All the Madison area schools are canceled today for cold, including the schools in Madison itself. Madison schools are always the last to close. I know that from my many years of checking for school closings when my sons were young. I'd watch a long list of cities and towns scroll slowly across the TV screen, and even when the list was long, Madison would still be missing. Madison almost never shuts down for snow, and the main reason is that we expect it and, because we have enough snow and enough money to make it worth preparing, we prepare. But there is nothing to be done about cold. No trucks can plow it out of our path, and dealing with it must be left to individuals and families. It's up to them to figure out how to prepare for the winter, and if they are to send their children to school on the coldest days, they've got to figure out what kind of clothing to buy and spend the money for it.
Right now, the temperature in downtown Madison is minus 15°, with wind chill calculated at minus 31°. If weather like this were quite common, the school authorities might assume that parents had gotten their act together and committed the family funds to buying proper outerwear for their kids. But it really isn't rational for them to spend this kind of money on their kids -- who, of course, constantly grow out of things. Like a southern city that shuts down whenever it snows, parents are right to have no plan for clothing their children to go out on really cold days like today.
Even if you assumed that all parents did what informed, rational parents should do, the school district would need to conclude that attendance will be so low that the schools should close. In real life, some parents would decide to send their kids out in the warmest clothes they had, and children could get hurt. It's best not to create the conditions for that to happen. Keep the kids home.
But how about the University? We never close! I canceled class once in over 20 years, because it was in the middle of a big storm, but even then, the University didn't close. We're all adults here, and you're expected to dress yourself properly. Certainly, by the time you're old and smart enough to go to law school, you should know what to do. Your mom and dad aren't dressing you anymore. You're responsible for yourself. The institution isn't going to protect you from your mistakes. If we were, I'd be going up to every other kid I see on campus on bitterly cold days and telling him or her to put on a hat.
Here's a picture Nina took on campus on Saturday. See the woman on the left? She represents a theory of mine:
There is never a day in Madison when more than half the students walking outside on campus are wearing hats. But folks, if you're reading this, mom wants you to wear a hat.
The young woman on the right also has a good idea with the scarf over the face. If it's less than 4 below, you need a scarf over your nose or you can feel the air icing up inside your nasal passage. Take that as a sign that you need a scarf. And look at how both women are completely unprotected from the waist down. The hatless woman appears to be wearing canvas sneakers. You really do need a long, down coat and some kind of warm shoes.
But you are adults, so look out for yourselves.
And lest anyone think that I've written this post to cast doubt on theories about global warming, let me say that if you've read this post with understanding and without the usual emotional static, you should see that the implication is that people are less prepared for cold when they encounter less of it. The new -- I think it's new -- phenomenon of closing for cold is -- if anything -- a sign that we've been having warmer winters.