Just make the change, move into the future

Regarding “Redskins name fight escalating” (Nov. 7): How we describe ourselves speaks volumes about who we are as a society.

Minneapolis Southwest High School was once called the Indians. One day the student body was notified that the school was changing its name because each native American deserved his or her own identity rather than being lumped under one name.

The irony that this announcement was prompted by leaders of the American Indian Movement was not lost on some members of the student body, who felt that part of their high school heritage was being taken away, until a more enlightened member of the student body, who also happened to be native American, pointed out that his ancestral heritage was being diminished by lumping his history under the name of “Indian.”

More power to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum for continuing to fight to change the “Redskins” moniker. It is easier to change the attitudes and spending habits of young adults before the “hardening of the attitudes set in.” The NFL is sensitive that to be financially viable it must remain relevant to the coveted 25- to 35-year-old demographic.

If all our nation’s high schools tackled the issue of ethnic prejudice the way Southwest did in the 1980s, we would not be having this discussion today.

Benjamin Cherryhomes, Hastings

• • •

Thank you for publishing Carter Meland’s excellent opinion piece on Native American feelings about sports mascots such as the Washington Redskins (“Team name is stuck in past, so put it where it belongs”). I could not agree more.

I hesitate to point out any error in his fine essay, but there is something that must be added to his description of the greetings included in the golden records on the Voyager probes: Of the 55 recordings included, several are dead languages. None are Native American.

Surely there is much more to be changed than a few sports mascots.

Dave Hoenack, Minneapolis



Off-year? So what? We still have a civic duty.

I just finished reading the Nov. 8 letter about the school tax levies being approved because they were in an off-year election. The writer suggested that the Legislature require school districts to ask for increased funding only in elections occurring in even-numbered years, since there would be higher voter turnout and democracy works best when more voices are heard.

It seems to me that we citizens have responsibilities to educate ourselves about the issues of each election, no matter the year. If we feel strongly about an issue, we need to get to the polls and vote — no matter the year. And if we feel really strongly about an issue, we need to get active and start educating and persuading our friends, neighbors and other citizens. That might be a better model of an elected representative democracy.

James Nastoff, Minneapolis



When talking of values, whose shall apply?

In the Nov. 5 article “R.T. Rybak on the role of values in addressing achievement gaps,” forum participant Peter Bell unintentionally grazed the surface of an important discussion surrounding the unchecked power struggles in our own blue back yard. Bell is not embarking on an earth-shattering sociological discovery when he asserts the cultural norms of young African-Americans; rap music, casual dress and distinct vernacular may indeed impede the group’s success. However, when Bell and Rybak join forces to ask how we can come together as a community to enforce behaviors that will lead to success, I can’t help asking: “Whose model of success?”

I find myself comfortably in concurrence with Bell’s assertion that deeming something “cultural” does not immunize it from critical moral or political consideration, yet I can’t wrap my head around his resolution. How can the solution to closing the achievement gap be to mold the minority into the paradigm of the culturally incompetent majority that created the gap in the first place?

Zoe Illies, St. Louis Park



Soil should always be part of the discussion

The Interior Secretary, during a visit to Minnesota, touted the value of conservation (Nov. 6). I was pleased to see “conservation” used in the headline, but sadly, it did not include the modifier “soil.” Perhaps this is because soil conservation is more in the Department of Agriculture than the Department of the Interior.

Yes, National Wildlife Refuges are an important part of our national economy and add to our quality of life; however, they are a small portion of the picture when it comes to food security. Soil is the key to life on this planet — the foundation for all terrestrial ecosystems. We must understand soils’ roles in food and energy security, water protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation, ecological and economic sustainability, biotechnology for human health and slowing of desertification. We need a master conservation plan with emphasis on carbon management. Carbon is a critical part of our Earth’s natural cycles. In soil, it helps sustain plant growth and nurture crops.

The soil is so important to all of us. We must ask if we are doing enough to preserve and protect it for future generations.

Don Reicosky, Morris, Minn.