It’s been a tough year in Edina, the small town on the west side with a dream. Yes, we made the All Hockey Hair Team, but our varsity boys’ team stumbled in the state tournament. Thankfully, the girls’ team won its second straight, so another banner will fly at Braemar Arena.
But away from the rink, trouble brewed. The Center of the American Experiment carpet-bombed every residence in Edina last fall with a publication that alleged a liberal bias in Edina schools. A related group endorsed three conservative candidates in our nonpartisan school board election, one of whom won. And yet another related group sued the School District, alleging that the young conservatives club had been banned at the high school. Each of these incidents garnered headlines in the Star Tribune.
Behind the headlines, however, lies the real truth: Edina is doing just fine, thank you very much. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 2017 graduates of Edina High School had the highest average ACT scores of any public high school in the state at 26.3, besting our rivals Minnetonka (25.7), Wayzata (25.4) and Orono (25.1). Somehow, these data didn’t make it into any of Katherine Kersten’s columns.
The school board seems to have weathered the partisan storm, at least for this cycle. Back in November, my mom’s hairdresser told her that she was voting for some of the conservatives and some of the liberals. My mother, who served a dozen years on the Edina school board in the 1980s and ’90s, made it clear that the nonendorsed candidates were not “liberal” but nonpartisan, as they should be.
And a couple of intrepid student journalists (who happen to be my offspring) wrote an article in the high school’s Zephyrus newspaper about the lawyer who brought the suit against the School District, Erick Kaardal. It turns out, according to his 2013 book, “The Rebirth Constitution,” that he intends his neopopulist revolution to sow discord in society, dispose of the existing U.S. Constitution and provoke “spiritual violence” so that “orthodox Christianity will emerge as the dominant cultural force” in our country. Oh, he also calls for the end of public education.
So these are the forces that have attacked my hometown in the last year. I don’t know why the Center of the American Experiment targeted Edina. I’m just guessing here, but maybe some of the center’s major donors are my neighbors.
I thought of all of this last week, when I attended a reception for high school seniors who had been accepted to Dartmouth College, my alma mater. There were five, including my son, from Edina in the room, and no more than two from any other school — public or private. Edina schools are doing just fine, I thought.
And then I thought about this: My son turned 18 last week, meaning he’ll vote in the midterms this year. Politically, he’s a centrist. But based on the behavior he’s seen from conservatives in Edina (and at the national level), I’d be surprised if he votes for a single Republican in November. And I bet he’s not alone in that.
Tony Jones is a writer and editor and a third-generation Edinan.