book to read with little say about it. Having said that I'm now glad that I had no choice in the matter when I was in high school myself. "Lord of the Flies," "A Tale Of Two Cities," "A Seperate Peace," "Black Like Me," and "The Jungle" were just a couple of assigned books I can remember reading.

Each of them had an impact in their time and something to say. It's a rarity that a book raises so much controversy in the school district, but maybe that's a good thing. Then again people with opinions on whether the book should be removed from the curriculum e-mailed and called the district offices from all over the country and world. I know district officials frowned on using the word "censorship," but that's how a lot of people saw the issue. It's good to see an open mind was kept about the issue and it's been resolved. I do have a problem with one or two people trying to impose their values on a majority. However everyone in this country has a right to voice their opinion.

About eighty people turned out to speak during a meeting of the district's Reconsideration of Materials Committee. That may not seem like a lot, but it's twice as many as showed for any of the information sessions scheduled by the district during last spring's referendum and the meeting wasn't publicized, at least not to the extent those sessions were.

As the old saying goes there's no such thing as bad publicity. In talking with someone at work I mentioned I'd never read the book. He admitted to that too, but both of us are now considering adding it to our own personal reading lists to see what all the to do was about. I can only imagine a few middle schoolers that can hardly wait themselves. After all they've now heard about the book too!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bo Knows Football

My fondness for college football more than likely grew out of the success of the Michigan Wolverines when I was a kid. That was due largely to the coaching of Bo Schembechler. It didn't seem right if the Wolverines weren't in the hunt for the Big Ten Conference title and the Rose Bowl each fall.

I loved the rivalry between Bo and Woody Hayes, the longtime coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. It did my heart good when the Wolverines could spoil the Buckeyes season. Unfortunately the Buckeyes did that to the Wolverines this past Saturday, but what a game and what drama.

I'm not sure Schembechler was a man I could say I idolized, but I did respect what he did on the field and how he represented the game. Sure he stormed up and down the field yelling at referees and players, but that's a desire to win. If you grew up in Michigan you might root for some of the smaller college teams, but when it came to picking someone to cheer for at the Division One level it was either Michigan or Michigan State. Although I did pull for the Spartans on occasion, it was always Michigan I hoped would win the game between them.

Once Schembechler retired from coaching I had to find another coach to throw my support behind. It took a few years, but there was this former assistant coach from Notre Dame who had gotten a new gig coaching for the Wisconsin Badgers. Barry Alvarez did a fantastic job for the Badgers. Like Bo he took the Badgers to conference wins and Rose Bowl victories. Like Bo there were no National Championships. Like Bo his success can be measured by wins on the field, the respect he earned from his staff, players and fans. That makes them both winners in my book.

It may take me a few more years to find another coach to admire in the big game, but every year I look forward to the start of college football. Meanwhile I think there's this other coach at Wisconsin who did a great job in his freshman season. Hmmm?

Monday, November 06, 2006


That's the main drag in my hometown of Manistique, Michigan. It hasn't changed much over the years, but the town continues to. I just got back from vacationing there where I visited with family members.

Being a reporter I have to write about my observations, which were many and some were just strange. Driving through Peshtigo I spotted a mannequin fully dressed standing with its back to the street. The hands were placed zipper level and mocked a position sometimes taken by the after hours bar crowd who can't wait until they get home.

There's a new Arby's restaurant in Manistique. That's a big deal in a town of 3,500 and could become gossip central for the breakfast goers. Gasoline was $2.23 a gallon when I traveled through Escanaba and $2.29 when I got back to Fondy.

My sister Diana shared a story with me that I just had to tell, although it's going to gross some out. She works as a secretary at a Catholic school. One day the lady who oversees their pre-school program came in and told her she caught a four-year old boy in the restroom drinking out of a urinal. The next day the janitor came in and said he caught a four-year old boy licking a urinal. I told her that it sounds like a bad Up'er joke. She said more likely mom and dad should have explained the difference between a urinal and a drinking fountain to their youngster.

Having Halloween off I helped pass out candy and popcorn balls to trick or treaters. In Manistique they held trick or treating on Halloween. I kept up the tradition of buying too much candy. I never can seem to get that right. My nephews Max and Derek went as a hippie and ghoul respectively. At least that's what I think they were shooting for. Since they are family they got a popcorn ball and one piece each of the three different kinds of candy we were passing out. Derek asked if he could have three of each.

Going on vacation gives me a chance to listen to other radio stations and watch other television channels. It gives me comfort that Michigan's candidates for office also use dirty tactics in their advertising. Thank goodness the Badger state isn't alone in that. Manistique cable television subscribers get two Green Bay TV stations (channels 5 and 11). The Marquette, Michigan station Channel 6 has a lot to cover, but often not much that really grabs you. One of their reports was on a picket in front of a Manistique casino by workers who claimed they were laid off because they aren't Native American. That was in the 7 p.m. newscast. During the 6 p.m. newscast they ran an ad for that casino.

One radio station from the northern part of the Lower Peninsula ran a promo for their morning show. A key radio personality for that show goes by the name "Omelet." I hope no one at KFIZ gets the swift idea to rename me for "The Breakfast Club." Now here's "Flapjack" with the news.