Understanding Illinois: Rauner and Education in New Year

NowlanDecember 31, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has pledged to roll back income tax increases and boost funding for education. I have suggested in this space that to do both this coming year would take greater prestidigitation than the great Harry Houdini displayed when thrown into a freezing river in a strait jacket and chains (Houdini survived, by the way).
So, what should the incoming governor do for education? If anyone asks my opinion (no one has), here are some thoughts.
Most schools hold school longer each year than we do, and for 6½-7 hours each day rather than our six. I found an old United Nations survey of school going. Of the 50 nations that responded, 42 went for more than 180 days (we are at about 175-180) and 20 held school for between 210-239 days per year. Read More

Grown and Sewn in the US

Bill Bailey, WIUDecember 31, 2014

by William C Bailey
Professor, Western Illinois University

There is growing consumer preference in the US for local foods. Defining local foods is a little elusive, but the key concept seems to be a desire to bring farmers and consumers closer together. In the process, the importance of food manufacturers, shippers, and retailers is reduced. This concept was addressed here five years ago when I mentioned the disinterest of major food processors, such as Bear Naked Cereal, to interact with consumers. In contrast, Kewanee based Country Morning Coffee, says, on its website, “We love to hear from you”. Read More

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

December 24, 2014

It's been 117 years since Virginia O'Hanlon sought the truth about Santa from the New York Sun.

In over a century, the lives of children — and their parents—have increased in complexity by a factor of ten.

Man landed on the moon, communism rose and fell, countries changed names and borders, Elvis begat Jagger, who in turn led to "gangsta rap". The kidnap and murder of children, which made world headlines for the Lindbergh family, now touches the lives of hundreds of families annually. Children begin learning at ages two and three about "stranger danger," AIDS and sexual abuse.

The age of innocence is gone.

But that doesn't mean that Virginia O'Hanlon's innocent question to an anonymous editor is irrelevant in today's world. Far from it.

Today, more than ever, we all need to be reminded of the good that dwells in even the meanest spirit, of the hope that fires our most ambitious dreams. That, yes, there is a Santa Claus, and he lives in all our hearts.

So here, as a Christmas gift to us all, is Francis Pharcellus Church's editorial response to Virginia, first printed in The New York Sun on Sept. 21, 1897. Merry Christmas.

"We take pleasure in an-swering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

'Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.' Read More

Understanding Illinois: Prison Not for Everyone

NowlanDecember 17, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

In the 1990s, I once co-taught a college course in history at the Henry Hill prison in Galesburg. I vividly recall that after class the first evening, a young, slender blonde fellow came up to me with a desperate look in his eyes.

“Are you a lawyer? (No) Well, anyway, please help me get out of here!” the young man pleaded. There was nothing I could do.

At the time, Illinois prisons were basically run by the gangs. That is no longer the case, I am told, but if you squeeze 49,000 Illinois inmates into space for 32,000, as the state does, there is a lot more opportunity for the bad guys to teach the new guys the wrong ways to live life.

Not much good goes on in prison, and education programs have been cut way back because of state budget problems. Read More

Farm Bureau Update: Awards Aplenty

HarveyDecember 17, 2014

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

In the last month farmers have still been tirelessly working in the fields and trying to accomplish as much fall field work they can get done before the weather changes. In the past month numerous tractors, chisels, tool bars, and anhydrous ammonia tanks have been rolling around the area. With this I ask all of you to be cautious when coming up on the machinery. Even with a good amount of this machinery being smaller than planters and combines, caution needs to always be used. With the end of harvest and winter fast approaching, many farmers are working on cleaning and preparing their equipment for winter. With winter also comes informational meetings that farmers may take advantage of to learn about new seed, equipment, and other inputs that they use on a yearly basis. Winter time is also a time for farmers to start planning for the new year- even though machinery may not be running in the fields, farmers stay very busy with other aspects of farming. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Justice to the Highest Bidder?

NowlanDecember 10, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Serious political money has begun to infect judicial elections in Illinois (and across the nation). What should be done about it, if anything? Will we do it?
I am still rankled by the election for the Illinois Supreme Court more than a decade ago. At the last minute Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan poured about a million dollars into a campaign for unknown Thomas Kilbride of Rock Island to defeat a highly qualified candidate in Carl Hawkinson of Galesburg (Harvard Law; distinguished service as chair of the state senate judiciary committee).
(By the way, Mr. Kilbride may have developed into a fine justice; I just don’t know. And that is the problem: you and I just don’t know.)
I think that election was the start of it. Then in 2004, business, health care and trial lawyer interests spent almost $10 million in a state Supreme Court race in southern Illinois won by Republican Lloyd Karmeier. Read More

Leaving a Legacy of Our Lives

December 10, 2014

by Sarah Hudson Pierce
Guest Columnist

One of the best gifts we can give to our children is to write our stories down so that so that future generations will know where they came from.
Storytelling has become mostly a lost art. Before the days of television the family sat around and told stories while the children prepared to go to sleep.
I find few things more fascinating than researching my family history because I knew so little having grown up in an orphanage. I’ve located more living, long-lost relatives than anyone I know.
And within those family groups, I’ve received a few copies of stories written by my second cousin Mildred Pettis-Leighton who mentioned with fondness my mother’s visit with them one Christmas, shortly after my 25-year-old grandmother died in an underground sod house, in Woods County, Oklahoma, when my mother was only two. Read More

LTE: 12.10.14

The Star Atop

The happiest of anniversaries is here again. In the jubilation of family gatherings and the exchange of gifts let us not forget the bigger thoughts and blessings which Christmas should bring.
Here on the banks of the Marrowbone in the Valley of the West Okaw our spirits and thoughts are lifted as we view the myriad displays of lights and decorations that proclaim the birth of the Son of God. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Can Civics Make a Difference?

NowlanDecember 3, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

There is a push by a small but dedicated band (I am on the fringe of the group) that advocates for civics to be a required course in Illinois schools.

Could civics education cure, over time, what ails us when it comes to corruption, low voter turnout and a possibly declining sense of civic virtue? I think so, but it will take years.

The problem is that civics advocates are among a long list of boosters trying to claw back some time, respectively, for arts, music, geography, physical education, character education, and more. Read More

Growing up in Sullivan: Some Memories of Christmases Past

GintherDecember 3, 2014

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

Many of my generation will remember the fragrance of a fresh douglas fir or spruce Christmas tree. Some may remember actually harvesting a tree from a wooded area where you could pick your tree and cut it yourself. There were grower/vendors in some areas that allowed cutting your own. During the ‘40s and ‘50s, my childhood years, most families would purchase a new, live tree each year to display the colorful ornaments and lights in their homes. Today, most of the trees are artificial, flame-retardant and serviceable for many years. However, it seems to me that these holidays are coming around more frequently, and I’m putting our tree together and taking it apart more often than I used to in years past. Read More