A field trip for middle-school students to “the progressive sex toy store for everyone” sparked outrage in the Twin Cities last week. According to the Star Tribune, students as young as 11 sat in the library section of the Smitten Kitten and were offered access to products that could be used to practice safer sex. Many were relieved to hear that Gaia Democratic School receives no taxpayer funds. It should. The parents of the children at this school freely chose it and believe it is the best place to educate their children. Unhappy with the school’s decision to take their 11- and 13-year-old daughters to the sex toy emporium, the parents profiled by the Star Tribune pulled them and their 9-year-old daughter out of the school.
Unfortunately, decisions such as sending your kids to Gaia and pulling them out when Gaia disappoints are limited to those with the means to afford private school tuition. The best way to improve education is to allow more parents to make the choices they feel are correct for their children’s education using school vouchers, causing schools to be responsive to parents’ priorities. Some might send their kids to religious schools. Some might send them to the library section of a sex toy store, or beyond. The Minneapolis school superintendent told the Washington Post, “Minneapolis schools still suspend 10 black students for every one white student, for the same types of infractions. The inequities exist not in student behavior, but in adult response.” A parent forced to send their child to that school might well prefer an occasional trip to the Smitten Kitten.
Frank Piskolich, Minneapolis
U RESEARCH ETHICS
Credit Elliott and Turner for prodding people into action
As a member of the implementation team at the University of Minnesota whose recommendations concerning human subjects protection are being hailed as “Markingson’s legacy” (“The best thing for the U now is to move forward,” May 31), I need to demur. While I think our recommendations if seriously implemented will greatly improve human subjects protection, the ground on which that edifice will stand is still problematically unstable. Unanswered questions and failures to hold individuals accountable remain and need to be addressed. Furthermore, credit for what we have accomplished is misplaced. Neither the team nor the external review on whose recommendations our work was based would have existed but for the efforts of Carl Elliott and his colleague Leigh Turner. Those of us in the Faculty Senate who called for the outside review deserve credit only — and this is no small thing — for refusing to go along with the clear message from successive administrations that Dr. Elliott was not to be taken seriously, and that while academic freedom afforded him some protection from direct retaliation, others’ academic responsibility lay in shunning him.
The university administration owes Profs. Elliott and Turner an apology and a debt of gratitude, but, most important going forward, it needs to grant them the credibility they have earned.
Naomi Scheman, St. Paul
The writer is a professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota.
• • •
As a 2013 graduate of the University of Minnesota, I was appalled by the May 31 “counterpoint” from university President Eric Kaler. As a student, I was active sharing my comments, concerns and criticisms with Kaler and his staff. I have always believed in the excellence of the University of Minnesota, but that faith does not extend to Kaler, his administration or our Board of Regents.
Kaler mischaracterized the legislative auditor’s report, the scope of which was on the broad institutional “culture of fear” that systematically ignored “serious ethical issues.”
The fact that Kaler cited numerous reviews that span a decade highlights continued failure. Further, the report concluded Dr. Stephen Olson’s research had “numerous” conflicts of interest, adding that he had “inappropriately” delegated work in research that involved people’s lives. I wonder then what kind of accountability we are getting when Olson continues to influence students, staff and the department?
We have yet to see Kaler do more than pay lip service to these issues without demonstrating the courage to act. Yet why would he or the Board of Regents feel compelled to act when there is no accountability? We cannot continue to have good faith in those who have routinely and consistently failed us.
Chris Getowicz, Minneapolis
Are you kidding? Social media is too a tool for aggression
Maureen Schriner is living in la-la land (“PedalPub attacks: Groupthink gone wild,” May 31) if she thinks social media is merely a passive tool in those bizarre attacks.
Ever since a father was badly beaten July 4, 2008, at Valleyfair defending the honor of his daughter by “wilding” youths, the power of the cellphone text, the Twitter feed, the Facebook rant and the like have been shown time and again to incite bizarre events. Personally, I think the people who initiated the water balloon attacks had the right idea but erred by choosing the wrong target.
How much more support would those “Mad Max” bicyclists have gotten from the public if instead of PedalPubs they had splatted drivers on their cellphones at stoplights?
No, Ms. Schriner, those PedalPub attacks are not an example of groupthink run amok but, as they say in cinema, a preview of coming attractions. Attacks initiated by social media will happen with increasing frequency because they are easy, effective and totally unencumbered by the thought process.
Benjamin Cherryhomes, Hastings
NORTHWEST ANGLE TEACHER
If you haven’t read this article about dedication, you ought to
When I began reading “One room, one teacher” (May 31), I thought it was a fluffy, “feel good” story. Instead, it was a gritty, “real good” story about a dedicated teacher, a modern pioneer woman, a strong community and loving spouses. Linda LaMie is an inspiration. Thank you to the reporting team that revealed her to Minnesotans outside the Northwest Angle.
Therese Blaine, Minneapolis
Fraud and identity theft among them, but what are our options?
The May 31 article “Identity theft and fraud cases swamp suburbs” started with an account of how a check was stolen from a mailbox then forged. This is a cautionary tale for all of us who live in single-family homes in the suburbs with the traditional mailbox curbside. But what is the alternative to using that mailbox for outgoing mail? I have lived in Eden Prairie for more than 16 years, and I know of only three sites that have the big blue boxes for mail. Why don’t we have secure boxes near malls and grocery stores, where the public could easily and conveniently use them?
Alan Belisle, Eden Prairie
We risk being shortsighted
It is hard for me to believe that we can quibble over $300 million or $400 million on a project so important as the proposed $2 billion Southwest light-rail line (“Eden Prairie LRT stations eyed for cuts,” June 4). Any compromises made, such as eliminating stations; over- and underpasses for bicycles and pedestrians, and park-and-ride stations will only decrease the effectiveness of the line and will cost more in future years when we realize they are needed. It looks like a classic case of short-sighted thinking to me.
Brian Mallon, Minneapolis