May 28, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

Readers Write: Unruly sports fans, learning gaps, Putin as a target, time changes

State Rep. John Huot and others are off the mark with a bill to grant the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission authority to levy civil fines against those deemed to have disrupted an athletic event (“Unruly fans could face $1,000 fines,” front page, March 23). There is no reason to believe MASC is qualified to develop or administer a statewide program of this type or that those accused will have any meaningful opportunity to contest the charges in front of a body based in Blaine. As mentioned in the article, local high school principals already have the power to ban offenders from future events and do so regularly.

This is but part of a trend to impose civil penalties in lieu of criminal penalties. Proponents claim that civil penalties leave no criminal history. They also can be levied under a far lower standard of proof, are subject to an entirely different standard for review and do not carry with them the right to appointment of counsel.

The report did not mention that Huot has authored a separate bill, HF 33, that would provide enhanced criminal penalties for “[w]hoever assaults a sports official while the official is engaged in the performance of the official’s duties, and inflicts demonstrable bodily harm … .” That would constitute a gross misdemeanor. Our assault laws already address this conduct. Why does anyone believe making it an aggravated offense will in any way reduce it?

Huot’s work as a football and basketball referee appears to have blinded him to the nuances of his bills. Both should be tabled.

James M. Hamilton, St. Paul

LEARNING GAPS

The March 22 editorial “Lack of progress on learning gaps” is a startling example of “old think.” Why would the same old remedial programs show new results? The so-called learning gap itself doesn’t start with the schools, and efforts to erase it there have been largely unsuccessful.

Current brain research shows that differences in learning are present and can be measured as early as 3 years of age. Brain growth and development are most active during the first three years of life. The infant brain is primed to respond to and learn from everything around it.

If infants and toddlers grow up in a safe, stimulating environment, foundations are set for future learning and emotional attachment. Activities like talking, reading and playing with a caring adult in low-stress surroundings help a child learn how to learn and how to handle emotions.

All parents want to provide this foundation for their children, but barriers such as insecurity in housing or food, maternal depression, a need to return to work soon after delivery or parental illiteracy can prevent them from doing so on a regular basis. Lack of affordable, high-quality child care can be another barrier. Chronic stress from any of these factors can interfere with early brain development and limit a child’s subsequent achievement in school.

If we truly want all of our children to be successful as students and as adults, let’s resolve to remove the actual barriers to their learning. Schools can’t do it alone. Providing opportunities for individual, positive interactions with a caring adult in a safe environment early in life will be more powerful than any remedial program schools can offer.

Mary Meland, Minneapolis

The writer is a retired pediatrician. This letter also was signed by Dale Dobrin, Ada Alden and Roger Sheldon, all members of Doctors for Early Childhood.

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The editorial lamented the fact that three programs administered by the Minnesota Department of Education had little to no impact on the achievement gap in an assessment by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

The all-important yet briefly mentioned factor was “if a student’s basic needs are not being met, it can be difficult to focus on instruction.” This was referred to by MDE head Heather Mueller as “factors outside the classroom.”

As a retired Minneapolis public school teacher of 25-plus years, I cannot emphasize enough how much of an impact these “outside factors” have on a student’s ability to learn. This is one of the main reasons the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is now on strike. The demand for more mental health care for all students has never been greater. Teachers know too well the factors that influence how and why some students cannot focus nor sit still in a classroom. Yet these are the larger issues our society continually foists off onto schools — issues such as poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse. Students bring their lived experiences into our classrooms, and teachers do their utmost to meet the students where they are.

Our commitment must involve a holistic approach that embraces all of the needs our students show up with each day. That means many more social workers and counselors at a better rate than the statewide average of 1 to 625.

We as a society must take a hard look at where our priorities lie. Is it in our $700 billion annual military budget, or in the public expenditure on sports arenas, or perhaps subsidies for oil and gas companies? In my opinion, these are the priorities we have put ahead of our students.

Patrick O’Connor, Minneapolis

RUSSIA AND UKRAINE

Regarding the concern about the call to assassinate “a head of state” (Readers Write, March 22), perhaps there is a sliding scale, a “red line” if you will. We are not talking Queen Elizabeth in pearls and flowered dress serving tea. We are talking about the guy who has shown up shirtless, riding a horse and brandishing a rifle in a portent of his current role as Attila the Hun — the barbarian at the gate.

Vladimir Putin is our enemy. Full stop. He is the enemy of Ukraine, the enemy of NATO, and the enemy of the free world and those longing to be part of it. If Putin were to suddenly “disappear,” we can reasonably hope there would be no one as crazy waiting in the wings to take his place. If he were gone, how many lives, both Russian and Ukrainian, might be saved?

Roberta Merryman, St. Louis Park

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

Congrats to the U.S. Senate for its vote in favor of permanent daylight saving time. Let’s hope the House follows suit. It’s way overdue. Here in the north, we have the shortest days of sunlight in the winter, with the sun setting around 4:30 in standard time. Now we can just have time — no “ST” or “DST” — what a concept!

If you jog in the morning, or catch a school bus or drive to work in the dark, change your schedule. Schools can have winter hours, for example. The 24 hours aren’t set in stone. Again, what a concept!

Melinda Shults, Apple Valley

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A March 19 letter writer asked two key questions: “What’s wrong with earlier sunrise in the winter?” and “What’s wrong with later sunsets in the summer?” And he downplays the “couple of days of circadian confusion” caused by our current system of time changing twice a year. Sleep experts, however, agree that this confusion is a major problem and lasts longer than two days — and they recommend no futile attempt to save daylight. Go with regular time year-round.

Jim Lein, Minneapolis

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I’ve been reading about the negative effects of moving our clocks an hour, twice a year. Based on this, I have to recommend that we all stop sleeping in on weekends. Imagine how damaging it must be to have to deal with a two-hour time shift twice every week, or the four- to eight-hour shift teenagers are experimenting with every weekend.

Jon Swenson Tellekson, Minneapolis

 

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