Sunday, June 24, 2007

blown out of proportion? Why not have a class on it?

The Cap Times is reporting that UW-Madison is considering offering a Hmong studies program, although they don't seem to have much of an idea what that would entail.
The options sound wide open:

"One would be to offer Hmong language instruction in the next school year using university resources. In the past we have done this with outside funds."

Another option would be to develop a certificate program using existing courses already being offered on campus. Still another possibility would be the creation of a center that would pull together people already on campus who are interested in and involved with research in the Hmong community.

Finally, another option is a full-fledged Hmong studies program involving hiring new faculty.

"We are looking at these different options and considering which, or which combination, to pursue," [Dean of L&S] Sandefur said.

Now, considering the Wisconsin has the third highest settlement of Hmong individuals in the United States, this sounds like a good idea. With the Gen. Vang Pao controversy recently being added to Wisconsin's continuing misunderstandings of the Hmong community, a little more education is certainly in order. But do we have the resources for a serious dedication to this field of study? After all, our own professors are jumping ship because of the low-pay rate.

Now, if you want to set-up a certificate or a set of classes dealing with Hmong, that sounds fine and dandy. However, a discussion of further resources is unnerving. We're already losing professors at a prodigious rate. The engineering and business schools already raised tuition to try and lure more. With Doyle trying desperately to keep our professors from jumping ship with this $10 million retention package, should we really be thinking about hiring more professors for a department we haven't even created yet?

Stick to the simple stuff for now, methinks. If you want to teach more classes centered around Hmong culture, make sure you're sincere about it. Our reputation is tanking. It can be rebuilt with a stronger faculty, but adding on more weight to a system that's already straining doesn't work. It will only introduce a half-hearted ethnic studies program that adds even more problems to Wisconsin's relationship with the Hmong community.


Jenni said...

longtime listener, first time commentator...

i agree that starting a hmong program at madison is long overdue, but i also see your point about the school being in over its head. L&S has gotten to be such a joke, the language departments barely exist as it is, the education received through them is lacking at best.

glad you started a blog, jason, if it makes you happy, though in pointing out my lack of life in reading it so soon i feel like kind of a huge dork.

Critical Badger said...

Nice to see you've started a blog. You should link to my commentary, which seems to walk in step with your thoughts.