In 1852, John Henry Newman gave a series of lectures that, for the first time, defined liberal education and codified the modern university. These lectures were later compiled into his classic, The Idea of a University. Newman says a liberal education forms a habit of mind that “lasts through life, of which the attributes are, … Continue reading Liberal Education in Today’s University
Thinking about white pine
My father was a carpenter and a cabinetmaker. He could distinguish different species of wood just from the smell and texture of sawdust in the shop or on the jobsite. The most abundant sawdust in his shop (and there was a lot of it) was from white pine. My father carried the resinous scent of … Continue reading Thinking about white pine
New England Violets and the Evolution of Species
Every spring, when the apples are flowering and the warblers are nesting, several thousand New England violets (Viola novae–angliae) bloom in northern Minnesota. New England violet is strikingly beautiful, one of the so–called stemless blue violets, the largest subgroup of over 70 species of violets in eastern North America. In the stemless violets, the leaves … Continue reading New England Violets and the Evolution of Species
The Ups and Downs of Wild Rice
Extreme population cycles are some of the most interesting aspects of life in the north. One year, a species may be quite sparse, and then a year or two later it is hard to avoid it. Charles Elton, who virtually founded modern population ecology with his study of vole, mice, hare, and lemming cycles in … Continue reading The Ups and Downs of Wild Rice
Cheaters in the soil: The ecology and evolution of Indian pipes
In early August this year, beneath the deep shade of old growth sugar maples, white pines, and northern red oaks in the teaching forest on my campus, Indian pipes were standing as translucently white as the finest candles. With their flowers nodding toward the forest floor, they looked like the clay pipes smoked by 17th century … Continue reading Cheaters in the soil: The ecology and evolution of Indian pipes
What to do after last week?
I suspect that many of you woke up last Wednesday after the election with a sinking feeling that the nation rejected rational thought, the bedrock of science that we all cherish and love. I wanted to say something to my students later that morning, but I didn’t want to sink into the despair and anger … Continue reading What to do after last week?
Petroglyphs on a Whaleback
I am in the Tweed Museum of Art on my campus, standing before a photograph by the Minnesota artist Vance Gellert, labeled Petroglyphs, Spirit Island, Nett Lake. Nett Lake is on the Bois Fort Reservation of the Lake Superior Ojibwe. Spirit Island is not the largest island in Nett Lake, but it is the most … Continue reading Petroglyphs on a Whaleback
A Beaver Pond in the Autumn Glory of the North Woods
There were plenty of chores to be done this fall – finish picking the last of the apples, harvesting the carrots, beets, and other root crops, transplanting wildflowers into the meadow and beneath the big spruces, extracting the honey from the beehive, and getting the firewood in. But the skies were bright blue, the temperatures … Continue reading A Beaver Pond in the Autumn Glory of the North Woods