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The Professor

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If people took professors more seriously, this would be a better world.

I'm thinking of a humanities professor at a local college. His desire to help make the world better than he found it has been constantly thwarted by narrow minds. For example, his grant to underwrite a "scratch-and-sniff edition of the English poets" could well have revolutionized the teaching of literature, but it was rejected by fools in Washington.

For the past twenty-five years, the professor has dedicated his life to his Great Idea, the idea, he likes to say, he was sent to Earth to think. Apparently, no one was sent to receive it.

The Great Idea came to him on a vacation in Florida in 1971. Coming across a herd of miniature horses no more than twenty inches high, a light bulb lit up. Why not do the same thing with humans and eliminate two of earth's greatest problems: population and dwindling resources.

He sketched out a plan to miniaturize humans and presented it to the United Nations in New York. The change would have to be gradual. At first only people over six feet tall would be prohibited from having children. In a generation or two, humans would be perceptibly shorter, on average. By gradually reducing the height limits, the human race could be reduced to what the Professor feels is its optimum height: say three feet.

What a brave new world it would be. Every building could double its floors. A twenty-story hotel would become forty stories. Bungalows would become two story houses. No more crowded spaces; plenty of room for all.

Small humans would need a fraction of the food and natural resources they formerly required. A single sheep to clothe a whole family. A Big Mac would require a doggie bag.

And where do you think such forward thinking has gotten Professor these past twenty-five years? TV studios avoid him, newspapers have stopped publishing his letters to the editor, and the United Nations has informed its security guards to escort him out the door.

A fate, many professors could tell you, is par for the course.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.