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For the Historians

The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942
The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942.

What would the Greatest Generation think of us?


I had to write a paper for a doc class this summer that examined the history of community colleges in a national, state, and local context, an assignment that gave me the opportunity to revisit Bill Moose’s very good history of Mitchell Community College. The college’s narrative is one of institutional persistence, of the gut-borne determination to survive.

In the fall of 1918, as the first World War was drawing to a close, the flu pandemic forced Mitchell to close its doors and send its students home. The town mostly shuttered and folks stayed put. The college’s women returned in December; they attended classes six days a week to make up for lost time, taking only Sundays and Christmas Day off.

In the spring of 1919, the flu returned, but this time the college stayed open. Women’s colleges of the day were unapologetically strict about letting their fragile charges wander outside the buildings anyway, so this version of a “stay-at-home” order fit in naturally with the college’s normal operations.

From Behind Our Silver Screens

The world needs us to be good people right now. Can we rise to the occasion?


Sunday mornings, I usually get a short chirp from my phone that’s different from all the rest–it’s my weekly pop-up that tells me how much time I’ve spent with my head down, looking at its tiny screen. I quietly celebrate the weeks when Apple tells me I’ve used its miracle box less than the week before. In the wake of a pandemic and our national pleas for quarantine, I’m guessing those streaks are coming to an end.

Lots of people have spilled lots of ink collectively worrying out loud that our obsessiveness with social media, apps, and the like drives us apart. We are isolated by our devices, self-sorted into silos and echo chambers, spared the humanity of having to look each other in the eyes and come up with something to say. The internet has ruined us, they cry. God save the Millennials!

As the phrase “social distancing” no doubt battles for contention as Webster’s word of the year, isn’t this what we’ve all been preparing for?

Gaining Altitude

AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN

Sometimes a better perspective involves increasing one’s elevation.


We landed in Denver in mid-afternoon, embarking upon only our third trip sans offspring, picking up a rental car and heading into the mountains. We’d picked Colorado because neither of us had ever been and because two of our favorite bands were playing a concert together at Red Rocks. We’d left without making any solid plans beyond hotel accommodations. It was my first time on an airplane in a year and a half.*

Whomever settled the city of Denver surely must have done so because it’s the last stretch of reasonable flat land before everything gives way to brown, stony mountains. Let’s stop here, I imagine they said. Seems good enough.

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