Wisconsin's Insurrection Began in the Fourth Grade

I’ve tried for years to explain the seemingly inordinate amount of state pride I exude, and if you know a Wisconsinite you’ve probably come up against this at least once. Typically it’s brushed off as a superiority complex among inferior states (we’re “flyover country” and “the Rust Belt” to those on the coasts).
Now you know it’s more than that.
To learn the basics behind why Wisconsinites have occupied the state Capitol Building in Madison and return in the tens of thousands every day, visit the local media outlets who are helping to hold down the fort (the mainstream media has hopelessly painted this controversy into a frame of ignorance), or follow the Twitter feeds.
Last Friday, when Republicans in the State Assembly attempted to ram through Governor Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” before the minority could even take to the chamber, the backlash was impressive. State Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) intervened and, in a passionate plea for common decency, excoriated the majority.
“If you want to jam through a bill, you’ve got to sit through the messy process that is democracy,” he shouted. “When we sit there in fourth grade and we learn about Wisconsin government, and we learn about U.S. government, we learn how amazing it was that they came together. But we also learn that it was bloody, that people had to fight for it, and they wanted to make it hard to do big things. You’re supposed to be a deliberative body. You’re supposed to have discussions. And you’re supposed to be transparent. Because the public matters.”
What’s that about the fourth grade? State history curriculum standards for all fourth-graders require an intensive exploration over the course of the year of national and state history – with a heavy emphasis on Wisconsin’s role in the milieu.
Among many other things, students develop the ability to “[c]ompare and contrast changes in contemporary life with life in the past by looking at social, economic, political, and cultural roles played by individuals and groups,” and “[i]dentify the historical background and meaning of important political values such as freedom, democracy, and justice.”
Whereas in most of the rest of the nation, when a class in “government” arrives sometime in high school (if you’re lucky), Wisconsinites understand what it means to be a participatory citizen by the time they’re ten years old.
When Governor Walker first pushed through a $117 million corporate tax-break package last month (and declared an intent to eliminate corporate taxation entirely), the civic antennae of the citizenry twitched. When he announced, upon the introduction of his “Budget Repair Bill,” that he’d mobilize the National Guard to deal with any worker-induced “unrest,” they were alarmed. Finally, when the Governor made clear his intent to eliminate workplace rights – starting first with those of public-sector unions – they were shocked.
So they acted. This comes as no surprise to a Wisconsinite. After all, we’re the home of “Fighting Bob” LaFollette and the Progressive movement, our state animal is the Badger (rugged as hell and vicious when provoked), and our state motto is “Forward.” We’re wired at an early age to cherish our civil rights and stand against injustice. To those who have risen up against Governor Walker’s Tea Party political agenda, the issue is as simple as that.
This controversy will not play itself out without further complexity; attempting to force frames on the debate blurs the fundamental issue at stake and does a disservice to those actually living on the Capitol Square. And your state may be next.