I hope that the residents in Wadena, Minn., who feel they are displaying Nativity scenes on their private properties in an act of defiance to the removal of the public park nativity scene (front page, Dec. 11) can realize, in a more reflective moment, that they are actually acting in compliance with this country’s founding principles of religious freedom. One of the fundamental protections of our government is to ensure the rights of religious expression for all citizens, yet give preference to none. This is a nation with many Christians, and this does not make us a “Christian nation.”
Bruce Remak, Minneapolis
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The Dec. 11 article subtitled “Nativity scenes abound in Wadena after legal threat” made me wonder if the city’s enthusiasm for displays of religious devotion would be as positive if, say, Jewish citizens of Wadena, if any, or Muslims, if any, or of any other denomination, if any, wanted to create religious displays on private or even public property. I agree with the spokesperson for the Freedom From Religion Foundation who said, in effect, that the private proliferation of Nativity scenes was fine, just so it didn’t come from government.
For sure, gone are the days when I was growing up in largely Jewish north Minneapolis (I was born in 1936), and our John Hay grade school lacked enough Gentiles to have a Christmas pageant. Without batting an eye, the principal asked us Jewish kids to inquire whether our parents would allow us to perform in the Christmas pageant. (Ironically, there was no Hanukkah play or display.) My parents, the ecumenical late Rose Bromberg Shapira and Arthur Shapira, said that this would be fine. So my role in the Christmas pageant was as the rear end of a donkey. (I know — early typecasting.) The upside was being close to the prettiest girl in the class, the lovely shiksa (Gentile girl) Constance.
Withall, may I bray happy holidays to everyone, whatever you believe or not.
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
Board’s selection process for superintendent is alarming
I’ve watched in dismay as the Minneapolis school board has displayed an alarming lack of care in the search for a new superintendent of schools (“Mpls. goes outside for new vision of schools,” editorial, Dec. 10). The board has failed the children of Minneapolis on several counts. I address only the one I consider most shocking — the failure to exercise due diligence in the vetting process.
There is no evidence of on-site visits by school board members to Holyoke, Mass., before announcing their choice, yet they claim they have the right person for the job. Only now are there plans to go to negotiate a contract.
That is absurd. Why now and not before, when face-to-face meetings with teachers, central office staff, city officials, parents and students would likely have yielded clues as to the reasons the Commonwealth of Massachusetts saw fit to assume control of the Holyoke schools and release Sergio Paez from his position?
Michael G. Waring, Edina
The writer, now retired, was a superintendent of schools in Massachusetts.
ST. PAUL SCHOOLS
Remember: It’s not all bad news at Central High School
St. Paul Central High School has been the subject of several articles in the Star Tribune, most recently “Teachers threaten strike over school violence” (Dec. 10). As with any story about an institution or person for that matter, it is easy for readers unfamiliar with a place or person to slip into generalizations and stereotypes based on one publicized event. When our family received an e-mail and phone call from Principal Mary Mackbee on Dec. 4, the information provided was clear and straightforward: There had been a fight at lunchtime between two students, and a teacher who intervened was unfortunately seriously injured.
I asked my 10th-grader about the incident, which had happened during his lunch period, and he relayed the same information. He was not then nor has he ever felt unsafe at Minnesota’s oldest high school. My daughters are alums and consistently list their years at Central as both academically and socially valuable. It is there that they learned about economic, racial, and cultural diversity alongside physics and calculus.
Our family has the utmost confidence in Principal Mackbee and the dedicated teachers and staff at Central. It is not a perfect school, and there is work to be done throughout the district to close the achievement gap, but the Central community works together to create a positive learning experience given the financial constraints of an urban school.
Lisa Heyman, St. Paul
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We live in a culture where bad news crowds out the good. We’ve heard much about a very distressing recent incident at Central High School in St. Paul, which has saddened many of us. I’d like to share a little about one of the many great things happening at this school, specifically what I experienced at its band and orchestra concerts on recent evenings. Not only did those concerts fill the school’s halls with fantastic music, they also filled those halls with the dedication, hard work, passion and talents of the student musicians and their amazing director/conductor, Matthew Oyen. Let’s all continue to support what’s great about this 150-year-old high school — its principals, staff, teachers and students.
Karin Bearss, St. Paul
It happened in Boston, but let’s bring the lesson home
An essential lesson of business is to externalize risk and privatize profit. This approach has a downside, however. When Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges kept a campaign promise and proposed mandatory sick pay for workers in Minneapolis, big business was up in arms. The costs would hurt the bottom line, they cried. The proposal fizzled.
Then I read the Star Tribune’s Dec. 10 article “Norovirus present at Boston Chipotle.” That’s right: A worker handling food was sick and couldn’t take the day off, and 120 people took ill — exactly the kind of scenario Hodges’ proposal would prevent.
So, who should bear the risk and pay the cost? I, for one, do not want to get norovirus because a worker could not call in sick because that would hurt some business’ bottom line.
Adam M. Schenck, Minneapolis
We Gen Xers would like you to know a little secret: We exist
Oh, my gosh, thank you so much for another original and insightful article contrasting baby boomers and millennials (“Boomers ready to retire from holiday hubbub,” Dec. 10). Those of us born between 1960 and 1980 so often find ourselves wondering what rich boomers and hip millennials are thinking and doing! Learning about the dilemma of having 500 nutcracker figurines and 100 snow globes really brightened my boring Gen X day of working my unhip job and taking care of my ho-hum house and family.
What would I do for entertainment if the media lacked its slavish devotion to the affluent generation before me and the “minimalist aesthetic” generation just after?
Catherine Walker, Minneapolis