WNIJ Perspectives

Perspective: Leadership In The Time Of Pandemic

Apr 1, 2020

In a few short weeks COVID-19 has come to grip the nation. Practically overnight we are uncomfortably settling into economic uncertainty, self-quarantining, online education, and accepting social distancing.

All the while, unfortunately, the leadership coming out of Washington is often contradictory, confused, and uncertain. It seems as though the most important message on the mind of the White House is how great of a job Mr. Trump is doing -- a dubious, self-righteous, point-missing affront to the grave urgency of the moment, a moment that grows exponentially more dire daily.

NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory / NOAA

I imagine there’s an unwritten law in public radio not to talk about astrology, at least in any serious way, but in these trying times maybe there’s an exception.


So I checked in with my favorite stargazer, Rob Brezsny. I have followed his “Freewill Astrology” forecasts, periodically, for many years. His is a whimsical approach, full of anecdotes and mythological references, lighthearted but insightful.


Perspective: Physically Distant, Socially Together

Mar 30, 2020

Stay six feet apart. Don’t leave home except for groceries and essentials. Don’t go to the playground and don’t go visit your neighbors. Spray all the doorknobs with Lysol every hour. This is all excellent advice for keeping your body healthy. It isn’t such a great way to nurture your soul.

Perspective: What's A 'Full-Blooded American?'

Mar 27, 2020

Like many Americans, I recently completed the 2020 Census online. I was prepared to engage in an act of civil disobedience -- refusing to answer any question about citizenship. Thankfully, I didn't need to. 


Perspective: Proceed With Grace

Mar 26, 2020
Aaron Thomas / Unsplash

As I contemplated what to write for this edition of perspectives, my mind kept returning to the recent day when my son returned from his freshman year of college several months early. I came home from work that evening and there he was in the kitchen. Cooking dinner! Lemon pepper baked fish.

Now this is a big deal. Unlike my 15-year-old son who readily fries himself bacon in the middle of the night, and cooks hamburgers on the frying pan for a snack, my eldest does not necessarily find himself comfortable in the kitchen.

Perspective: Struggling With Habits

Mar 25, 2020
Michael Kilcoyne / Unsplash

Right now, it's impossible to claim ignorance of all the warnings to prevent contagion of coronavirus. We must wash our hands as often as possible. We should keep our distance from other people, stay well hydrated and, finally, not touch our face.

Now, most people can follow directions well, but there's always a subset that will do the opposite. It's not deliberate, they just can't help it. I learned that I'm one of them when I realized that I touch my face. A lot. All the time.

Perspective: Looking For The Light

Mar 24, 2020
GeorgiaLens / Pixabay

The cardinal comes at dawn.

His spiky silhouette backlit against a copper sky, the bare branches of our backyard woods his amphitheatre.

He is the first one to sing, heralding the coming of a new day.  The moon is still up too, hanging opposite the sunrise, its silver essence shimmering in a sea of pale blue.

Rising early after a fretful night of sleep, I am grateful to have found this moment, for I am looking for the light, and I’m sure you are too.

Perspective: Missing The Kids

Mar 23, 2020
Wokandapix / Pixabay


As I record this perspective, it is now day four of our school district’s shut down because of COVID-19, and I’m about stark raving loony for two reasons.

First, e-learning is going to be no substitute for the intellectual fervor of a good class discussion. And second, junior high kids are hilarious, so I’m missing the dozens of good laughs I often get in a day. None of us will be getting the “brain food” to which we are accustomed.

Then there’s the problem with kids getting actual food.

Perspective: Tips For Teaching Under Quarantine

Mar 20, 2020
Eunice DeFaria / Pixabay

Due to the corona virus, all schools have suspended face-to-face instruction and are in the process of moving everything to online delivery. At NIU, online classes begin Monday. So today, I simply want to run through a list of helpful hints for making a successful transition.

Perspective: It's Up To Us

Mar 19, 2020
congerdesign / Pixabay

Now we find ourselves in a national contagion of fear and loathing. Fear of a deadly invisible virus. Loathing of fellow Americans.

Fear because the number of people getting sick will double every six days. We all do the math to calculate the chances of dying for ourselves and loved ones.

Everyone will know someone the virus takes. We wonder, who will be the Rock Hudson of Covid19?

Perspective: A Reprimand Instead Of A Reward

Mar 18, 2020
Mark Duffel / Unsplash

As a participant in a leadership seminar over twenty years ago, a campus police officer at the UW-Madison shared his incredible story.

He was doing his rounds at 2 a.m. when he noticed a young man standing on the top floor of a parking garage. Instinct told him that something was wrong, so he approached and engaged the young man in conversation. As suspected, he intended to jump. My colleague persuaded him to come to his office, had a long conversation, and lined up professional care. This dedicated officer spent four hours saving a life.

Perspective: Obsessed With Progress

Mar 17, 2020
DarkWorkX / Pixabay

Recently, I read a statement in a religious journal, “Most of the rest of the world does not understand life through a Western worldview. We in the West are the anomaly.” The author, Randy Woodley (May, 2019 Sojourners), claims that we in the Euro-West have interpreted life primarily from a Western Enlightenment perspective, going back to Platonic dualism inherited from the Greeks. This dualism values the realm of the abstract –- spirit, soul, mind –- above the concrete realm of earth, body, material. 

Perspective: Timing Is Really Everything

Mar 16, 2020
Jan Vasek / Pixabay

By now it seems obvious that timing IS everything. We all want to be in the right place at the right time. None of us wants, when it rains soup, to show up with a fork. 

How many ways can one say that timing is everything? Shakespeare’s Brutus was eloquent: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Brutus was right in general, but he ended up losing the battle to Marc Antony. 

Perspective: Make Mental Health A Priority

Mar 13, 2020

On March 17th voters will be asked to approve a half-cent increase in our sales tax to provide a source of funding for mental health services in Winnebago County.

Advocates say the revenue from such a tax would allow Winnebago County to build a sustainable safety net for residents in need of mental health and addiction treatment services.

Perspective: A Little Girl And A Daisy

Mar 12, 2020
Lyndon Johnson campaign ad / Wikimedia

We first see a little girl counting as she plucks the petals from a daisy. A countdown starts -- and then a mushroom cloud fills the screen. This was an ad for Democratic presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson when he was running against arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. The year was 1964 and we had witnessed the birth of the modern political ad. 


Perspective: Behind Every Candidate...

Mar 11, 2020
pjedrzejczyk, OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

They’re everywhere. campaign signs littering the landscape, material crowding your mailboxes, the knock on the door and so much more -- democracy in action. Welcome to the election cycle! The stage is set for the typically low voter turnout on March 17th, the Illinois Primary.  


Perspective: What Are YOU Going To Do About Microplastics?

Mar 10, 2020
Elsa Glover

Occasionally, our Perspectives author Elsa Glover turns over regularly scheduled spot to her colleagues and students who have something to say. This time, she asked students in Clinton Rosette Middle School's Green Club to talk about something important to them. Melanie Hernandez and Julia Glover worked together to research, write, and deliver their Perspective.

Perspective: Stand Up And Be Counted

Mar 9, 2020
adapted from work by Karen Arnold / Pixabay

April 1st, 2020 is fast approaching. This year it is not an ordinary April Fool’s Day. This April 1st is Census Day 2020. The day that has been designated for everyone to be counted. Everyone regardless of your citizenship status. Everyone is counted regardless of age. And you will be counted where you are living on that day. 


Niek Verlaan / Pixabay (edited)

Halfway into President Trump’s first year in office, WNIJ broadcast my Perspective calling for the Democrats to do a better job of marketing their strengths, which include competent leadership and positive, though incremental, progress toward more freedoms and fair treatment for all. 


Perspectives: Technology Can Help IRL Friendships

Mar 5, 2020
Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

Have you heard about the new smartphone apps that help you keep track of your friendships? With names like UpHabit and Dex, these apps provide users with a place to store information about their friends. Like birthdays, shared interests, and how often they get together. You can even set up regular reminders to schedule phone calls and meet-ups. It’s like a spreadsheet for friendship engagement. 


Perspective: The Beauty Of Symmetric Frequencies

Mar 4, 2020

Not long ago, while walking back to my office after teaching, I passed in front of a classroom and happened to hear a colleague beginning her own class with these words: "And that's the beauty of symmetric frequencies."

I have no idea what "symmetric frequencies" are. In fact, those are two concepts I cannot associate. Symmetry to me is something graphic or visual, while frequency is a notion that I connect with either physics or statistics. In what field could anyone use these two such disparate concepts together?

Perspective: The Humblest Gift

Mar 3, 2020
Katie Andraski

Glory be to God for poop. After a forty-degree temperature change and full water buckets, across two days, I was relieved to see big piles of manure in the mares’ wet, dirty stalls. I was relieved to see buckets drained and bright eyes and soft hellos, sounding like huh, huh, huh, with a flittering of their noses, greeting me. 


YouComMedia / Pixabay

A vital key to Democratic Party success requires genuine and painful introspection. The party alienated a core constituency that must be welcomed back home.

Perspective: Hands

Feb 28, 2020

OK. The other day I was staring at my hands and thinking about the power and magic they hold.

You realize this when you take the time to think about it. And I did …  after seeing an image we’ve all seen hundreds of times.

Two people, their hands intertwined. People connecting. Love.

Think about how often this image -- just the hands -- is used and the variety of ways it’s used to spark immediate emotion.

Our world has been bent and shaped to blend with our hands. Including how we communicate. 

Hands on. Hands up. 

Perspective: A Wonderful Life In 2020

Feb 27, 2020
public domain

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is shown a world without him, and as we know, it’s pretty grim. That got me to thinking…what if one day an ill-intentioned angel granted the wish of an extremist who thinks the world’s populace should be homogeneous?

I wake up, turn on my radio and find…well, obviously, no hip hop or R & B -- no more Elvis Presley -- rock ‘n’ roll is gone. Country -- maybe some bluegrass. Jazz -- also missing from my playlist.

Perspective: It's OK To Be Your Best

Feb 26, 2020
AxxLC / Pixabay

I recently switched careers, trading comfort of routine and wealth of accumulated knowledge for the challenges of the unfamiliar and unknown. Suddenly, I knew very little about my job. It seemed I’d be spending so much time “learning the ropes” that I’d be inefficient, ineffective, and my performance unsatisfactory. My solution ended up being a big mistake: Devote every spare minute to my new job.

Committing myself wholly to my new job, it didn’t take long for my relationships with my wife and children to suffer. An uneven work-life balance was not a sustainable solution.

Perspective: Feathers, Beads, And Beignets

Feb 25, 2020
Phil Denton, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

I had started writing my perspective about some dreary, political topic when it dawned on me that it would air on Mardi Gras -- so I happily changed gears to immerse myself in all things carnival! 


Perspective: Why Black History Month?

Feb 24, 2020

In 1926, to push back on both the lack of accurate African American representation in curriculum and unrealistic, offensive representations in popular culture, the great African American historian and educator Carter G. Woodson initiated Negro History Week, situating the week in February, the month of Fredrick Douglass’ and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. Later in 1976, the week expanded to a month.

Perspective: Let Them Know You Appreciate Them

Feb 21, 2020

Sometimes, small gestures can have a huge impact. That was the case recently, when I found a message in my Twitter inbox from a student I had taught almost forty years ago, when he was a fifth grader. Ironically, the message came after he heard one of my Perspectives. He is now a teacher himself, and that made his message even more gratifying.

Perspective: Wisdom In The Strangest Places

Feb 20, 2020

I found wisdom this winter in the strangest of places, as one often does. It was in the dark, sitting next to my daughter, who is four years old.

Before us on the screen: A young woman, believing her sister had died, found herself faced with the unimaginable. What does she do?

She doesn’t let go. She owns it. And moves forward with five simple, profound, and freeing words: “Do the next right thing.”