Is it a bloat problem, or an image problem?


As a (nonfaculty) researcher and teacher at the University of Minnesota, I welcome calls for effective administration of tuition dollars, a reduction in highly paid but dubiously assigned vice presidents and a reaffirmation of the centrality of education to the mission of this great public institution.

But I also urge people to pay no attention to the nonsensical attack by Charles Lane, who decides to denigrate the U as an example of how public education is in decline because it has marketers, is too expensive and, in any case, is not as good as either a car or Internet videos ("Let's shove back at higher ed," Jan. 3).

As Lane's expertise in university administration appears to derive from an article he read in another newspaper, his limited curiosity for knowledge may be satisfied by YouTube, but most young people are presumably more interested in learning from people who actually know things, even if they are credentialed with a (gasp!) Ph.D.

The U, like all public institutions, will benefit from serious inspection of how its budget aligns with its mission. Reprinting ramblings from East Coast know-nothings suggests that the Star Tribune is more interested in gratuitous negativity than engagement with that challenge.


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In addition to the bloated administrative costs, our university has never received any kudos for academic achievement in any polls that I have read in the past 20 years or more. This school is never rated in the top 20 among state schools or any other schools. Why is that? I find this fact to be very disturbing. Once in a while the medical branch is noted, but nothing else.


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Here again: Is it bloat or image?


I'm in that targeted middle class, and I want to see my future "entitlements" that I've paid into reduced! No, I don't really "want" them reduced, but I want this government to get a spine and do what's needed to reduce our crazy debt and careless entitlement spending.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken's comment that it's "crucial" that the fiscal deal passed on Tuesday did not include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security shows his shortsightedness.

No, I don't want to see those in need get cuts in benefits, but not making the bold decisions to get our spending reined in is just pleasing the now and paining the future. I vote for digging in and doing what's right, and I vote it for my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids who don't get to vote.


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They are doing it again. The right wing and right-wing media in particular have succeeded in making the term "entitlements" a pejorative term, and we allowed it to happen. It really honks off this old Norwegian.

We need to use a different term to hopefully change the conversation. We should talk about "voter/citizen-earned benefits" rather than the "E" word. We have all earned or are earning them under a social contract with the government.


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The schools

Student motivation must come from within


Bizarre! We're still talking only about teaching. What about learning?

Two-question quiz: Which of the contrasting views on education do you 1) find most familiar and 2) think would work best?

A)"Teachers and students ... would benefit from a tough exam that tested a teacher's mastery of subjects and his or her ability to teach those subjects. The best teachers are magicians. They have the capacity to inspire, to keep a young person focused, to develop the mind and, perhaps above all, to motivate." -- Short Takes, Star Tribune (from Chicago Tribune), Jan. 2

B)"People 'are' motivated. They do not have to 'be motivated.' In a fundamental sense it is impossible to motivate people. It is only possible to allow them to find for themselves their intrinsic motivations and to hook these motives to life goals, work habits and other adaptive and responsible behavior. Goals emerge from within -- they are not induced by teachers and administrators." -- Dr. Jack R. Gibb, NASSP Bulletin, May 1967

C)"Significant learning stems from the self-directed motivation of the learner who wants something positive and creative for an unfilled need of his." -- "Dynamics of Learning," Dr. Nathaniel Cantor, 1946

To see what principles B and C can do, go to


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Race and incarceration

Injustice is too easy of an explanation

Whatever the reasons may be for U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to shift his prosecution focus away from drug crimes, it is likely not because he perceives a racial injustice in our legal system, as a Jan. 2 letter writer suggests.

As a former prosecutor (more than 32 years, albeit at the state level), my observation was that the number of minorities who are prosecuted and end up in prison is not due to systematic racial discrimination on the part of law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. The reasons minorities commit crimes, including drug offenses, are varied, and the consequences of those offenses are no different than what the nonminority offender would face. I find it troubling and misleading to suggest that because our prisons may be populated by a high percentage of nonwhite inmates, large-scale racial discrimination exists in our criminal-justice system. While some may favor this simplistic explanation, the problem is more nuanced and complex.


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Indian nicknames

The difference between Florida, North Dakota


In response to the Jan. 3 letter about NCAA pressure over school nicknames being applied inconsistently: The reason for the difference is that the Seminole tribe of Florida supports Florida State University's use of the "Seminole" name. The school and the tribe have worked together. However, the use of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, as I understand it, is not universally supported by Sioux tribes. So it may appear hypocritical, but one university has the full support, and the other does not.