It’s rare that a single Star Tribune article from even the finest and most practiced writer (Mitch Pearlstein) can so effectively slap a race of people and class of service providers, while ignoring or just not knowing (which I don’t believe possible) the underlying reasons for “why” the sad truths he speaks of exist (elephants in the room).

As a long-time volunteer guardian ad-Litem, having watched generation after generation of abused and neglected children create their own families of abused and neglected children, I know that until this community recognizes struggling young families need basic help to raise coping children, schools will remain under-performing, child protection and justice systems overwhelmed, and more and more communities will become unsafe and fall behind in the quality of life factors that once made this nation great.

Six million children a year are reported to child protection agencies in the U.S.

Minnesota’s racial disparity in this area is well established and persistent.

Mr. Pearlstein points out that 84% of African-American babies are born to single moms and that graduation rates for those babies when they become adolescents are about 50%.

I know something about that.

Mental health and coping skills are not delivered by the stork. Mentally unhealthy children don’t often graduate from high school (but they do go to jail and they do have babies).

Unnoticed by Mr Pearlstein, the children we speak of are mostly products of toxic homes and suffering from the traumas suffered in childhood.  That is why they are not ready to learn in school and why they are so often involved in the justice system.

About a third of the children in child protection use psychotropic medications (when tracked – most often not published). Judge Heidi Schellhas provided me with a list of children in her courtroom that were forced on to psychotropics, it was long and children as young at six and seven years old were prescribed Prozac type drugs.

If your sister is born into is drug addicted, abusive, or otherwise toxic family, without community assistance, she will herself raise babies that are soon to be drug addicted, abusive, or toxic to their own children (and so on and so on and so on).

The male side of that statement was made much more eloquently by former MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz “the difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years”.

Daycare workers are mostly untrained and paid less than food service workers in this nation.  And even then, most poor and middle income people can’t afford daycare.  There’s many a child left with the drunk uncle or boyfriend because of it.

This reflects poorly on how America values children and goes a long way in explaining what some people would have us believe is beyond our powers of understanding so we should just continue to build more prisons.

The beatings will continue until the morale improves (anonymous)

What we do to our children, they will do to society” Pliny the Elder 2500 years ago

Minnesota education: It’s progress to say it’s not just racism

  • Article by: MITCH PEARLSTEIN
  • Updated: June 25, 2013 – 7:34 PM

And it is indeed good to accept complexity. Might that include, from the left, flexibility on education, or a stronger recognition of the role of family structure?


Photo: Kurt Strazdins, KRT

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries



Dane Smith has been my worthy counterpart at Minnesota’s major progressive think tank, Growth & Justice, since he assumed the presidency there six years ago. Long before that, he was my colleague at the Pioneer Press in the 1980s. And before that, I knew him (at least I think I did) when I worked for Gov. Al Quie.

In the same way he generously has written approvingly about some things I’ve written in recent years, I’m pleased to write approvingly about a recent commentary of his in the Star Tribune on academic, employment, homeownership and other racially demarcated gaps in the Twin Cities (“The employment gap: The ‘why’ and ‘what to do,’ ” June 16).

Rest assured that his kind comments haven’t been without a critique or two, just as I have a disagreement or two with him here. But I appreciate what he wrote and I’m happy to thank him — although passing up on this simply golden chance for male bonding jabs is very difficult.

What do I like about Smith’s column?

While I would argue that he still overstates the role of racial bias in fueling various gaps, he explicitly parts company with those on the left who believe (as he puts it) that “white Minnesotans are actually worse than the stereotypical racists in southern states, where for 300 years oppression was imposed through brutal economic exploitation, culture and law.” The dissimilarities between Minnesota and the Old South would seem pretty self-evident, but I guess not with everyone.

More accurately than is the case with many liberals in the state — as well as many Minnesota establishment types — Smith goes on to write:

“A case can be made that larger-than-average gaps exist here in part for distinct historic and demographic reasons, rather than some sort of pervasive, passive-aggressive racial animosity in the North Star State. White Minnesotans have for decades been better off economically, and more educated, than whites in other states, accentuating the gaps. And our distinctive newcomer blend — coming from some particularly distressed regions in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and impoverished industrial centers in the industrial Midwest — [has] tended to be starting from scratch, with fewer assets than the minority composite in other metro areas.”

The most welcomed portion of this passage is the part about how disproportionate numbers of Americans who have moved to the Twin Cities in recent decades have been troubled to start. I have been arguing for years that the mixing of a heavy influx of low-income and poorly educated people (on the one hand) with one of the smallest middle-class minority communities of any major metropolitan area in the country (on the other hand) has had an enormous amount to do with the overall poor performance of African-Americans in particular on a wide range of measures.

In making this case, no one has ever refuted me. But then, again, not too many people have ever agreed with me out loud, either. Smith may not concur with the exact way I just framed matters, but by my lights, our points are close enough. His interpretation is a contribution to progress. As is his earlier comment in the column that “accepting complexity and contradictions behind the ‘why’ [of gaps] is advisable.”

Needless to say, I agree with his good words about education, especially his reference to community colleges and to a number of strong education and training programs I know a bit about, including Summit Academy, Twin Cities Rise!, Project for Pride in Living and the Jeremiah Program. I recognize there’s never space in a single column to touch every base, so I’m not critical of his not saying anything about K-12.

But if he were to say something about elementary and secondary education, I would hope he would acknowledge that as long as graduating high school on time is essentially a 50/50 proposition for African-Americans and Hispanics, not just in Minnesota but across much of the country, the kinds of changes routinely championed on the left just won’t cut it, as witnessed by the recently concluded legislative session in which little that might make much of a difference was even debated, much less passed. Also add the way in which the teachers union Education Minnesota has been doing everything it possibly can to kick Teach for America out of the state.

Do I hold out hope that Smith may someday leap out of the voucher closet, preferably in another Sunday Star Tribune commentary, and come out for real educational freedom? Sure, but I trust he has Sunday comical plans for me, too. What I more realistically hope for, and no joking here at all, is that he and his allies might come to better acknowledge — publicly and frequently — that as long as 84 percent of all African-American babies in Hennepin County come into this world outside of marriage, every good idea both he and I might offer will remain severely compromised.

In sum, my worthy ideological opponent wrote a good and helpful piece, and I figure that my saying so is just the right thing to do.