The Washington football team and a French hamlet have something in common.
It was reported recently that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has sent a formal request to the French government asking that a French hamlet with a name that is offensive to many people be changed. The article reminded me of the controversy concerning the Washington Redskins name. In response to the request for the name change, the deputy mayor of the village with jurisdiction over the hamlet was reported to have said that it was a ridiculous request, that the hamlet’s name had always existed and went back to the Middle Ages. She stated that no one had anything against the people referenced in the name, and that a previous municipal council had declined to change the name. Sound familiar?
The name of the hamlet? La-Mort-aux-Juifs, which translates to “Death to Jews.” If only owner Daniel Snyder and those who defend the Washington team name could understand that they sound as ridiculous as that deputy mayor in France.
John Ellenbecker, St. Cloud
The writer was mayor of St. Cloud from 2001 to 2005.
Yes — count on those closest to the work
Regarding the article about education reform in the Aug. 10 Opinion Exchange section (“The big idea? Lots of little ones”), I would say “yes” and “about time.” Involving the people closest to the process in solving complex problems not only passes the common-sense test but has been consistently proven to be effective in many other fields of endeavor.
The manufacturing sector has been using this approach for a couple of decades, resulting in order-of-magnitude improvements in quality. Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma work extremely well for the very reason that these methods inherently rely upon the people who work with a process every day and know it best.
A decade or more ago, when I would discuss quality and process improvement methods with people in health care, the answer I would get is “those tools and that statistical stuff might work in manufacturing, but not in health care. We don’t make widgets.” However, health care administrators have now embraced these methods.
Education is a process, a complex one with inputs and outputs, suppliers and customers, controls and requirements. Educators must be as open to change much as the health care administrators needed to be. As said by Albert Einstein, the complex problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
Dale K. Mize, Plymouth
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Teachers and administrators should work to reform schools. Most I know do on a daily basis. Technology has helped many of us become more efficient and more engaging, but iPads for all won’t close the gap. Improving or eliminating underperforming teachers is a good idea, but that won’t fix the problem either — and it distracts us from the true issue: reforming society.
Sean F. Reardon, among many other researchers, points out in “The Widening Income Acheivement Gap” (http://tinyurl.com/ozek57w): “The fact that the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten — and does not grow substantially during the school years — suggests that the primary cause of the gap is not unequal school quality.” He goes on to write: “[S]chools may actually narrow academic achievement gaps, rather than widen them.”
Like most teachers, I spend much of August planning for the new year. Like my colleagues, I want each new school year to be better than the last. We will do our best to close the gap — inspiring highfliers to fly higher and bolstering many with skills and confidence so they can, at the very least, flap their wings. But society needs to mind its gap better so more of our kids can reach their lofty dreams.
The launchpad is uneven. Let’s fix that.
Karen Morrill, Minneapolis
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.