Hi, I’m Kathy. I’m from UW-Madison. Do you mind if I join you?”
Those words, or some variation, provided an introduction at gas stations, coffee shops, cafes and churches across small-town Wisconsin.
While those of us ensconced in Madison scratch our heads about why so many in Wisconsin appear to dislike or distrust us, associate professor Katherine Cramer Walsh ventured out to hear it first-hand. So how did people respond? They were uniformly friendly, she says, but bewildered as to why she was there. “You should have seen their faces,” she says, smiling.
What she found is a big disconnect. For example: “When you ask, ‘What does hard work mean to you? Who does hard work?’ I would give examples like a waitress or someone who works in the lumber industry. Then I would say ‘professor’ and people would just laugh. Like, ‘give me a break.'”