Nekima Levy Armstrong’s opinion piece “Research shows that progressive cities lag” (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 25), means well, but it clearly fell victim to the narrative-peddling quasi-research that pervades ideological interest groups today. The group peddling it this time is brightbream, a group of self-described “activists.” In today’s environment, it’s important to reference that activists on both sides do the same exact thing.
The report is missing too many explanatory variables to make its conclusion credible. How does English as a foreign language influence performance? How many generations has the family lived in the state? Is it a couple generations or long-standing? Most important, how do Minneapolis white students and students of color actually perform against their cohorts? An answer to the last question may capture the underlying issues with the extraordinary social mobility of whites up north that we so far have failed to share with many people of color — a truly underlying root cause separate from schools and education.
Rarely does research that looks at the human condition support any strong narrative at all ... especially the kind produced by activists of any stripe. Instead, we can at best infer some basic observations that we can use to improve society incrementally, rarely consistent with any ideology. That incrementality, however, usually requires elbow grease and hard work, more like that of the Eisenhower era of pragmatism rather than the 2000s. What do incremental improvements look like? In the early 2000s, I volunteered my time to a civil rights attorney to show how Hennepin County’s jury selection resulted in a biased jury pool. That’s a small effort, but one that can be replicated hundreds of times over to actually help drive societal improvement.
Peter Tharaldson, St. Paul
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According to Levy Armstrong’s article, cities governed by progressive governments are not doing as well in closing the education gaps as cities governed by conservative governments. I checked the money invested by per student for Minnesota and Florida (couldn’t find statistics by city) as I thought this might have some bearing, and it clearly does not. Minnesota spends about $14,000 per student compared with about $9,000 per student for Florida.
The only solution I could find suggested by the author is to “use our outrage and frustration to be persistent in challenging the status quo.” This is an answer? Really? Just fanning everyone’s emotions a little higher is going to produce results? Has anyone in the Minnesota education field actually gone to Jacksonville, Fla., and asked what they are doing to produce better results for $5,000 less per student? Are we so proud of our “progressive” ideals that we can’t admit we might be doing something insufficiently?
From my perspective, our whole country is on the brink of disintegration because of “outrage and frustration.” How about some honest discussion and adjustment of our ideals, especially with the future of our children’s education at stake?
John George, Northfield
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Research studies can easily be done to “prove” a point of view. Selection bias is, as any statistician will say, a major problem in reaching conclusions. Selecting the sample will dictate the result. The study was done to show that progressive cities are worse than conservative ones, and the researchers selected the 12 most extreme cities on both ends. To no surprise, the conclusion was that it is progressive politics that is causing the gap. It is wrong to blame political parties for the gap. Unfortunately Fox News is constantly airing “facts” that denigrate progressive cities and states, and this politically motivated research regarding the education gap will only become Fox fodder.
Ilo Leppik, Golden Valley
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Why is Levy Armstrong surprised that conservative cities do a better job at educating our children? Conservatives believe that all people, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status are equally capable of meeting expectations. That is a foreign concept to liberals, who identify people by the demographic boxes they check, then adjust their expectations from there.
Ryan Sheahan, Robbinsdale
How much does it cost? I’ll buy it
I had a similar experience to the editorial writer cited in the Jan. 23 editorial, “Don’t make the same Rx mistake.” A few weeks ago, my physician prescribed an albuterol inhaler for a persistent cough. I was shocked by the $49 price tag but reluctantly paid it. I discovered later that day that the medication was not on my health plan’s formulary, so it was not covered at all. Ironically, albuterol solution administered by an expensive nebulizer (vs. an inhaler) was covered by my plan.
There was a positive side to my experience: I have not used the inhaler once, because its cost may have permanently suppressed my cough.
Sandra Nelson, Minneapolis
The process and its consequences
Can voters in November be trusted to correct the mistake they made in electing Donald Trump president in 2016? That question appears to be at the heart of the impeachment process (“Bolton account clouds Trump defense,” Jan. 27).
The facts of the case that the president engaged in wrongdoing seem to be beyond dispute. It is incontestable that his administration withheld funds Congress had authorized for Ukraine and that in his phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Trump asked that a political rival and his family be investigated by Ukrainian authorities. It is also true that Trump has not cooperated with the House committees looking into the matter, though unless the courts eventually rule that his staff must comply with subpoenas we will never know if his refusal to cooperate would extend to defying a court order.
Less compelling is the argument that the president must be removed from office and must be removed now. If his removal was a matter of urgency, why did four weeks elapse between the House vote to impeach Trump and the presentation of the articles of impeachment to the Senate? It is contended that his continued occupancy of the White House represents an existential threat to our republic, because Trump somehow will rig the 2020 election. But his efforts to damage Joe Biden’s candidacy have failed; Biden is leading or near the top in most primary polls and leads in surveys of voter preferences in a Trump-Biden race. Moreover, Russian disinformation efforts in 2020 will continue no matter which candidates are on the ballot. There is no guarantee that Russian trolls might not switch sides and promote a nominee like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is even more opposed to foreign military interventions than is Trump.
I regard Trump as the worst president in my lifetime, within which now three presidents have been subject to impeachment proceedings. I worry that if he is not removed from office and disqualified by the Senate, he could win re-election. But I fear more the possibility that in our increasingly tribal political environment impeachment will become a regular, not rare, means to redress the loss of an election by the party out of power.
Censure of Trump’s conduct, not removal from office and disqualification, acknowledges the reality that he did wrong while affirming the Senate’s faith in the voters’ capacity to render a verdict on this president.
Judd Swanson, Minneapolis
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