Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

It takes a village, not just an edict

Governor Scott Walker, Executive Order #54, Penn State, Child Abuse

Dear Governor Walker,

Thanks for your concern about the responsibilities we University employees have for children in our state. Caring about them and for them is a sacred trust, whether we do it as parent, coach, teacher, neighbor, citizen, or governor.

The Northwestern Reporter says your executive order (#54), requiring all University employees to act almost as mandated reporters, "was prompted by the ongoing turmoil at Penn State, and not from any Wisconsin-based issues. UW employees might not have known how to react when they suspect child abuse, and the new rule helps spell it out."

The part about people not knowing how to react is exactly right. When we fail to do the right thing in such situations, it's usually because we are taken by surprise, in a kind of shock of disbelief, discomfort, and lack of knowledge or training. Educating and showing us how prepares us: as you often say, it gives us tools.

But issuing a Christmastime edict with threat of punishment for failure to comply is a teensy bit heavy handed. And it's only part of a tool--the handle of the hammer, maybe. Sure, you can beat someone about the head with it. But you can't really drive the nail home with it. There's a lot of PR bang in this order, but not much to make kids whole again or change the way so many predators prey on them. After all, few University employees ever encounter children in their jobs.

Speaking for myself and not as a University spokesperson, we folks in the University trenches aren't the bad guys here--or at least, most of us aren't. We don't need to be threatened to get on board with stopping abuse. It's the right thing to do. It seems like a conversation with the University requesting such a policy would have done the trick.

In the Walker Family holiday message (, your wife calls on us to move forward together. I bet she knows it's much easier to make that happen with cooperation than with commands. By making allies, not adversaries, of your kids. It works that way in the bigger world outside the home, too.

May the New Year bring us all into cooperative conversation. If we walk side by side while we talk, we'll find we don't have to yell at each other so much.

And may we all see ourselves as heroes in the fight against abuse, whether we work for the University or not.



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