About

Kenneth A. Germanson, of Milwaukee WI. Born 1929 in Milwaukee. Graduate of Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 1951 (journalism, economics). Newspaper editor, reporter for 12 years; U.S. Navy Service in 1950s; more than 30 years as labor union official, 22 years as community worker.

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4 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear Ken,

    I’m mourning Howard Zinn. Somehow I thought he would live forever. He was a very important person in my life.

    The first time I met him in person was in Oshkosh at the WLHS conference in 1997 or 1998? Did anyone tape record his talk? Or is it written down somewhere? I know you wrote about it in the newletter.

    Thanks and peace,

    David Giffey

  2. Hi Ken,

    While I can’t be at the convention, I wanted you to know that I was thinking about it and you. Below is my column for this week.

    Best regards for a great conference,
    David Giffey

    Another story 15 – Home News – April 14, 2010 – Spring Green, Wisconsin

    by David Giffey

    Given an American penchant to name discussions, debates, and disagreements as “wars,” it was a relief to note the peaceful signing into law last December of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 172⎯Labor History in the Schools.

    That is not to say that passage of a law to make teaching labor history and collective bargaining part of the state’s standards for public schools was not a struggle. In the past 12 years, at least seven attempts to pass similar bills stalled or were defeated in the Wisconsin Assembly. But a year ago, AB 172 passed the assembly by a vote of 61-38, and in October 2009, the State Senate passed it 20-12.

    Even though the bill’s passage couldn’t be called party-neutral, 10 assembly Republicans and three GOP senators voted with Democrats for AB 172. Locally, Rep. Steven Hilgenberg, D-Dodgeville, was in favor, while Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, voted no.

    It took a concerted effort on the part of many people and organizations to enact what is believed to be the first such law in the nation. “Once again Wisconsin leads the way in progressive labor legislation,” said Steve Cupery, president of the Wisconsin Labor History Society (WLHS) in press releases. “We expect others will follow our example.”
    Cupery was referring the fact that Wisconsin laws paved the way nationally for workmen’s compensation (1911), industrial safety (1911), minimum wages (1913), child labor regulations (1920s), and unemployment compensation (1932).

    With such a notable record, it’s logical to expect that our state should also be out in front on the obvious need to teach young people about labor history. While the number of union workers has dwindled in recent years due to complicated reasons including powerful opposition from the growth-at-all-costs high-profit power structure, even the most rabid anti-unionist must admit that organized labor played a critical role in leading the American workforce to its place of primacy on the international scene in the 20th century. A good many people from working class families owed whatever economic gains they made to two things: their work ethic and the unions. Why not let students learn about that and draw their own conclusions?

    The Wisconsin Labor History Society was led, before Cupery, by Kenneth Germanson who worked tirelessly since the mid-1980s on behalf of teaching labor history in public schools. Talk to Germanson and you’ll hear a litany of labor’s contributions: the eight-hour day, health care insurance, vacations, Social Security and Medicare, and support for civil rights and voting rights. Ken will also brief you on labor’s heritage in Wisconsin with stories about the Bay View Tragedy and the Oshkosh woodworker strike of 1898. If you don’t know about those things, and if the labor history bill gains traction in classrooms, as it should, you’ll be able to ask your children about them in the future and maybe they can fill you in.

    The WLHS has put together a curriculum committee and will help supply teachers, school districts, parents, students, and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with historical material. Implementing the new law will be a topic at the WLHS annual conference this week in Milwaukee. Ultimately, the information gathered will be available through the DPI.

    At the other end of the educational spectrum from Wisconsin’s enlightened law, we should be aware of the darkened changes in store to social studies, history, and economics textbooks thanks to radical revisions being approved by the Texas Board of Education. In a nutshell, Texas is a huge consumer of textbooks and, therefore, manages to drive the content of books published for use across the nation according to the decisions of its state board of education. This year, in-depth reports tell of a majority of ultra-conservative Texas board members who voted to effectively canonize Ronald Reagan, delete hip-hop from American culture, elevate Jefferson Davis to Abraham Lincoln’s level, white-wash Joseph McCarthy’s harrowing demagoguery, and convert most if not all of the founding fathers into fervently practicing Christians, posthumously.

    Reports say all this stuff will be approved in the Lone Star State in May, so it would be a good idea to check out your student’s textbooks in coming years, if the district can afford to buy new ones anytime soon.

    The Washington Post quoted UW-Madison professor emeritus Paul S. Boyer, who writes textbooks, as saying that changes that would be required in his books to meet the Texas mandates would make him uncomfortable endorsing his own work.

    One of the more astounding revisions reported would remove Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum as an example of Enlightenment era thinking, and replace him with John Calvin. Talk about another story!

  3. Just discovered your website today. Thank you for doing it – I hope to see it regularly and share it.

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