Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 6, 2020
MADISON — It’s interesting how often liberals forget how racist and sexist and bigoted their old progressive heroes were.
It’s even more curious when they disregard those facts in embracing past progressive victories.
Exhibit A: State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein.
In a recent column, the Middleton Democrat extolls the virtues of the progressive “Wisconsin Idea,” praising one its chief founders, Charles Van Hise.
“The Wisconsin Idea was born in 1905, when University of Wisconsin-Madison President Charles Van Hise said, ‘I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every family of the state,’” the lawmaker wrote in the liberal Capital Times.
Of course, Van Hise’s Wisconsin Idea was meant for his kind of people, not what he described as “defectives,” which the academician believed “should no longer be allowed to propagate.”
Van Hise demanded that the “defective classes” surrender control of their genetic resources … Whether by involuntary sterilization or segregation in asylums, hospitals and institutions, the methods of conserving human heredity, Van Hise warned, must be thorough-going.
Addressing a visiting delegation of more than 100 of Philadelphia’s leading citizens, which had come to Madison on an “expedition” to study the virtues of the Wisconsin Idea, Van Hise told them in 1913, “we know enough about eugenics so that if that knowledge were applied, the defective classes would disappear within a generation.
Just so we’re clear on this, eugenics is the racist “science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.”
So while Van Hise may be the father of the Wisconsin Idea, he held no beneficence for what he deemed the lesser citizens of his state.
Hesselbein must find Van Hise’s ideas about race an inconvenient truth as she urges the celebration of his vision for the state’s university system and beyond.
That’s tool-worthy. And that is why Rep. Dianne Hesselbein is Empower Wisconsin’s Tool of the Week.