John C. Chalberg wants to use public funds to enable parents to send their children to schools where their chosen values are not challenged ("There's another virus plaguing our schools," Opinion Exchange, May 8). So instead of an education where students have an opportunity to expand their understanding of a range of viewpoints (and all those viewpoints won't be leftist, Mr. Chalberg; aren't you one of the protesters; aren't you seeking to be heard in a public forum?), you want them to huddle together in schools where their own received ideas are coddled and cocooned. In other words, you want us to isolate ourselves from whatever might challenge preferred beliefs, where we might learn not to defend with courage and debate with vigor but to rebuke and disrespect those who don't think like we do. Doesn't it occur to you that this kind of tribalism is already feeding citizen unrest in this county?
A Saturday letter writer argues that we should essentially give up on students who lack ability and the will to strive, but another argues that the right teacher can inspire motivation and promote effort.
As a veteran retired teacher, I know that many students need more than just an inspiring teacher, but no student needs a teacher who wants to keep their minds closed.
I don't disagree with Chalberg's view that public education in these United States needs to be changed, but it's not going to help to make that education elitist and un-American.
And I abhor one of the letter writers' notions that we can't change factors of effort and ability by improving our system. One factor that might effect a change in effort and ability is supplying the underfed and unserved poor in this county with the promise that a high school education would enable them to get a job that pays a living wage and offers them health care, sick leave, child care benefits — things that enable them to see the value of the effort that will increase their abilities, their self-worth and their pride in being American.
Ruth Wood, River Falls, Wis.
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There he goes again. Chalberg claims there is "another virus plaguing our schools." It's a typical Chalberg commentary; that is, it's one with a deep flaw. He calls the virus "Wokeness-19." It must be terrible, as it so threatens our schools and our children that we need a vaccine for it. His remedy is vouchers, so that parents can protect their youngsters from ... well, what, exactly? We don't know because — here is the flaw in Chalberg's argument (if you can call it that) — he never tells us what Wokeness-19 is.
The Star Tribune ought to demand more of its opinion writers — like, for example, "Please identify the ill you rail against."
Paul Nelson, St. Paul
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I strongly disagree with Chalberg's point that states "there has been general agreement that our public schools should advance a political message." I do not want schools advocating for any one political message. Rather, it seems to me that schools work best when they attempt to present all sides and political views of history. Students need to know and understand the many benefits of Thomas Jefferson's "empire of liberty" and American nationhood. But they also must learn about where America has been undergirded by racist and genocidal policies.
We should not whitewash our past, which seems to be what Chalberg wants to allow to happen in his proposed voucher schools. Nor should we fear that we would be undermining the strength of our nation by introducing a "woke" perspective that shows the realities of our nation's history, warts and all.
David Kowalski, Shorewood
Amendment won't touch inequity
The proposed constitutional amendment to reduce racial disparities in education ("Journey toward equity must begin at school," Opinion Exchange, May 4) will change exactly one thing: the amount of litigation.
David Brandt, Minnetonka
Just because you know it doesn't mean you can teach it
A gentleman with a business background wrote into Saturday's paper, describing his desire to be a teacher of middle school math or science ("Less red tape begets more teachers," Readers Write). He considered the required training "onerous" and "unnecessary," apparently assuming he could simply step into a classroom and be a successful teacher.
However well-intentioned, this man shares a very common misconception — that if you know a subject, you can teach it. That no training is needed to inspire the respect, attention, hard work and mastery that you expect to see in your students.
The reality, of course, is that it takes years to become a successful teacher. Hopefully, most of the mistakes a teacher makes will happen sometime during that "onerous" training, under the watchful eye of a college instructor or a mentor. I'm willing to bet that the writer's own inspirational teachers were not fresh transfers from nonteaching careers.
The writer further suggested that we not focus on a teacher's degree or coursework — just let the free market judge teachers according to their results. I say let's do that with surgeons, too. Don't consider what medical school they went to, or even if they did — let's just see how well they can perform appendectomies.
Mark Brandt, Minneapolis
The writer is a retired teacher.
Try backing up that argument with data, anecdotes, anything at all
And the hits just keep on coming. This time the flogging comes courtesy of Gary Marvin Davison in his May 7 commentary, "Nostalgia, pie-in-the-sky won't fix public education" (Opinion Exchange). After I read this piece I waited to see the landslide of letters to the editor renouncing Davison's opinions as unsubstantiated and grossly exaggerated. So far I have seen no response. Perhaps the readership understood that Davison was so far off the mark that no reply is needed.
However, it is harmful when a person claims to have an interest in education and then goes on to state that "we must be willing to tell the hard truths about teacher incompetence (at the median), woefully knowledge-deficient curriculum and administrative ineptitude." Davison provides absolutely no evidence to support his claim. We can all agree that education has many issues that require problem solving and constant retooling to keep up with the changes that come with time. Throwing teachers under the bus won't cut it.
I would expect that statements like those made by Davison should be accompanied with specific data points or at least some anecdotal evidence. Until that happens I suggest that he do like all teachers do: Roll up his sleeves and do the hard work of researching and developing a plan based on data and long-range planning.
Alan Briesemeister, Delano, Minn.
The writer is a retired educator.
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