When he was a young man growing up in Frederic, Wisconsin, Jeff Ryan (shown above left presenting a T-shirt to Lac du Flambeau Tribal Chairman Tom Maulson) hid in the back seat when his dad drove through the St. Croix Chippewa Reservation. "Boy, has the worm turned," he told me last week.
"If I'm going to have car trouble, there are only two places I'd want to break down," he says. "One is in my hometown. The other is the Lac du Flambeau reservation."
Ryan, a 23-year veteran history teacher at Prescott High School, has become one of the band's best friends. He was nominated for NewsCut's The People You Should Meet series by former student Joseph Pruden of Minneapolis
In the late '90s, he took up the challenge of meeting state requirements about teaching Native American history by creating a one-semester course dedicated to the topic -- called "Native America Since 1790". This class has made a lasting impact on students and into the community. Since 2000, he has been taking students up to the Lac du Flambeau reservation to learn firsthand about Native culture (past and present). In 2003, he began offering this same experience to anyone in the Prescott community. Through his work in Native American education, Jeff has developed strong ties with many leaders in Wisconsin tribes. Over the past couple years, a group of his students have taken up the issue of race-based mascots, and their voice has been highly influential. These students were invited to speak before committee at the Wisconsin Senate regarding a bill about race-based mascots, which was ultimately passed and signed into law. He has appeared on Wisconsin Public Television discussing these issues, and his students were featured in a documentary about their efforts to encourage legislation limiting its use.
On top of this, Jeff is also a baseball coach, and a pretty terrific one at that. He has led the Prescott Cardinals to many conference championships and (I believe) one state runner-up. He was even invited to speak at a national coaches' conference in Oklahoma a couple years back.
Ryan's passion for Native American issues comes from the confrontations between white fishermen and Native Americans on the shorelines of northern Minnesota over spearfishing and treaty rights. The "Walleye War" started in 1983 when a federal appeals court upheld the bands' off-reservation rights.
Ryan headed to the northwoods to research the issues in the dispute.
"I graduated in December and I was interested that this was going on," he said. "I went to a couple of landings on a fact-finding mission. I began there as a person to see what was going on, then I got labeled as an 'Indian lover.' It motivated me to find out more and motivated me more to become a treaty rights supporter. Going to the landings and seeing some of the awful stuff, it was terrible."
Not long after, Wisconsin passed a law requiring schools to include the history of local tribes and treaties in school curricula. Still new in Prescott, Ryan developed the class in 1998 -- First Nations issues with the Lac de Flambeau.
It is one of the most popular classes in the school.
"We've had over 250 people from this town go up and have an extended stay up there," he says. "It's been for me the best thing that I've ever done as a teacher. It's phenomenal. What that has done for me professionally, educationally, personally... what it's done for a lot of students is immeasurable."
To go on the trip and participate in a service project while on the reservation, students (the 2011 students are shown in the above photo) have to write an essay on why they want to go on the four-day journey. Teachers judge the essays and select the winners, but have no idea who wrote them.
"In the final list, there are special ed kids, there are 'problem kids.' You get a great cross section. There's a kid who's gone back there 14 times," Ryan says.
His class began discussing race-based logos and mascots in 2008, and in 2010 some of Ryan's students took it upon themselves to research the issue and then lobby state politicians on behalf of a proposed law allowing school district residents to lodge complaints against race-based names (documentary video here).
"The one thing about those students is the work they did and how much work they did," Ryan says. "I get testy when it's intimated I'm telling them what to do."
The Prescott Eleven, as they became known, testified in support of the bill in Madison. It passed and was signed into law by then Gov. Jim Doyle. The Prescott students were invited to the bill signing ceremony.
"The whole key is we talk about the issue in the classroom," according to Ryan. "There's dialogue here. They don't talk about it the way it should be talked about in these other communities."
He says his school's administration has shown a lot of trust in his ability to present controversial issues objectively. "It's a challenge to talk about (Gov.) Scott Walker in the classroom," he acknowledges. "It takes an ability to be empathetic and understand why that person in Hudson thinks Scott Walker is phenomenal. To avoid controversial issues is irresponsible."
In his 23 years of teaching, Ryan says he's given only one in-class detention. "I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was embarrassed by it... that I couldn't handle it. I apologized to my principal."
He also acknowledges, "I'm pretty intimidating. I kind of like the military approach to discipline. Students want order, they want to learn, they want to accomplish something. Anyone who says they like classes where nothing happens, that's not true," says Ryan, who calls parents on Wednesday evenings to talk about their child's performance.
Mr. Ryan is also the school's baseball coach, which he insists is a harder job than teacher. "There's no comparison," he says. "Teaching is the easy job."
That might partly be because in a small town of 4,000, the baseball team is expected to win because it has consistently been among the best teams in the state. But it also takes a toll on a coach's life. "I'm kind of isolated," he says.
""I don't spend a lot of time out and about during the baseball season. Sometimes being seen with parents at restaurants or other public places in a small town can be problematic," he says.
In his tenure, 48 players on his teams have gone on to play college baseball.
In many ways, baseball is linked to his interest in Native American issues and his career. His brothers played for a club team from the Sand Creek community. "We'd go to the games and watch, and the Ryans would be the only non-Indians at the game. It was great," he says.
His brother, Stewart, born with Down Syndrome, added inspiration to his interest in education. "My experiences with him were crucial to our growing up. There's an old quote -- 'every person I meet is in some way my superior,' -- and we used that with my brother. it was a sad day when he passed away, but we see all the things now he was able to do."
"Whenever we needed a homerun off the barn, it was my brother Stewart," he says.
In his twenty-third year of teaching, Ryan has seen an increasing vilification of his profession. "It goes hand in hand with the word, 'union,'" he says. "But speaking as a taxpayer and a teacher, you can't be afraid of being held accountable. All people are expected to do their job. In this day and age, we've got to be able to demonstrate as a school teacher that people are getting their money's worth."
He pauses for a moment and then adds, "People in the public sector are easy targets."
Photos courtesy of Jeff Ryan
Do you know of someone we all should meet? Who's the most interesting person you know? Submit their name and tell me why.
Clarification: A commenter on NewsCut overnight writes:
How come I can't scroll down to the next story? What is going on? Please fix this Mr. News Cut!
This is a change from MPR's New Media division off the MPR News front page. In the past, the link from the front page went to the NewsCut homepage, allowing you to see the mix of stories for the day. Now, the link goes to the latest post. To get back to the main page, click the NewsCut logo at the top of the page.
A commenter on NewsCut yesterday turned out to be right. The biggest solar storm in years turned out to be a dud. Why? National Geographic has it figured out:
The solar storm's gentler-than-expected treatment of Earth so far has a lot to do with the direction the storm was traveling when it hit our planet's magnetic field, explained Young, who works on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory project.
"The Earth's magnetic field has a northward direction to it," he said. There's also a magnetic direction to each solar storm, or coronal mass ejection (CME)--a burst of charged solar particles expelled from the sun the sun by the "snapping" of magnetic fields.
If, as with the current sun storm, a CME's magnetic field flows northward, its interaction with Earth's magnetic field can be weakened--"the two are both pointed in the same direction," Young said.
"But if they're opposite each other--if the [storm's] magnetic field is southward--then there's a much stronger interaction. It allows much more energy to be pumped into Earth's magnetosphere."
The solar storm blinded a probe currently on its way to Venus, space.com reports.
There were a few Northern Lights observed in the usual locations -- Finland, in this case -- but nothing special in our neck of the woods. There are a few pictures on the Duluth News Tribune weather blog.
2) THE HAGEVIK ERA ENDS
Another icon of Minnesota radio is calling it quits. Bruce Hagevik has delivered the news on WCCO for 39 years and is nearing retirement age, the Pioneer Press reports.
Two things - "nearing the normal retirement age" and the fact that Hagevik and his wife, Marvette, work in two different states - were the main reasons behind his retiring. Marvette is a physical education teacher in Miami and even though Hagevik says the two see each other often - summers, holidays, spring breaks and vacations - they want to spend more time together. When he's done at WCCO (his last day is Wednesday), Hagevik says he'll go to Miami for the rest of the school year and then the couple will return to Minnesota in June.
3) SLUT CULTURE
The responses to Rush Limbaugh calling a woman a "slut" turn to the arts...
Related: Washington Post blogger apologizes to Limbaugh. There aren't that many online topics that can garner 1,159 comments.
4) DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE LAWYER WHO WALKED INTO A PIZZA JOINT?
Law school was once considered a pathway to riches. Now it's a pathway to being a waiter in a pizza joint, partly because law schools fake how many of their students get jobs. Insert your own lawyer joke here.
5) VOX POPULI
A newspaper columnist in Grand Forks, ND has become a national favorite after she wrote a restaurant review in the local newspaper about the new Olive Garden restaurant there. "I've been doing this for 30 to 40 years. Why all of a sudden now?" Marilyn Hagerty wonders. Probably because she wrote a review about a restaurant aimed toward average people, a commentary that might be more about us than her.
"In the coastal United States, restaurant reviews try to be as uptight as possible. I hate it when they try to be so pretentious. You can never please food critics," one reader told the Grand Forks Herald.
Watch a charming video of Marilyn here. The TV station wanted to interview her at the Olive Garden, but the restaurant wouldn't let them in with cameras. They went to Ground Round instead.
Bonus I: Before and after. NPR's Picture Show blog looks at the recovery from the tsunami in Japan.
Bonus II: MPR's Public Insight Network has been producing videos of people in the network who have decided how they'll vote on the same-sex marriage ban on November's ballot. Here are two new vids.
Find more videos here.
A bill in the Legislature is intended to discourage state government from shutting down as it did last summer. The bill would require mediation before a shutdown and stop legislators from being paid while the government is closed. Today's Question: Does Minnesota need a law discouraging state government shutdowns?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: This week on the Friday Roundtable, the panel looks at an unlikely and controversial viral video and intrigue at the University of Minnesota. Guests: Guest: Stephanie Curtis, social media editor for The Daily Circuit; Mike Zipko, vice president of strategic development at Goff Public. He was press secretary for St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman; Peter Bell, former head of the Metropolitan Council.
Second hour: All about your mid-life years.
Third hour: America in the age of descent. Guest: Edward Luce, Chief U.S. commentator for the Financial Times.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From MPR's "Voices of Minnesota" series, a Dan Olson interview with Minnesota anti-war activist Marv Davidov, who died in January. Dan also interviews the author of a new book about Minnesota's protest tradition, Rhoda Gilman.
Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: A look at the science of taste and how to get more from your next bite. Plus, why we're more closely related to gorillas than we thought.
Second hour: How an early spring affects flower buds and bees. Plus, dark matter just got more mysterious. And planet or not, should Pluto get its own stamp?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Director Mike Nichols. For 7 year old Mike Nichols, just off the boat after fleeing Nazi Germany, Rice Crispies and Coca Cola were revelations, food that made noise! The famed director is now dealing with some bigger American themes figure in the play he's now directing -- Death of A Salesman.(3 Comments)
Rush Limbaugh's ill-chosen word to describe a law student's testimony about the need for contraceptive coverage by insurance companies has certainly sparked the creative side of his opponents.
Earlier today, for example, I posted the video of a song called "I'm a slut." Now, a condom company -- Sir Richard's -- has created the Sluts Unite website in an effort to tap into social media, offering avatars to visitors:
The site also has provided a Slut Oath
I believe that sex represents more than just the creation of children.
I believe it is an enjoyable, healthy and a profound part of the human experience.
I also believe that the responsible use of birth control is an essential component of a mature, civilized society.
And if these beliefs make me a slut in some people's eyes, then so be it.
I will stand united with my fellow sluts, now and always.
Behind the humor, however, is a very real and passionate debate about contraception not seen since the 1960s in this country.
Today at the Vatican, the Pope addressed a meeting of U.S. bishops and said the Christian community has to understand the value of chastity.
Young people need to encounter the Church's teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing "apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom" (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that "if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great" (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).
Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.(4 Comments)
1962 ran into 2012 in the executive offices of Major League Baseball this week. 1962 won.
The Houston Astros, formerly the Houston Colt .45s, intended to wear "throwback" uniforms in several games this year to honor the birth of the franchise. The Colts became the Astros after the Astrodome was built and after Lyndon Johnson steered much of the spending for the space program from Florida.
Major League Baseball earlier told the Astros they couldn't have a gun on their jersey. But after blowback from fans, MLB has relented.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Rays honored a 1950s minor league team -- the Tampa Smokers, but took a picture of a smoking cigar off the original logo.(2 Comments)