Poor response to failing grades

As parents of students in the Saint Paul Public Schools, we were disappointed to read that Kate Wilcox-Harris, the school district’s chief academic officer, is advocating a change to the grading system in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic (Villager, January 6). This appears to be a move to obscure the fact that the number of failing grades has increased dramatically across the district during distance learning. Changing the grading system might reduce the number of failing students, but it will not address the heart of the matter.

We can debate whether the shift to distance learning has been an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health measure. But let’s acknowledge that distance learning has been a total failure in educational terms, especially for the district’s American Indian, Asian, Hispanic and Black students, who are failing at record rates. Long-standing achievement gaps have gotten even worse.

Let’s not use the pandemic as an excuse to further water down achievement standards for our students. They all deserve a rigorous, high-quality education.

Eric Carter
Neela Nandyal

A season for love, peace and joy

In response to the letter, “Christmas fatigue” by Kathleen Deming (Villager Inbox, January 6):

We all strive to attain sanity in our country—especially after 2020—by way of peace and love, as all of the yard signs state to do, right? Yes, the holiday season advertisements start earlier than ever, but that is expected in a consumer-happy and capitalistic society. In my home, the commercials are put on mute. Packages arrive, but not so that one can’t have a peaceful moment, but so that the recipient is given a gift by another. The smiling delivery driver understands. 

Great it is that Ms. Deming gave many of her gifts away to charity out of love. As for her sympathy for those not of the Christian faith, they do see the Christmas displays. We see their holiday displays, especially in Highland Park, and it doesn’t bother me. As for the Christmas music, it’s beautiful and mostly sacred. With all of the noise we hear each holiday season, I’d rather have Christmas music than the commercials, political ads and other music that is so often vulgar.


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Isn’t Christmas Eve just a beautiful, quiet night when just about all is closed in observance of the Holy Night that billions around the world have celebrated since His birth? Be grateful you receive gifts; some people don’t receive any. As for those glittery cards and foil-lined envelopes, aren’t they lovely and well-crafted? Someone took the time to think of you and express their greeting at a time when in-person contact and communication is discouraged due to overreaching COVID mandates. If the cards are non-recyclable, turn them into a craft or burn them in your fire pit this spring and summer. 

The holiday season is not all about the planet. It’s about love, peace, joy, and giving and receiving. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Michael Janiski
Highland Park

Nation in need of healing

On January 6, a neighbor told me that a riotous mob was storming the U.S. Capitol. When I turned on MPR, I learned that President Trump had claimed yet again that the election had been “stolen” and urged “his people” to advance on the Capitol where Congress was about to certify the votes of the Electoral College.

As the news unfolded, I cried. In 1966 when I was 22 years old, I raised my right hand as a new second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and promised to uphold the Constitution—a variation of the same oath taken by all federal employees, members of Congress, the president and vice president.

In the Capitol, while members of Congress were being hustled by attendants to hidden locations, several staffers had the presence of mind to haul off to safety the two wooden chests that held the paper electoral ballots so that those wouldn’t fall into the hands of the mob. The armed rioters overpowered Capitol police and forced their way into the chambers of congress and congressional offices. The world looked on and asked how our nation, the epitome of democracy, had turned into a banana republic.

When President-elect Biden urged President Trump to go immediately on television and urge people to leave the Capitol, the response was yet another idiotic video in which he told his followers that even though the election had been stolen, they should all go home. It made me sick.

Let’s pray that we can begin a time of national healing and sanity.

Kathleen Deming

New direction for Mendota Heights?

The Mendota Heights City Council welcomed the New Year with new council member John Mazzitello and new Mayor Stephanie Levine. There is reason to believe that the city’s special character as a largely residential community and its long tradition of prudent, responsible governance will be severely compromised with the installation of these two individuals. This claim is based on their recent decisions and stated preferences pertaining to the city’s future.

Mr. Mazzitello’s public record indicates support for dense development aligned with the Metropolitan Council’s priorities for the city, halving the city’s minimum lot sizes, pandering to developers and selling property in the city’s Wentworth Park at a fraction of its worth. His appointment to the council was made possible by the support of Mayor-elect Levine. In a special City Council session on December 8, almost a full month before being sworn in, Levine was asked by the three sitting council members to offer advice on the selection of the finalists for the vacant council seat. Mr. Mazzitello was her top choice.

Thomas Smith
Mendota Heights

Know Sibley’s history—indeed

Regarding the letter, “Know the history behind the name” (Villager Inbox, December 23) about former Minnesota governor and military leader Henry Sibley:

Readers need to understand the epic, violent and often corrupt time in which Sibley lived. For example, Fort Snelling was truly a center of Sibley’s professional career. His connection to the fort enriched him through interests in government contracts, including providing supplies for the benefit of the Dakota people held in the federal concentration camp at the fort.

Sibley used his position at the fort to participate in the dispossession of the captive Dakota of their land scrip in one of the most outrageous land thefts in state history. He also oversaw the military tribunal that, without any semblance of due process, sentenced more than 300 Dakota soldiers to death, resulting in the hanging of 38 Dakota soldiers on the day after Christmas in 1865 in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Sibley also played a role in the 1841 Doty Treaties that sought to dispossess the mixed-ancestry Dakota of the land guaranteed to them under Article IX of the 1831 Treaty of Prairie du Chien. The efforts were so flawed that the U.S. Senate refused to ratify them—twice.

History matters. Perspective matters. Learning history is not a practice of cancellation culture, but of being an informed citizen. The history is there. Please, seek it out.

Joseph Halloran

When hatred is left to brew

Watching the insanity in Washington, D.C., as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol reminded me of my days as a counselor, when those who couldn’t let go of their hatred would have that hatred brew in them forever.

Paul Paulos

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