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The Minnesota Legislature has passed a bill banning book-banning, moving a recent letter writer to argue that this rule impedes public involvement in directing educational content (Readers Write, May 22). This constraint, it is opined, motivates parents to choose nonpublic schooling options to the detriment of the public schools. The conclusion: Banning book banning becomes counterproductive, harming rather than helping public education.

I disagree. Public education should reflect public values. Private values — religious, moral, culturally grounded values — should be at best secondary to public values in determining the aims of public education. Private values ought not constrain public education from its role in teaching public values such as good citizenship and the ability to think critically on difficult issues, including cultural and moral viewpoints. In short, education should aim to increase our ability to be reasonable in the face of deep disagreements. It's a false security to seek cultural stability by restricting our ability to reason well.

Every society has internal disagreements by nature. A well-ordered society not only has laws but a citizenry that respects differences in how we choose to live, the values to which we subscribe. Pluralism marks a well-functioning democracy. We allow different ways to live because we want this freedom for ourselves.

In turn, public education should aim to impart on our youth the ability to think well and respectfully about their own as well as other points of view. Rather than being parochial, that is, promoting a particular moral or religious viewpoint, it should be liberal, aiming to improve how we think rather than preaching what we should think. The "how we think," not the "what we think," is crucial.

While this goal — to strengthen thinking skills — is a value, it is not just another value. Rather, it is grounded in democracy and its inherently pluralistic foundation. It is a primary value in democratic society.

Book bans thus are contrary to public education. Such attempts to erase difference reflect a fear rather than a support of pluralism. They are, essentially, deeply undemocratic.

Craig Peterson, Minneapolis


Classical thinkers endure for a reason

The May 21 edition of the Star Tribune featured a commentary titled "More Plato and Socrates. That's what higher education needs" (Opinion Exchange).

Why this curriculum? Human nature has not changed in tens of thousands of years. We are still guided by the same wants, needs and behaviors as our forebears. We are still driven by the same motivations, frightened by the same fears, guilty of the same sins and worthy of the same virtues.

We continue to grapple with the same themes that define the human experience — religion, race, economics, governance, etc. Different though the specifics of these themes are generation to generation, they are still bound by the basic laws of human nature.

Humanity is a rather predictable lot, not only because our behavior has not changed over the millennia, nor that we don't confront the same human themes, but by the paradoxical predictability that despite all we have experienced over the ages every generation fails to learn from the underlying patterns of human behavior.

It's not as though we don't have the playbooks — humanity's operating manual — from which to learn and understand. We have libraries full of them, written by those whose insights on human behavior are as valid today as they were when written by Aristotle, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, John Locke and others.

Despite this abundance of intellectual riches, we are perpetually blinded by the kind of ignorance one would have hoped we would have overcome by now. But this is not the case, and because of this we get what we get again and again.

Joseph Tilli, Wayzata


Easy to criticize, harder to do

After reading "What the delegation is working on" (May 19), I awaited a letter reacting to the seeming triviality of bills that our members of Congress are promoting ("So much for the top issues," Readers Write, May 23). To measure the work of our delegation, we need to look at much more than the bills they propose.

I have volunteered for the last five years for a religious organization that lobbies Congress on issues of peace (the Friends Committee on National Legislation). I am still learning about the workings of Congress.

Less than 10% of proposed bills become law. After bills are proposed, they are assigned to committee. To get a bill to pass out of committee, its sponsors must find supporters. They must convince the committee that the bill is worthy of precious time on the floor of the House or Senate. If a bill does pass one body, its supporters need to find colleagues in the other body to carry the bill through a parallel process.

Our senators and representatives work with a dizzying array of bills on hundreds of issues. They surf on chaos.

I assume that the Star Tribune's new Washington correspondent will report the daily hard work of our delegation. I hope we will see regular reports about the delegation's advocacy and committee work. And I hope that these reports will inspire constituents to communicate with their senators and representatives. They need to hear about our hopes, not our cynicism.

James Haefemeyer, Minneapolis


Imagine the reverse

An upside-down American flag, a symbol frequently used by election deniers, was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. We also just learned that the "Appeal to Heaven" flag was flown outside his vacation home ("Provocative flag flown at second Alito home," May 23). This flag has been used as a symbol of support for former President Donald Trump and religious conservatism as well as members of the "Stop the Steal" movement, which challenged the results of the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden. When the upside-down flag was reported, Sen. Mitch McConnell said Alito should be left alone. Sen. Tom Cotton blamed the media for attempting to use the incident to "incite another mob to try to intimidate justices, harass them at home, or worse." Alito used a stint on Fox News to blame his wife for being the one who flew the American flag upside-down. He has not yet shared who decided to fly the "Appeal to Heaven" flag. And yet, not surprisingly, no one in the GOP sees any reason Alito should recuse himself from cases related to the 2016 election or Jan. 6.

Now imagine if Justice Sonia Sotomayor were to fly a pride flag outside her home. Or Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson placed a huge Black Lives Matter sign in her yard. What would be the response of McConnell and Cotton? How do you think Fox News would react? Do you think Sotomayor and Jackson's ability to be impartial would be called into question? Do you think the GOP would demand that they recuse themselves from any cases around LBGTQ+ rights or discrimination against Black people? Thankfully, that is not going to happen because Sotomayor and Jackson both have a moral compass that Alito clearly doesn't.

Roland Hayes, Shoreview