I agree with the argument that that the Star Tribune Editorial Board made against the Higher Learning Commission’s decision to require teachers who teach college-level courses in high school to have master’s degrees or graduate credits in the subjects they teach (“Don’t make it harder to earn college credits,” Sept. 17). But some of the evidence that the Editorial Board used to make that argument is deeply flawed.

The editorial cited a Minnesota Department of Education report that found that the average test scores and graduation rates of students who take college-level courses are higher than the average test scores and graduation rates of students overall. This is a prime example of what is called “selection bias.” The vast majority of high school students who take college-level courses do so either because they think they have the ability to succeed in those courses or because someone else thinks they have that ability. As such, arguing that taking college-level courses is the only or even the primary cause of higher test scores and graduation rates is almost certainly wrong.

I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t encourage high school students to take college-level classes. In fact, it is because I support that policy that I am taking this opportunity to highlight the danger of drawing conclusions based on data that suffer from obvious selection bias. In other instances, such flawed data is used to advance policies and practices that more rigorous experimental research does not support and that I very much oppose. So the next time you encounter someone citing data to advocate for a course of action in education, ask yourself if selection bias may be at work and if credit is being given or blame is being cast where it may not, in fact, be due.

Kent Pekel, St. Paul

The writer is president and CEO of the Search Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts applied research in education and youth development.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Controversial organization should find its own funding

While as a pacifist Quaker I do not approve of the use of violence to solve personal problems, the mission of Planned Parenthood — public health education and voluntary controls on human reproduction and family size — is an important one.

My question is why Planned Parenthood is dependent on government funding. Why can’t the organization accomplish its work with foundation grants, corporate sponsorship and individual donations?

The executives and board members of PP have known for decades that their support for abortion is controversial and that some members of Congress will be forced by their constituents to demonstrate opposition in the legislative and budget-making processes. Yet, PP continues to cling to government funding, and apparently plans to do this indefinitely.

The real problem is a long-standing assumption on the part of PP board members and executives that they can ride roughshod over public opinion and ignore the fact that by supporting abortion, they sponsor violence as a means of problem-solving. By doing this, they give support to all others who would use violence to effect social change.

Mark R. Jacobson, Richville, Minn.

 

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Honestly, Ponnuru. Sanders knows who really halts progress.

Ramesh Ponnuru must be exhausted after spinning his commentary in which he tries to characterize Bernie Sander’s speech at Liberty University as a critique on the Obama administration (“Today no one wants to ‘stay the course,’ ” Sept. 17). He conveniently overlooks the Republicans’ intransigence in Congress, where they’ve done everything possible to block any Obama initiative.

Remember Republican Mitch McConnell claiming that his top political goal was to make Obama a one-term president? So instead of working with the new president toward a compromise that might make life better for the American middle class, the Senate majority leader was more interested in reclaiming political power for his party. And the Republicans in Washington marched along in lockstep.

No talk of Obama’s initiatives to create jobs by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and measures moving us to a green energy economy? Both blocked by Republicans. Strengthen the rights of workers to organize for better wages and working conditions? Blocked. Adjust our trade laws to encourage returning jobs to our shores? Blocked. Raise the minimum wage? Blocked again.

If Ponnuru were to discuss the plight of working Americans honestly, he would report that unless a policy were to support trickle-down economics or cut the taxes of the wealthy, the Republicans will move heaven and hell to block it.

Don’t try twisting Sen. Sanders’ message, Mr. Ponnuru. Bernie’s critiques are not aimed at the president, but at those who hinder real progress for this county.

Larry Muelken, Prior Lake

 

MINNEAPOLIS PUBLIC SAFETY

Do we need improved street lighting to reduce crime?

As Minneapolis city leaders discuss methods to reduce crime, is improved street lighting among them? It seems that several areas of the city could benefit — for example, parts of Park Avenue that are almost entirely dark (and will be darker as shorter days approach). Bikers are regularly using the bike lanes, at all hours and in all seasons; pedestrians are walking to public transportation; street parking is necessary for visitors and some residents; adult students are attending evening classes; medical personnel working evening/night/early-morning hours need to park on the street. Is there any way to speed up current planning on enhancing the safety of streets and evaluating lighting needs?

M.J. Thorsheim, Minneapolis

 

GUNS

Ban them? Well, they’re all over, and not all are semiautomatic

As a firearms safety instructor, I must admit that I was a bit perplexed by a Sept. 17 letter from a woman who advocated “reasonable gun control,” stating that Neal Zumberge killed his neighbor with a “handy gun” that, had it “not been available,” might have led Zumberge to pelt his neighbor with rotten tomatoes instead of shooting him.

Well, that definitely would have been better, but Zumberge killed his neighbor with a shotgun. There are probably a billion shotguns in Minnesota. The writer might not have known that shotguns are used in hunting ducks, pheasant, geese and other game. So, this “handy gun” was a hunting firearm that just about any adult can own. My father, who died at age 97, owned three shotguns at the time of his death. What “reasonable gun control” would have prevented my dad, an avid duck hunter, from acquiring these shotguns during his lifetime?

In addition to shotguns and hunting rifles, it is estimated that there are more than 300 million handguns in America. The time to initiate gun control would have been in 1776. The solution to the problem of gun violence is to stop focusing on the gun, and to spend more time and money looking at the disturbed people whose mental health issues lead them to commit such awful crimes.

Dick Engebretson, Minneapolis