People of color and indigenous people have suffered terrible and unacceptable treatment since the founding of our nation. The writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder (perhaps written by her daughter?) contain a few sad reminders of that treatment. That said, some of the suggestions by Jessica Mork for teaching young people about the history of racism and racist slurs (“Breaking down the arguments against removing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a literary award,” June 27) are simply unrealistic.
I am a history buff. I have also raised four children and now have seven grandchildren. I think I have a pretty good understanding of the likes and dislikes of children. I have also read “Guns, Germs and Steel,” which she recommends as an alternative for a “fictionalized, whitewashed version of life on the prairie.” While I found that book to be well-written, entertaining and authoritative, one must admit it would be a bit dense and long for most children. The thought of handing it to a youngster and expecting the child to learn from it, or even read it, makes no sense.
The same is true of thinking that children will watch the news and learn about current affairs. Most kids won’t willingly watch TV news, which in any event tends to present little more than superficial treatment of most topics. While CNN and MSNBC may do a better job, I don’t believe those networks are appropriate for younger children. Teens are unlikely to be happy with the prospect of spending their evening with the talking heads. While I do watch the History Channel on occasion, it too often offers programs that have nothing to do with history or at best offer a watered-down presentation of important subjects, none of which will be helpful.
Long ago I earned a degree in education. Despite what Ms. Mork says, I believe an excellent approach would be to use the Wilder books as a teaching tool, with additional attention to making the lessons appropriate or finding an alternate method if students of marginalized communities are present. Age-appropriate discussions with a parent would also be an excellent means of learning about racist language, if the parent will take the time.
While we agree that racism is the great sin of our country, dealing with the topic requires common-sense approaches.
Boyd Beccue, Monticello, Minn.
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The writer of the June 27 letter “In defense of Laura Ingalls Wilder” mentioned racist comments that appeared in some of Wilder’s writings. I am in agreement with the statement that ‘things were very different 150-plus years ago.” What we need to remember is that, well before 150-plus years ago, foremost in the eyes of the indigenous people of this land, was the need/desire to defend/protect their land and territories from the intrusion of the “pioneers,” immigrants, colonists, and explorers from Europe and elsewhere, seeking new opportunities. These Native Americans did not have the judicial decision of a Supreme Court to ban travel and settlement of intruders into what they rightfully considered their land. Especially since many of the intrusions were violent.
Janice E. Williams, Golden Valley
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George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The westward movement and the decimation of the American Indians happened. If what happened is embarrassing and shameful to white Americans, so be it. It should be, and attempting to whitewash it and shove it into a dark corner is destructive in the long run.
Simply teaching children that it happened and glossing past it is no substitute for the more in-depth understanding that can be gained by reading accounts by people who were there.
Grandma Ingalls’ attitude about Indians is demeaning to Indians, but her reason for holding that opinion is understandable. So is the motivation of the Indians she feared for trying to drive invaders off their land. She never considered herself an invader, and therein lies the shame, the irony and the history that must not be forgotten.
As to subjecting Indian children to such epithets, I think that they can tell the difference between attitudes held 150 years ago from attitudes held today. I am Jewish, and I became aware of the Nazi propaganda likening Jews to subhuman animals at a very early age. I never thought that it applied to me. If anything, I thought of it as demeaning to the people who wrote it, and I was never adversely affected by learning about it.
David M. Perlman, New Hope
U.S. SUPREME COURT VACANCY
Senators should not act before completion of Mueller probe
Democrats in the U.S. Senate should refuse to confirm any nominee from President Donald Trump to the Supreme Court until the Mueller investigation is completed.
The Supreme Court will likely be asked to decide several important, novel constitutional questions in connection with that investigation: Can the president obstruct justice? Can he be indicted while in office? Can he be compelled to answer a subpoena seeking testimony or documents in a criminal investigation (whether or not he is the target)? Is it a crime to collude with a foreign (and arguably hostile) power to influence a U.S. election? What constitutes accepting an unconstitutional emolument, and if a president does so, what is the legal consequence? Can a president pardon himself?
The decisive issue is nonpartisan, nonpolitical and perfectly serious: Can a president whose campaign and administration are under criminal investigation appoint the judges who will decide his case? The answer must be “no” in order to ensure that the judiciary can be a meaningful check on authoritarian rule. This is far more important and historic than exacting revenge on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his reprehensible theft of a Supreme Court nomination from the last president.
I call on Minnesota’s U.S. senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, to join in calling for not confirming any Supreme Court nominee until special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is completed.
Paul Landskroener, Minneapolis
PUC deserves someone’s thanks for Line 3 approval. But whose?
Thank you to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for putting corporate profits over environmental destruction (“Contested pipeline approved,” June 29). If there is so much concern over the safety of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 replacement, the sensible thing to do is shut down the pipeline and remove it. We have no need to have a new pipeline run through the sacred Minnesota lands to the north. Short-term jobs are hardly a long-term benefit. By continuing the extraction and flow of the dirtiest oil on the planet, the PUC has helped assure the extinction of our planet due to the consequences of climate change.
Barry Riesch, St. Paul
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Well, they’ve certainly taken the “public” out of the public utility commission.
Georgia Wegner, Minneapolis