Readers Write: (Aug. 23): Teacher quality, Georgia school hero, global turmoil, Marketplace Fairness Act

  • Updated: August 22, 2013 - 6:40 PM
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TEACHERS

There you go again with the generalizations

I take issue with Gary Davison’s Aug. 22 commentary (“Teacher quality should be made Job One”), in particular the text the Star Tribune chose to highlight: “There are many Minneapolis teachers who are not adequate to the task at hand, and there are few truly excellent teachers.”

Insert different groups and see how it sounds: There are many surgeons who are not adequate to the task at hand, and there are few truly excellent surgeons.

Now try: U.S. military personnel, or people of color.

Sweeping generalizations are meaningless and serve no purpose but to inflame and divide. Stop it!

I spend much of my year working with Minneapolis students and teachers, and I will occasionally meet a teacher who may not be up to the task, but every classroom in Minneapolis that I go into is overcrowded and underfunded, and every school is understaffed.

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s task, to eliminate the achievement gap, will be impossible to accomplish so long as we do not acknowledge the real issues: poverty, devaluation of education, decline of personal and family responsibility, and the disintegration of our social contract.

Here’s a thought: Children should not be allowed to attend school until they are prepared to learn. “There are many _____ who are not adequate to the task at hand, and there are few truly excellent _____.”

KEVIN WILLIAMS, St. Paul

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SHOOTING AVERTED

Antoinette Tuff, you are a brave, true hero

I still have goose bumps as I type this out regarding the extraordinary efforts of school bookkeeper Antionette Tuff in talking potential shooter Michael Brandon Hill out of doing what he was planning to do (“Gunman at Georgia school had 500 rounds, police say,” Aug. 22) and bringing him to his senses in her calm, methodical and so real demeanor. She should somehow be rewarded a million dollars (at least) and hugged 50 times a day for the rest of her life. Ms. Tuff: You are tough, and will be admired for what you did for the rest of your life. Your husband of 33 years has no idea of what he left. My greatest respect to you.

DONAL O’DONNELL, Edina

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GLOBAL TURMOIL

We in the U.S. have it better than we know

Watching fledgling attempts at democracy abroad, I am reminded how long our own democracy has been evolving, and how difficult a transition from iron-fisted rule can be in places where democratic behavior is not a familiar aspect of day to day life. Democracy is difficult.

A supreme leader who simply silences the voices of dissenters does not have the challenges of governing an ungovernable Congress or standing in front of a room full of reporters who may ask and print whatever they’d like without fear of imprisonment or worse.

Is Iraq better off without Saddam Hussein? Would Zimbabwe have descended into chaos like Egypt if Robert Mugabe had not stolen his re-election with fraudulent votes and voter manipulations? And what will happen in Syria? And Libya?

We who have the privilege of criticizing those who do not share our political views, or who have different solutions to address health care, national security, the economy, or the dichotomy of environmental stewardship vs. convenience, should consider how lucky we are.

STEPHEN HARLAN-MARKS, Robbinsdale

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ONLINE TAXES

Seniors would lose with ‘marketplace fairness’

As Congress considers passing the Marketplace Fairness Act, there has been some discussion about what the law would mean for small businesses. Another important dimension of the debate, however, is the devastating effect this legislation would have on our seniors, the disabled and rural communities.

I am the president of the Assisted Living Store. Our online business sells essential products for the elderly and the disabled. The MFA will raise prices of these goods for a vulnerable segment of the U.S. population. Though many products needed for medical reasons qualify for tax exemptions, many others do not. For our customers, these products are often impossible to physically access, given their conditions. The Internet has made it easier and more affordable for them to do so. (According to research by the Nielsen Norman Group, U.S. seniors are the fastest-growing demographic using the Internet, up 16 percent per year.)

The MFA also would tax mail order catalog sales. Since studies by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce show that households with disabilities, lower incomes and less education are less likely to have Internet access, it’s not far-fetched to think they may rely on traditional catalog shopping. Today, determining taxes on mail order catalogs is easy. The MFA would require people to know more than 9,600 different taxing jurisdictions — each with different rules on what is taxable and what is not.

KIMBERLY A. CARLSON, South St. Paul

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