Adam Platt (“LRT as engine: Churning or not?” May 3) properly concludes that the Twin Cities does not have a congestion problem — something that I can attest to, having spent time in many cities with real congestion issues. What struck me most was his conclusion: “Thus, I end up back where I started a decade ago. The Twin Cities doesn’t need rail transit. It’s a costly form of social engineering.” Which he then attempts to ameliorate by adding: “But the case for LRT is more compelling if you focus on all the people riding the lines and the vibrancy and development along them that is contributing to a renaissance in our downtowns. Chicken or egg? Good question.” (Social engineering.)

Should limited resources be invested on social-engineering projects? Given all of the other truly compelling needs, I would propose that the answer to that question is no.

Loren Berg, Rio Verde, Ariz.

• • •

Platt has some good ideas. For example, he points out that people just don’t like to ride buses. That may be elitism, yet it is a fact to be reckoned with. But he admits he is the culprit who sold the decisionmakers on the questionable idea that the purpose of light rail is to promote development along adjacent areas. We are to spend one or two billion dollars in order to increase the tax base? That smacks of voodoo economics. If we would admit that the real purpose of transit is to transport people from point A and A prime to points B and B prime, then we would route the Southwest light rail along existing roadways — for example, along Hennepin Avenue, where the streetcars once ran, then perhaps west on Lake Street or Hwy. 7. Then we would avoid destroying beautiful neighborhoods and spending hundreds of millions on bridges or tunnels.

To those of us who have only watched from the sidelines as this debate rages, the whole plan seems fundamentally flawed. Yes, throw it out and start over.

Edward J. Schwartzbauer, Edina

 

OPT-OUT MOVEMENT

Maybe students simply want to make better use of their time

Like most articles on standardized testing and opting out, a May 3 story (“Opt-out option on tests backfires”) did not identify the standardized test the students were not taking. As I understand it, the test they are opting out of is the MCA, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment. This test has nothing to do with graduation, nor do colleges use it in judging applicants. As the article states, high-performing students are realizing that their precious class time is better spent studying course work that will affect their grades and chances for college. So, when they discover they don’t have to waste their time preparing for it and taking it, they opt out to make better use of their time. There is no plot. It just makes sense.

The article did not respond to the Better Ed vice president’s rather naive reply after he’d been informed that the dip in MCA test scores he’d attributed to a regression in student comprehension was actually due to brighter students opting out. He said: “I understand some of the reasons for the movement, but I haven’t heard what other form of accountability really looks like.” Well, for a person whose organization is pushing to dismantle the Minneapolis School District, you’d think he’d have knowledge of options like basing assessments on the students’ actual classroom work, wouldn’t you? Or how about doing what other countries do and conduct school-quality reviews (no testing — rather, a comprehensive review is done by a team of qualified professionals)? Or how about student portfolio assessment, which shows the depth and scope of each student’s understanding of what is being taught? Standardized tests can’t do this.

Standardized testing continues under its own inertia, even though it has been proven faulty. It’s a huge moneymaker for testing companies. The opt-out movement is needed to stop it.

Terry Faust, Minneapolis

• • •

The Star Tribune reported that when more-­affluent white students opted out of testing, the proficiency rate dropped in Minneapolis’ “best” schools. All parties are comfortable with this analysis — the media, the superintendent and even reform groups. Yet, when a school has high English-language-learner population, homeless population, students living in poverty, or special-education population, the school is permitted “no excuses.” We certainly cannot question whether the tests are culturally appropriate for new immigrant students.

I hope that the high opt-out rate exposes testing-system shortcomings, but let us think about why it takes hurting the “best” schools for testing to be questioned.

Carrie Bakken, Minneapolis

 

IMMIGRANTS

Perhaps problems start with our traditional ‘melting pot’ analogy

I can appreciate the thought that went into the latest D.J. Tice column, and I agree fundamentally with his premise that things get better in general as time goes on for most people who have lived through the immigration experience. But we should not continue the outdated model that has left many of us without a connection to our country of origin — that is, to drop our old ways, language or other significant part of ourselves that is identifiable as part of our national heritage to assimilate into the American “culture.”

The blandification of our collective experiences has been a detriment to our nation and has painted an unrealistic picture of what it means to be American. Instead of welcoming diversity and encouraging our newest neighbors to add to our ever-increasing complexity, many succumb to the overhyped fears our 24-hour news feeds.

With the exception of individuals of aboriginal North American descent, we are all immigrants. Ask them if they have gotten over our coming here! If our newest neighbors are feeling shellshocked in the process of adjustment, we have to look in the mirror and honestly examine how we are exacerbating that problem.

Laurie Stammer, Buffalo, Minn.

• • •

There is a tinge of American exceptionalism in the notion of immigrant alienation being a distinctively American experience. Whether it be Chinese in Indonesia, Russians in Estonia or Africans in Europe, all endure ethnocentrism and racism.

Additionally, European immigrants in America could anglicize their surnames and blend in after a generation or two because they were white, a characteristic not shared by darker-skinned people seeking a charmed circle of life here.

John Ammerman, St. Louis Park

• • •

Nothing in Tice’s column specifically caused me to bristle, but while we have a tradition of immigrant transitions, from my own Swedish ancestors to our current Somali population in the Twin Cities, one immigrant population continues to be treated with outright malice by our institutions: African-Americans. When will our country stop persecuting young black males simply because of the color of their skin? When will the chokeholds stop? When will the accidental shootings stop? When will unarmed black men be able to receive justice without death? When will we finally be able to tell our children, all our children, no matter the color of their skin, they will receive fair, just treatment by our country’s system of law and its enforcers?

As the proud white father of a 13-year-old “mixed” daughter who elegantly performed in the profoundly beautiful and tragic ballet “Giselle” at the O’Shaughnessy last weekend, I am continually appalled not only by the poor treatment of our immigrant citizens, but even more, I am repulsed by the worst of all treatments, racist to the core, of a people who have supported this nation on its collective shoulders. Shame on us all.

Jeffrey M. Ayer, West St. Paul