In the first sentence of her Feb. 7 commentary "Woke revolution looms for schools," Katherine Kersten asks a good question: "[A]re you ready for the coming 'woke' invasion of your child's public school?" Such an easy answer: Yes, and it's about time! As a product of Minnesota public schools, I can say there was much good about my education, but there was so much left out. The same was true for my children. My hope now is for my grandchildren, that they will learn much of the information Kersten fears. Unlike Kersten, I am not fearful of this change. We can and must do better.
Todd Biewen, Golden Valley
• • •
Let me preface this with "I'm white with a college education."
Perhaps Kersten hasn't noticed that the most pressing issue in this country isn't history class but whether we can learn to accept one another as equal and survive as a country — something that many parents are failing to teach their children, as evidenced by the existence of white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, the Boogaloo Bois, Aryan Nations, the American Freedom Party and the Ku Klux Klan, to name a few. It's tearing us apart. So for schools to focus on it is critical if we are going to be able to back away from the precipice of the abyss at which we find ourselves.
I could go on, but it's much simpler to ask Kersten to unfocus, just for a moment, on wonderful white history and read the article right next to hers in the Sunday paper: "For American racism, slavery was only the beginning," by Macalester College Prof. James Brewer Stewart. And if she gets nothing more out of the article, at least she might remember the quote from Wendell Phillips after ratification of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery, "We have abolished the slave. The Master remains."
Jerry Jacobson, Woodbury
• • •
Kersten extols a "colorblind ideal" regarding race, then quickly complains that there are too many Native Americans on a committee. This is precisely the amount of hypocrisy I have come to expect from the Center of the American Experiment, where she is a senior policy fellow.
Matthew Byrnes, Minneapolis
• • •
Per usual, I am offended by Kersten's commentary. The idea that we would be teaching students that "their skin color defines who they are" is nonsense. The assertion that students will be "scandalously misinformed" under new standards is just creating drama. But to imply that learning about Native American history is less important because our Native community is only 1% of the population is an outrage. That small percentage is the result of American genocide. This is American history, and we are teaching it to our children. It's called teaching the truth.
Emily Lilja Palmer, Minneapolis
The writer is principal of Washburn High School.
• • •
At a time when recent polling suggests that nearly a quarter of American adults under 40 believe the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated, we learn from Kersten that the Minnesota Department of Education is considering omitting the Holocaust from its K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies. With around 50% of those polled admitting to having "seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online," it would seem this is an especially inopportune time to stop teaching about one of the worst crimes in human history.
Given such alarming levels of ignorance about the Holocaust in the country at large — almost 20% of those polled in the state of New York believe that the Jews brought it upon themselves — is it not a terrible idea to omit its teaching in Minnesota's public schools, not to mention being silent on other 20th-century atrocities like the gulags of Soviet Russia, China's Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and the Armenian, Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, crimes against humanity that resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths and untold suffering?
I think it a very bad idea indeed not to expose young Minnesotans to these tragic events, events that have shaped our world and shed light on our understanding of the darker recesses of human nature in indelible ways. Kersten should be congratulated for drawing our attention to their egregious omission from the proposed social studies standards for Minnesota's schools, and for much else besides.
Bernard Carpenter, Chanhassen
The writer is a retired history teacher.
• • •
Kersten presents the new Minnesota education standards as unachievable. May I suggest we have models worth using from Africa and Germany. It's about Truth and Reconciliation. It is time for us to "woke-up" in Minnesota and in the United States.
Elaine C. Gaston, Minneapolis
• • •
If what Kersten says is true (I have reservations, based on her past assertions), we are looking at Chinese-style re-education, not American education. This Orwellian usurpation of history is frightening. The unintended consequence, to the chagrin of "cancel culture" leftists who drafted it, is a further migration to parochial and private schools. Thank goodness for school choice!
Charles Corcoran, Stillwater
• • •
As I was reading "Woke revolution looms for schools," I was reminded of the old saying that all the great civilizations in history lasted only a few hundred years and that most collapsed from within. The U.S. is on borrowed time. I would recommend to the Department of Education that they skip this travesty they want to call history and use the time to teach mandatory Chinese. It will be more useful to the students.
Can anyone tell me how to file for a refund of my tax dollars supposedly used to fund the school system?
Pamela F. Janisch, Mound
Opinion editor's note: See also the Feb. 11 counterpoint "Why the shift in social studies standards is needed," by a member of the Minnesota Social Studies Standards Committee.
CHRISTIANITY AND POLITICS
Please remember: We're not all like the nationalists in a recent article
I must respond to the Feb. 7 article "Some see the nation, Christianity as one." I am a Christian and a member of a mainline Protestant church. The people I worship with and I want people to know that our beliefs are much different from many of the Christians written about in this article.
We don't believe that God created the United States as a Christian nation. The First Amendment gives us the right to practice the religion that we choose or to choose not to practice a religion. It does not give us the right to force our beliefs on others. We believe that Jesus set an example of reaching out to those on the edges of society. We try to welcome all, provide assistance for those who struggle and work for changes in systems to address the struggles and that we need to make changes so that this planet will be a hospitable home for generations to come. We are working to put Christ back into Christian.
Judy Jerde, White Bear Lake
• • •
I could never understand Christian nationalism, not in this country — it's a mutually exclusive term. If you want to be Christian, how can you do the Pledge of Allegiance (Matthew 6:24)? How can you put money in a 401(k) or meet with financial planners (Luke 12:33-34)? How can you demonize those who vote differently than you (Matthew 5:44)? How, as American can you ascribe to the teachings of a foreign born, non English speaker, and build walls at your borders? How can you support the death penalty (Matthew 9:13)?
No, co-opting God for your political leanings or national identify just won't fly. America is not a bad place to live, not for this white guy, but I cannot both be a chest-thumping American and make a claim to be Christian.