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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is just irritating. That's the best word to describe it. Irritating. It's about the Minneapolis School District and how it is in a "crisis".

Wingnuttia Level: 6 (It's irritating, okay?)

Yes, Minneapolis schools have lots of problems, like just about all urban school districts. When you have lots of poverty, lots of immigrants who don't speak English as a first language, and lots of social problems, you aren't going to have the best schools. School officials need to work on student achievement, of course, but these things aren't going to turn around overnight, and many of them won't turn around at all without dealing with many of the underlying issues.

It's nice that Kersten calls the school board "dysfunctional" but gives no evidence of its dysfunction, aside from remarking that things are bad. Since the school board is elected by the community, I assume this means that voters are idiots as well who keep on returning "dysfunctional" school board members to office.

She says that "some" African-American leaders are saying that the board needs big changes, but then only mentions one: Louis King, a former school board member. That's the extent of her evidence, something that Kersten never seems to worry much about.

Kids are leaving the district and enrolling elsewhere, such as different school districts or charter schools. This seems to be working for the kids and their parents, so what's the problem? In fact, if everybody leaves the Minneapolis district, goes elsewhere, and gets better results, shouldn't that be a good thing according to Kersten? Then why is she worried that unless Minneapolis schools start making changes it won't be worth saving? She cares but she doesn't. Something doesn't add up.

Louis King says the board needs "board members with extensive business experience, who view families as customers and understand that competition has changed the rules of the game." What he has done to recruit these kinds of people to office and get them elected is left unclear. Remember, this is a democracy. It's the duty of school board candidates to convince voters to vote for them. It's not King's duty to simply dictate to Minneapolis residents whom they "should" be voting for.

It ends with another cry about how Minneapolis schools may be too late to be saved. Huh?

All this column shows is that when Kersten pretends to care about things like public schools, she just can't get it right because she really doesn't believe it. If Minneapolis schools are as bad as she says, who cares if they disappear? I wouldn't. Then again, schools probably aren't so horrible that they are beyond saving. Minneapolis needs to make changes, yes, but these changes need to come from the community, not from self-appointed leaders who tell us what residents should be doing and nothing more.

If Kersten had just come out and said she wants to see Minneapolis schools fail and be replaced by something better, she would have been far more believable.


At 9:34 AM, February 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a (white) parent of kids in the Minneapolis schools, and I've been very active on both the school level and the district level in trying to address some of its problems.

Kersten is normally way off base in almost anything she writes, but I feel that for the first time I agree with every word of one of her columns.

Lots of parents looking at the issues have come to the same conclusions - that one of the biggest problems facing the district and all kids - not just black kids - is its failure to retain African-American families in the district. Every kid that leaves takes $10K in funding with him/her, which sets off new rounds of budget cuts and teachers shuffled from school to school. It's no exaggeration to say that the fate of the district lies in reversing the "black flight" she describes. Her statistics are the same ones that many of us parents have been asking the board to address.

I'm sure I'd argue with her about the solutions for the problem, but she has nailed the problem right on the head.

At 11:59 AM, February 02, 2006, Blogger Kevin from Minneapolis said...

Isn't the Peebles experience enough evidence of utter incompetence? I mean, they paid people to find her, then threw her out after a year and a half.


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