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Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 4 (Fall 1974)

Najem, Robert E.
The Wisconsin Humanities Committee: what's it all about?,   pp. 25-26

Cameron, Bea
Take this...,   p. 26

Page 26

  The Wisconsin Humanities
Committee is trying to bring the
humanists with their expertise in
the study of values together with
people to discuss public policy
issues. A town meeting, lecture se-
ries, workshop, conference-what-
ever format encourages a public
discussion of current social issues
-is in order. These could include
human rights, health, ecology, ed-
ucation, economy, aging, urban
and rural development or decline,
crime, transportation, and other
issues which often affect or are
affected by public policies. Each
of the fifty states has a humanities
program; each one has a theme.
In Wisconsin it's taxation.
  It's all about taxation then. Our
first impulse is to turn the whole
question of taxation over to the
political scientist and run. But with
a little time and some thought, the
focusing of the humanities on tax-
ation becomes challenging, excit-
ing, and illuminating. The Wis-
consin Humanities Committee
accepted the challenge. In 1973,
after working with people from
throughout the state, the Commit-
tee decided on the broad theme
of taxation. It then narrowed the
focus to how monies were raised
and spent. Finally, and most im-
portant, the need to discuss the
human values which support our
tax structure surfaced. "Human
Values at Stake in Public Taxing
and Spending" evolved and was
unanimously accepted as the
theme. Everyone agreed it was
most timely and much needed.
  The stage has been set then for
a series of talks throughout Wis-
consin on the multiple facets of
taxation. We could explore how
they impinge on or facilitate our
daily lives. In these discussions,
humanists, minority groups,
school administrators, civic or-
ganizations, journalists, media
representatives, senior citizens, al-
dermen, extension agents, county
board members, single parents,
property owners-to suggest only
a few-could creatively develop
proposals. The general topic is
taxation; the place could be any-
where and the audience just about
anyone if humanists are present.
  In the discussions so generated,
the historian could contrast the
fundamental differences in tax
policies between a democratic so-
ciety and others. The professor
of literature might probe recent
novels of Bellow, Updike, and
Vonnegut to explore contempo-
rary American values and the tax
structure and tax exemptions they
suggest. The philosopher could
ask the big questions, examine
current priorities, and dramatize
the discrepancies between our
ideal values and working values.
Should the property tax bear the
brunt of supporting schools? Are
the unmarried taxed too much?
Should we have public supported
day care centers? Together with
people from every walk of life, the
humanist will be able to center the
value of history, literature, and
philosophy in these and other
issues such as welfare, court re-
form, women's rights, the energy
crisis, pollution problems, educa-
tio n, transportation, and land
use. These are some specific ap-
proaches to general tax questions.
  Whatever the issue, the human-
ists will encourage us to be con-
cerned about our value choices,
our ethical judgments, and their
ramifications. They will pose ques-
tions of rights and responsibilities.
They will clarify issues through
an historic perspective and suggest
alternatives through comparisons
or contrasts with events in other
   This is the function of the hu-
manist in any culture, but particu-
larly in a democracy. In discuss-
ing "Human Values at Stake in
Public Taxing and Spending," the
Wisconsin Humanities Committee
invites the citizen and the humanist
to participate in what may be
some of the most important dis-
cussions of 1974 and 1975.
         *      *     *
Editor's Note: Guidelines for pro-
posal preparation are available
by writing the Wisconsin Humani-
ties Committee, 816 State Street,
Madison, Wisconsin 53706, or by
phoning (608) 262-0706. The
theme "Human Values at Stake in
Public Taxing and Spending" will
be in effect through fall, 1975.
Take This...
By Bea Cameron
Take this pain, I said to the words,
carry it away.
And when I looked up
they stood again at my shoulder.
I saw then that they had come to conduct me
through unaltering twilights:
past where a man stood singing
alone in a field of grass,
past the dead crouched
like urns, like beggars
without hands, along the raw-ripped road
down to the blue underground passage-
There was a woman guarding your chamber,
I gave her a letter for you,
did you hear, 0 did you hear.

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