Readers Write: (Aug. 17): What's in a name? Plus: Education reform, returning soldiers.

  • Updated: August 15, 2014 - 6:40 PM

The Washington football team and a French hamlet have something in common.

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Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder greeted fans.

Photo: Richard Lipski • Associated Press,

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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.

EDUCATION REFORM

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

• • •

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

• • •

Years ago, a fellow English department member told me each time she walked past my room and heard me leading a discussion, she wished she could teach the way I do. I was flattered, of course, but also surprised. I had been secretly admiring her quiet, reassuring manner and well-ordered curriculum. Fortunately, neither of us was told we had no choice but to emulate the other.

The phrase “best practice” is analogous to “one sizes fits all.” The truth is that all of us have different attributes and liabilities, and whether we are choosing a new bathing suit or developing a lesson plan, we want to accentuate the positive.

No one doubts that students have different learning styles. Why not apply the same reasoning to successful teaching? Ted Kolderie’s Aug. 10 Opinion Exchange article makes a persuasive case for a multifaceted approach to addressing the performance gap that includes teacher creativity and experimentation. I suggest while this is underway, administrators develop a nuanced method of teacher evaluation that recognizes successful instruction’s salient characteristics. Welcoming experimentation will accomplish nothing if when it succeeds it is assessed with an extra-small “one size fits all” evaluation tool.

Stephen Harlan-Marks, Robbinsdale

 

WAR’S BURDEN

A pretty tough thing to fix with counseling

The Star Tribune is to be applauded for its article on the difficult issue of soldiers suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder called “moral injury,” brought on by serving in war (“War’s badge of pain,” Aug. 10). Despite the U.S. military’s constant drilling that soldiers are fighting an inhumane “enemy,” many combatants have irreconcilable doubts about why and who they are fighting.

While the article stresses that the military acknowledges the anguish that moral injury inflicts on many soldiers, it tries to rationalize their conscionable guilt as just being part of war.

A slightly broader definition of “moral injury” is offered by others, including Gregg Brekke in an April 2014 Sojourners magazine article (“Wounded Souls”): “A soldier’s overwhelming sense of shame and guilt associated with military actions perpetrated or observed on the local population” (e.g., killing civilians, destroying much of the country).

It is this larger moral doubt regarding the overall purpose of a U.S. military invasion — and all the death and destruction that comes with it — that is not so easily mitigated through counseling.

Bill Adamski, Minneapolis

 

CLARIFICATION

A July 27 letter faulted Star Tribune columnist Dennis Anderson for failing to obey restrictions regarding the size of groups in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Anderson replies that his two-canoe, four-person group and another two-canoe, six-person group mentioned in his July 20 column entered the wilderness separately on separate permits. They portaged and paddled at different times, per area rules, and fished reasonably apart from one another.

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