As a visitor to your city, I read with great interest “How ‘we the people’ came back to bite”(Opinion Exchange, Jan. 24). I have been concerned for several years that the process for selecting Congress and the president creates a political environment that makes progress on the important issues of our day impossible. As Lawrence R. Jacobs points out, the process results in candidates from the far left and far right, promoted by single-issue voters and special interests. When these elected officials reach Washington (or St. Paul or Nashville) they cannot compromise and reach practical solutions to our problems lest they lose the next election. So stalemate and dysfunction follows. I hope Mr. Jacobs might suggest some possible alternatives to the current system. Our country desperately needs a Congress that can truly represent the majority.

We enjoyed our stay in the Twin Cities.

Larry Thrailkill, Brentwood, Tenn.

• • •

Prof. Jacobs used more than a half a page giving us a nice history lesson and concluded by telling us that we should go to the caucuses (primary) and vote for the candidate who we think will win and not vote for the one we want. That has to be one of the most absurd ideas I have ever heard. How can your candidate or your concerns win if you don’t vote for them? And remember that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

Ron Converse, Rockford

• • •

Jacobs offers some useful historical perspective and some good advice: If you want to be heard, show up. And then some not-so-good advice: Resist the “impassioned pleas that ring true.”

If I may rephrase, one should not:

• Become a seething, xenophobic, anti-Muslim bigot or,

• Work to improve the physical and economic health of millions of Americans by implementing Medicare-for-all, like almost every other economically advanced nation in the world.

A false, destructive and insulting equivalency if there ever was one.

William Beyer, St. Louis Park

• • •

Jacobs’ commentary clearly articulates the need for another transformative change to the U.S. election process. The duration of the process (nearly two years for presidential election) and cost ($12 billion for the 2012 election campaign) is likely creating less, rather than more, engagement in the process by U.S. citizens. We could learn a lot from the United Kingdom, where the election process for prime minister runs only a few months, where there is a cap on spending, and where radio or TV advertising is not allowed.

With all of the communications technology (TV, radio, Internet, etc.), how long does it take to for people to get to know candidates, their qualifications and their positions on key issues?

It seems probable that the Brits are better-informed voters than Americans because they have a rational process to get to know their candidates and issues.

Another example of our critically flawed election process is the time and effort of campaigning, along with excessive media coverage in two very small states (Iowa and New Hampshire). These states do not come close to representing a cross-section of the diversity of the U.S. voting population.

Even after the election process is finally ended, those elected devote a lot of time fundraising while in office for the next cycle, taking time away from doing the job for which they were elected.

Power and money drive our political process, so it is not clear what dynamic will result in election reform. Maybe a technological tool like a DVR could be of some help in controlling the frequency and types of messages that reach us. Watching a well-managed debate is far more useful than media sounds bites and negative TV/radio ads.

John Sweeney, Plymouth

 

EARLY CHILDHOOD

Thumbs up for Head Start; concerns about the CCAP

I was pleased to see that the Jan. 24 Opinion Exchange section had two different articles on early childhood — an editorial and a column by Lori Sturdevant. I was disappointed, however, that Head Start was omitted. Given Head Start’s mandate, and its legacy of serving our state’s most at-risk families, the program is an integral part of the solutions needed to (re)design effective early childhood interventions. Gov. Mark Dayton recognized that when he secured additional funding for Head Start in the last budget cycle. Thirty-four programs, including Tribal and Migrant, serve over 120,000 children aged birth to 5 years annually, and produce successful child and family outcomes. More information is available at www.mnheadstart.org.

The Atlantic magazine has a timely article on early childhood education in its latest issue. The author, a Yale professor, outlines a concerning trend in preschools across the country. The article would be an excellent reference to determine our state’s philosophy toward early learning and care. She highlights the importance of relationships with children toward building the child’s thought processes. Head Start has had this philosophy and approach for decades. Our state’s early childhood solutions would do well to reflect the Head Start model of comprehensive and family-focused services.

Beth Stanford, Rushford, Minn.

The writer is director of Semcac Head Start.

• • •

The Jan. 24 editorial (“Keep child care costs affordable statewide”) made excellent points about improving child care affordability and access, but it glossed over some major problems with the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The most important is that millions of state tax dollars go to programs that are not using kindergarten-readiness best practices. With Minnesota facing some of the worst education achievement gaps in the nation, this is a major limitation.

Investing tax dollars in programs that are not using early education best practices not only prevents children from gaining the skills they need for future success, but, research suggests, low-quality programs can actually set them back.

By the way, a 2015 survey found that 80 percent of Minnesotans agree that “we should only allow state tax dollars to be spent on early education providers who have proved they are effective in preparing children for kindergarten.”

As Minnesota makes needed investments in child care accessibility, we cannot miss opportunities to also boost kindergarten readiness. CCAP is a tool that currently has very real limitations when it comes to addressing the achievement gap.

Ericca Maas, St. Paul

 

ENDING MISOGYNY

The world has work to do

It is neither anti-Islam nor racist to strongly condemn the mass sexual assault of women in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve and identify its causes (“Dutch embrace fear of migrants,” Jan. 24). We have been too quiet. Extremist Islam that is pervasive in the home countries of the attackers promotes uniquely degrading and dangerous attitudes and activity toward women and girls. We can and should be vocally proud of the legacy of leadership in Europe and the U.S. of strong criminal laws prohibiting violence against women and girls. These laws change attitudes and promote healthier, safer communities.

We should offer male asylum-seekers and immigrants education on the fundamental human rights of women and girls and the criminal consequences of violating those rights. We must also acknowledge that despite real progress, we have much work to do ourselves. Rampant college campus rapes in the U.S., sexual assault in the military and the all-too-rare conviction of rapists in our own criminal courts is evidence of widespread impunity for violence. Everywhere, communities frequently fail to uphold women’s human right to be free from violence, and this abuse continues to be a worldwide pandemic. We are all suffering for it.

Cheryl Thomas, Minneapolis

The writer is executive director of Global Rights for Women.