Ouch. Holy cow! Uff da. Gary Marvin Davison could not give us a more pessimistic view of the state of education in Minnesota at present ("Students aren't just learning the wrong thing," Opinion Exchange, Feb. 18). I was amazed at the tone of the piece. Davison certainly uses a broad brush to tell us that reforming standards like the social studies standards as discussed by Katherine Kersten and Aaliyah Hodge will, to use his words, "never be accomplished through national or state processes in the United States, given the nation's mania for local control." ("Woke revolution looms for schools," Feb. 7, and "Why we need new social studies standards," Feb. 11.)
In his piece, Davison bashes every conceivable participant in the process. Of teachers, he says, "Their main pedagogical recourse is to distribute boring worksheets, assign individual and group projects with little background information, and to show videos that go unexplained and undiscussed." That last broad stroke is an insult to every teacher in this state.
As an educator with 40 years of experience, I can assure the readers that Davison really misses the whole process that occurs between teachers and students. Education is a process that involves teachers and students in a very personal and deliberate relationship. This pandemic has revealed just how intricate and varied those relationships are. I am sure many adjustments will be forthcoming in education as educators continue to evaluate their practices and the actions of their students.
What Davison offers in the piece I read Thursday had nothing positive that any educator or student would build on. Education is in a constant state of evaluation and reform that requires problem solving skills, not acerbic diatribes.
Alan Briesemeister, Delano
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Davison blesses us with yet another screed about the failings of the public school system. Awesome. Way to kick 'em when they are down. Nothing escapes his judgment, from curriculum to teacher training programs to unions to the teachers themselves. And yet ...
He does not discuss perhaps the most fundamental issue of all: teacher compensation. First year K-12 teachers with a bachelor's degree in the state of Minnesota can expect starting pay of $39,000 to $43,000 according to salary.com and other online sites. With a master's degree, that can "soar" to $45,000-$50,000 and with a master's degree and three to five years of experience, you can reach the median of $60,000 shown on ONet. Unfortunately, many don't stick around for that major bump in salary.
I am surprised Davison didn't drag out the old saw about teachers "only" having to work nine months a year. Check some teachers' contracts. That nine months is really 10.5 months, and guess what? Teachers make so little money for the education and continuing education they need to become and remain teachers that they almost all have second jobs they work at full time at during their "summers off" and even during the school year. Dedication comes at a price.
Last, and I have said this many times: How many classrooms has Davison been in lately? How does he know that public school students are "learning nothing at all"? I will offer him the same challenge I have given every public-school-basher over the years. Spend one week in elementary school, middle school and high school classrooms and then write another commentary. So far, nobody has taken me up on it. Why spend time doing something for little reward?
Claire Hilgeman, Minneapolis
BACK IN SCHOOL
Potentially sometime soon, maybe
My wife and I are proud parents of a freshman and a sixth-grader, both of whom attend Minneapolis Public Schools. Although when I say "attend," that isn't quite accurate because neither one has stepped foot in an authentic classroom since last March. So yesterday when we heard Gov. Tim Walz say all Minnesota schools should offer some form of in-person learning by March 8, we were relieved ("Walz says schools ready for in-person learning," Feb. 18).
But then I read this sentence in the Star Tribune regarding the reopening of public middle and high schools in Minneapolis: Superintendent Ed Graff "indicated that the process might begin with targeted in-person support for some secondary students in March." Might? Some? And what, pray tell, is in-person support? I'm not sure anyone anywhere could maybe possibly write a sentence more vague.
Does this lack of clarity stem from a fear of the teachers union? Or is it that the district simply does not have an adequate staff of substitutes? After nearly a year of distant learning, I believe Minneapolis public school families deserve more than vague statements from the superintendent.
Timothy Hennum, Minneapolis
JAN. 6 COMMISSION
Don't take too many notes from 9/11
Forming a "truth-seeking commission" to investigate Jan. 6, absolutely. A 9/11-style coverup commission, absolutely not. (" 'We must get to the truth,' " Feb. 16.)
It took the Bush-Cheney administration over 440 days after the 9/11 attacks to establish its commission with Henry Kissinger originally announced as chairman. But he resigned due to numerous conflicts of interest, resulting in Thomas Kean being appointed.
It was quietly announced that Phillip Zelikow would be executive director. Missing from his bio were multiple conflicts of interest showing how the Bush-Cheney administration put one of its own in charge of investigating how the administration "failed" on 9/11.
Kean and vice-chair Lee Hamilton ultimately admitted they thought the commission was "set up to fail."
The 9/11 Commission did fail us in numerous and untold ways. Let's learn from our recent history and not allow it to repeat itself. Select commission leaders who will investigate and fearlessly report their findings. And, please, no more 9/11-style coverup commissions.
Harvey Swenson, Edina
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Why do we need a 1/6 Commission, when we have the law?
The 9/11 Commission made some sense, simply because there wasn't a public legal means to discover the facts from those who carried out the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or arrest those persons overseas who orchestrated and financed it. The airline hijackers were dead, and the foreign organization behind the crime was in hiding overseas.
We were on uncharted ground with the 9/11 attack. That is not the case with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Seditious conspiracy, one potential charge, has been an issue throughout our history. It is only unique here because we never before had an nonpeaceful transition of power, an attempted coup by a departing president, bloody the floors of our Capitol.
There are statutes to help the FBI investigate those who planned and paid for this attack on our democracy. The seditious conspiracy charge itself is well defined in our federal statutes.
If America is going to have justice and closure on the events of Jan. 6, former President Donald Trump and those who planned, orchestrated and financed those now being arrested in the attack on the Capitol need to be investigated, indicted and tried in a court of law. The impeachment proceedings showed a convincing criminal case could be made against Trump for inciting the riot and allowing it to continue until it became apparent no more could be done to continue his presidency beyond Inauguration Day.
A 9/11-style commission could do more harm at this time than any possible good. It should not meet, because it could hamper the investigation and eventual prosecution of those responsible.
Under our Constitution, only a federal court can decide on the facts and render justice for the crime of sedition. Justice for all is what makes America exceptional. Rather than more political theater, let us show the world that justice still shines as the beacon of our democracy.
Carl Lee, Minnetonka
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