I was disappointed to read another retelling of the grisly murders at Glensheen ("Homes of note — and notoriety," Jan. 31). The dark history of Glensheen holds a "peculiar fascination" because the narrative is perpetuated in the newspaper and by Chan Poling's and Jeffrey Hatcher's musical. Emphasis on this chapter in the estate's history ignores and devalues the other important chapters of Glensheen's history, such as the estate's function as the Congdons' home for decades before the murders, or its role in the Duluth community today.

Glensheen's leadership has worked hard over the past several years to create a family-friendly space for visitors and to position the museum's collection as a teaching tool for local schoolchildren. As an art history instructor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I find myriad ways to incorporate the estate into my courses; students in European modernism learned about the Arts and Crafts movement while standing before period furniture in the house, and students in my Baroque Art course found inspiration for their estate design project by walking the grounds with Glensheen's head gardener.

In the midst of multiple closures during their busiest times of the year, Glensheen staff got creative by bringing would-be visitors to the estate through virtual talks and tours, demonstrating their interest in making the museum accessible to a broad audience through technology. The characterization of Glensheen as "morbid and macabre" is outdated and inadequate; it's time to recognize the home as a place for learning history and creating new family memories.

Erika Pazian, Duluth

'OUT OF GUNFIRE'S SHADOW'

A mesmerizing story, and one that gives rise to an analogy

I'd like to commend Maya Rao for the writing of the Jan. 31 front-page story "Out of gunfire's shadow," about the work Farji Shaheer is doing in north Minneapolis, ministering to gunshot victims. The story was mesmerizing and gutting, but so important to read. I felt like I was right there with Farji in his car and listening to his conversations with the victims. Keep on publishing articles like these. They give us hope about humanity. There are some really, really great people out there really making a difference.

Mary Knox, Burnsville
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The article highlights the randomness and the level of gun violence in our community. People, including children, being shot as they go about their daily lives — in their cars, homes, wherever. Regardless of whether the guns were purchased legally, or in the gray market, the result is failure of the current system to protect citizens from gun violence. The current system of background checks, exempting online and gun show sales as well as family transfers, is a prime example. It allows me to make the following analogy:

"People who learn how to drive at a driving school or recognized institution, e.g., high school, shall be required to take a driver's test. Those learning how to drive from a private individual, e.g., someone they met on the street or at a gun show, or a member of their family, e.g., cousin Fred, are exempted from taking a driver's test."

Such a regulation would be risible! Yet, that is exactly what we've got in terms of allowing access to guns.

Fred Beier, Edina

TICE ON TAXATION

Disincentives are part of the story, yes. But taxes aren't just a lark.

In his Jan. 31 column "Taxing the rich is trickier than it seems," D.J. Tice opined, rightly so, that taxes intended to target behaviors or groups often miss the mark, having unintended collateral incentivizing and disincentivizing effects. However, this argument assumes the purpose of taxation is about who pays rather than what benefits are funded by the tax revenue.

While higher state taxes might disincentivize entrepreneurs from starting a business here or force companies to pay more to hire them, the higher tax revenues pay for better services, better infrastructure and ultimately a better quality of life for locating in Minnesota compared with low-tax states. Taxes on tobacco products help offset the societal costs of smoking, just as gas taxes and vehicle registration taxes help pay for the roads we use.

Ideally, corporations should pay taxes for operating in a better state, smokers should pay taxes for burdening the health care system and drivers should pay taxes for the roads they use. While we can fuss all day about how to use taxes as incentives and disincentives, the focus of tax policy should ask: What benefits are paid by tax revenue? And how do we fairly impose taxes on those who benefit?

Andrew Kramer, Marine on St. Croix

IMPROVING EDUCATION

Commentary about motivation is borne out by my experiences

I appreciated Ted Kolderie's insightful Jan. 31 commentary on how we can realistically expect to improve education. He calls for "a redesign of secondary education focused on enabling teachers to maximize student motivation." Student motivation, Kolderie notes, is the true harbinger of educational success. You can't make someone learn. This echoes exactly my own beliefs after nearly 30 years working in Minnesota public schools.

I've had the opportunity to work in more Twin Cities schools than I can count. No matter the setting, I have never seen a motivated successful classroom where the relationships between the students and the teacher weren't obviously the foundation of how they worked. When I first started teaching in the 1990s, we had a portfolio system in which students demonstrated their learning by showcasing their actual accomplishments. It encouraged teachers to come up with creative and engaging lessons to motivate their classrooms.

Unfortunately, the standards movement swept in at that time — portfolios were out, and testing and an ever increasing rote style of education was what was pushed on teachers. Master teachers still find ways to work around the system to bring their own creativity, personality and care into their lesson plans — and make space for those relationships to grow. But our system makes it harder rather than offering support in that most fundamental task of a teacher.

I should mention the headline for Kodlerie's piece was inaccurate. "Schools need new ideas, not more goals" is not what Kolderie argued. He called for some specific changes focused on student motivation and relationships. Nothing new there; the idea of focusing on relationships as a foundation of education goes back to John Dewey 100 years ago. Sadly, education has for too long been directed by people with little real knowledge of how kids learn. I hope this is a moment when that pendulum will swing back to an education system directed by educators and reforms focused on what we know actually works.

Deacon Warner, Minneapolis