Kurt Meyer

Monarchs merit royal care

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

Who doesn’t love butterflies, especially monarch butterflies?

Let me share several verbal bouquets I encountered in reading articles about monarchs. “Showy looks.” “Extraordinary migration.” “One of the natural world’s wonders,” and, “one of the continent’s most beloved insects.” Unfortunately, I also came across some very troubling terms, like “endangered,” “vulnerable populations,” “declining precipitously” and “teeter(ing) on the edge of collapse.” Suffice to say, it all captured my attention.

Monarchs have been in the news a great deal lately. Appropriately so.

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The boy written out of "The Music Man"

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

I led a life-long learning class at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City this month. My subject: “Midwestern History as Told by Midwestern Authors,” a topic I selected last fall, when pandemic-limited plans prompted me to read (or re-read) various regional writers.

My premise has always been that history is much more than just key dates and major events. We benefit from knowing how previous generations lived, what they valued, and how they engaged in society. Greater understanding gives us a more enlightened perspective while strengthening our community ties. This doesn’t generally come about by reading history tomes – since most of us won’t – but rather by reading authors who set their fictional or autobiographical works in the Midwest.

In preparation, I stumbled upon a story that ran in the New York Times last December, although I missed it at the time. It involves North Iowa’s own Meredith Willson.

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Doors swinging outward?

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

I’m primarily of Nordic ancestry, somewhere between 62 and 83 percent. Let’s say, approximately three-quarters. Despite my Germanic name, my family tree is rooted in Norway, as is my wife Paula’s. Mindful of this heritage, Paula and I traveled to Norway with my parents in 1998, to visit locations from which our ancestors departed almost 150 years earlier to begin their new lives in the U.S.

One community we sought out was Grue, population 5,000. As we entered town, in the best Norwegian tradition, we made for a local coffee shop. The waitress asked if our visit was linked to the Grue Church fire.

Not really. But wait, what Grue church fire? (Clearly, we had not done our homework.) No, we were there mostly to gaze upon tombstones of distant relatives. But tell us a bit about this fire…

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Iowa drops in education rankings

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

If you’re confused about myriad rankings that evaluate public education in Iowa, join the club. I note that Iowa did not fare well in a recent U.S. News & World Report ranking of best high schools—number 48 of 51. But it’s always possible, due partially to the proliferation of rating approaches, to find results where Iowa fares somewhat better.

Wow, 48th! We somehow managed to edge out Nebraska and Oklahoma (Maine, too, since apparently they didn’t grant permission to use Advanced Placement data in their evaluation). Now, we shouldn’t get blown too far off course by one poor ranking, although it’s worth noting, U.S. News & World Report now markets themselves as “the global authority in education rankings.”

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Poetic justice?

Editor’s note: This column contains discussion of sexual abuse.

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

Two decades ago, I became dimly aware of the poet Richard Eberhart. Not because of anything he had written or done recently to breach my knowledge gap. Rather, because he was from Austin (Minnesota), as was Dad’s family. Despite his minimal interest in poetry, it was Dad who first brought Eberhart to my attention, logical in light of their shared Austin background.

My curiosity piqued, I began investigating. “Who’s this famous poet… from AUSTIN?”

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An Iowa classic (and others) rebranded

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

A product with deep Iowa connections recently reached the century mark: the ice cream treat now known as “Edy’s Pie”, which, until a year ago, was called Eskimo Pie.

An outgrowth of the George Floyd tragedy has been increased awareness of racial stereotypes that have existed for decades. Eskimo Pie’s owner sought to abandon a word considered derogatory by its association with non-Native colonizers who settled in the Arctic and used the term. Although some changes, like this one, happened recently, others have been under consideration for many years.

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