This week, teachers went back to their schools to ready their classrooms for the 2019-20 school year. As a teacher in the Minneapolis School District for over 25 years, I can’t help feeling that the beginning of this school year is unlike any I have experienced.

I am an English as a Second Language teacher at an elementary school in Minneapolis. The last time I saw my students was on June 10. By the time I see them again on Sept. 3, they will have been bombarded with messages from inside and outside our government that have told them that their presence in this country is not valued. They will have heard their president use racist rhetoric and fear to gain political support. They will have heard the president tell them to go back where they came from. They will have heard the president give legitimacy to white supremacists. They will have witnessed the bloodshed of El Paso where people were targeted because of their immigration status. They will have heard of children just like them being separated from their families and dying in detention centers. They will have seen news from Mississippi of ICE deliberately rounding up families on the first day of the school year. And they will have heard their president prioritize gun ownership over their own physical safety.

Hatred, division and fear have gained a foothold in our democracy, but instead of giving in to these futile mind-sets, I say it’s time for all teachers to get to work. It’s time to start being more explicit in teaching the democratic principles of liberty and equality. It’s time to create a climate in our schools and classrooms where every student feels valued and has the freedom to express who they are. It’s time to teach kids that any opinion that is not supported by facts is not worth their time. It’s time for teachers to model empathy so students know how to see the world through the eyes of others. It’s time to model civic-mindedness so students are empowered through serving others. It’s time to instill hope in every young person that they can be a positive force for change in the world.

One positive outcome of this long, contentious summer is the fact that I have never felt as energized to get back to serving my students as I am at this moment. It’s time to get to work.

David Donald Luiken, Plymouth

CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Green space serves Bde Maka Ska area better than magical thinking

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board just passed a resolution to comment in opposition to a citizen-led conservation district next to Bde Maka Ska.

The Park Board is against a six-acre green conservation zone and in favor of several blocks of potential wall-to-wall 10-story apartment buildings just half a block away from Bde Maka Ska — nine towers in all are pictured on the city’s website.

One would think the Park Board would be in favor of preserving a tree-canopied, water-permeable green space.

One would think the Park Board would be against hundreds of additional cars emptying onto the parkway.

Deer, foxes, turkeys, hawks and eagles inhabit the backyards of these homeowners. Where will the fauna live if the flora is paved over?

The mayor and members of the City Council magically believe that high-rises over the lake will make housing affordable (ignoring the First Law of Real Estate: location, location, location). They magically believe these new apartment dwellers will only use light rail and not own cars. Magical thinking is easier, of course, when your campaigns are partly financed by developers.

One would think the Park Board would be a counterweight to such nonsense.

The Park Board voted against conservation. Why?

One clue can be found in the resolution itself, which reveals that the Park Board is eyeing between “$80,000 and $750,000 in parkland dedication fees” from the new apartments.

Hmm.

Come next election, remember that this Park Board just sold the air rights and tree canopy over Bde Maka Ska for 30 pieces of silver.

John Berestka, Minneapolis

HOMELESSNESS

We are not playing Whac-A-Mole. Downtown is serious about helping.

Monica Nilsson’s commentary about homelessness (“Whac-A-Mole policies are cruel and ineffective,” Aug. 28) gave short shrift to the commitment the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District have made to be active partners with public sector and community organizations working to face this challenge. She also questioned the sincerity of our goal around ending street homelessness.

When it comes to members of the downtown community who are experiencing homelessness, far from “closeting their appearance in public,” our organization has embraced the zAmya Theater by sponsoring numerous performances in the heart of downtown by its troupe of actors, many of whom are or were recently homeless, to bring public attention to this very serious issue facing Minneapolis. We have partnered with the Spread the Sunshine Gang, which provides free clothing this summer to individuals in need from a pop-up shop set up periodically on Nicollet directly outside the DID storefront office.

Over the years MDC member companies have donated funds to help with housing programs like the Currie Avenue Partnership aimed at getting people off the street and into apartments, and to permit our volunteer committee members working on ending homelessness to support agencies doing important work. We created a Livability Team as part of the DID Ambassador Program so our staff on the streets can engage people directly to help find resources for housing, food, health care and other life necessities.

We share Nilsson’s concerns about safety and health conditions at encampment sites wherever they exist. Our community can and must do better, and MDC and DID remain at the table to contribute our part on behalf of businesses downtown.

Our goal to end street homelessness downtown has not been realized at this point. But in our view, no organization, public or private, should be criticized for setting high aspirations on this critically important and immensely challenging issue.

Steve Cramer, Minneapolis

The writer is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Downtown Improvement District.

STUDENT DEBT

Loan upon loan is not the answer

The Aug. 28 editorial was a fair summary of the factors involved in the staggering $1.6 trillion student loan debt (“A reality check on college debt”). But it misses the mark to compare the median debt of $29,600 to “buying a car.”

The cost of an undergraduate degree is not limited to the debt incurred. That debt is incurred only after students and parents have exhausted their savings and student earnings.

The reliance on student loan debt to finance much of higher education must end. Tuition should be collected from revenue that students earn after graduation. The amount of tuition should be a percentage of the earnings of each student for a certain time period, such as five years.

Our current system of financing higher education places all of the risk on students, their parents and the public (by way of state appropriations). Income-based tuition would fairly allocate some of that risk to the higher education system.

Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville

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