Rich Cowles of Eagan wrote (again) on May 10 to say “pass these gun bills” because “what could be more important than the safety of our children?”
Political capital is apparently what’s more important. Democratic supporters of gun control were given the opportunity before, and during session this year, to modify their lobbyist-provided model legislation to better reflect Minnesotans’ wishes. Instead, they chose to blatantly “toe the party line” and stick to the out-of-state-financed efforts to pass ceremonial bills strictly for political reasons.
It’s shameful when we have opportunities for effective change, effective enforcement and funding for existing efforts (which have made Minnesota already one of the safest places in the U.S. and the world) and our elected leaders choose to remain partisan.
Patrick Watson, Mendota Heights
As Minnesotans, we value teaching history from a variety of perspectives, including indigenous ones. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, there are 69 academic standards relating to Minnesota American Indian tribes in social studies, language arts, art, and science. “Why Treaties Matter,” an exhibit on the sovereignty of American Indian nations, is on permanent display in our State Capitol. In Minnesota we value multiple perspectives, and we value indigenous perspectives.
As educators, we are both puzzled and outraged that the state Legislature would consider punishing the Minnesota Historical Society — and let’s be clear, our students — for their attempt to bring an additional perspective to the signage at Fort Snelling. Adding “At Bdote” does not diminish or re-write the history of Fort Snelling. On the contrary — it contributes to its history by acknowledging its importance to different groups of people throughout history.
History is by definition filled with multiple perspectives, and as educators we work hard to teach this fundamental concept to our students. We need resources to do that, and MNHS provides them. In 2018, 25,000 students from 201 schools participated in National History Day, sponsored by MNHS. Northern Lights, the MNHS Minnesota history textbook, was used by 57,000 students — 80 percent of Minnesota sixth graders. MNHS also offers field trip scholarships and subsidies, primary source packets, sixth-grade Minnesota History passes, teacher workshops — a quick glance at their website will show you much more.
By cutting funding to MNHS, our legislators are refusing to support what our state claims to value, and what teachers are required to teach: multiple perspectives on history. According to the Pioneer Press, the proposed $4 million cut “represents an 18-percent decrease that could mean 53 to 80 layoffs, cutting hours at historic sites and ‘severe reductions’ in the organization’s educational and other programs, said Historical Society Director and CEO Kent Whitworth.”
As teachers, we are used to carrying on in the face of diminished funding. MNHS resources are instrumental in keeping our history lessons relevant and rigorous. We agree that Fort Snelling has an important place in the military history of our state. Let’s agree that this land has an important place in Dakota history as well. Let’s agree that our teachers need a fully funded MNHS to help them teach the required standards in social studies. Most importantly, let’s agree that our students deserve the best possible education – -with access and resources to examine Minnesota history from a wide range of perspectives.
Sherry Kempf, Minneapolis
The writer is a teacher in St. Paul Public Schools. Several dozen additional people also signed this letter.