Public Affairs

What If Everything Was Reported Like the War?

My Stadium Solution

Liberal Bias in the Public Schools: My First Person Account


Early in the war in Iraq, I noticed how impatient the media were. They seemed to want to be able to have everything resolved, all the loose ends tied up, in time for "film at eleven." It got me to thinking how people -- and especially the news media -- don't have the patience to let a long-term project run its course. I came up with this analogy:

What if Everything Was Reported Like the War?
by David W. Downing, copyright 2003

The media and much of the public seem to lack the patience to let the American mission in Iraq take its course before judging the success of efforts to free that nation's people from tyranny. Unable to wait weeks or even days for this "story" to come to a conclusion ­ let alone months or years ­ they seem to be feeding on each other in a vicious cycle of impatience. They seem to think every job needs to be finished in time for the five-o'clock news or the five-o'clock whistle.

Maybe having been raised on a farm, and still being involved with agriculture, I have had more experience than most with the uncertainties ­ the ups and downs ­ of long term projects. So I got to wondering: What if the media covered farming the way they're covering the war in Iraq? What would it be like trying to do your job with all that impatient second guessing going on?

January:

Farmer Brown consults with his advisors and weighs his options for dealing with the North 40. After meeting with an agronomist, the extension agent, his banker, Mrs. Brown and several seed salesmen, Farmer Brown decides on a course of action. He will plant corn on the North 40. If all goes perfectly according to plan, he hopes to realize a yield of 200 bushels per acre.

Headline: "Advisors split on Brown planting decision. Insider says Brown plan doomed to failure." (The "insider" later turns out to be the soybean seed salesman.) Critics say he's obsessed with planting corn on the North 40 because that's just what his father did.

April 14:

Farmer Brown continues preparations for spring planting. Tells Mrs. Brown he expects to begin plowing the North 40 by April 25, and have the corn seeded by May 1.

Headline: "Opponents call Brown plan arrogant and overly optimistic." Critics dismiss May 1 date as "boastful cowboy bravado."

April 25:

Farmer Brown begins plowing North 40, but has to suspend operations when rain moves in later in the day.

Headline: "Farmer Brown bogged down in North 40; should have seen likelihood of spring rain." While critics say "I told you so," Farmer Brown spends time in his shop getting the planter ready.

May 7:

After resuming operations in the North 40 just two days earlier, Farmer Brown finishes planting the corn corp.

Headline: "North 40 campaign not going as planned." Critics concede Brown is making progress, but point out that he is behind schedule, and the delay in planting will cut into the expected yield.

June 24:

An unexpected insect insurgence is discovered in the North 40. Farmer Brown decides to take time out from cultivating for weeds in order to focus on spraying the North 40 to eradicate the insects.

Headline: "Cost of raising corn continues to grow." Critics ask, "When will Farmer Brown level with us and tell us the real cost of this crop?"

June 30:

After delay to eliminate insects, corn has grown too tall to complete cultivation of North 40.

Headline: "Brown plan falling apart."

August:

The month is too hot and too dry. Rainfall is below normal during this critical period in the corn's development. There is nothing to do but pray for rain.

Headline: "Brown plan failed to include contingency for lack of rain." Critics say this will further erode expected yields.

October 20:

Farmer Brown begins harvesting the North 40, using his new, top-of-the-line combine. But the harvester picks up a stone and suffers internal damage. Harvest is delayed by a two-day wait for parts and a day of repairs.

Headline: "Breakdown threatens mission's completion." Critics say, "We've assembled the most powerful harvesting machine in the history of American agriculture, but a rock has proven to be more than it can handle."

October 25:

Farmer Brown finishes harvesting North 40. Yield comes in at 150 bushels per acre.

Headline: "North 40 losses at staggering 25%."

Sunday, Nov. 2:

Farmer Brown offers a prayer of thanks and puts a little extra in the collection plate at church. Takes entire family ­ including all of the grandchildren ­ out to dinner to celebrate. Despite all the little battles along the way, 150 bushels is a new record yield for the North 40.

Headline on Sunday paper special section: "Corn in the North 40: What went wrong?"


It seems we've been going on forever with this "we need a new stadium" cry. The Twins want a new stadium. The Vikings want a new stadium. The University of Minnesota want a new football stadium. It's hard to believe I wrote this piece way back in 1997, and little has changed since then. I wrote it tongue-in-cheek, but oddly, some of my cheeky ideas have popped up as serious proposals in the interim. As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Save the Twins without a New Stadium? You Betcha!
by David W. Downing, copyright 1997

Almost all of us want the Twins to remain in the state. But most of us don't want to pay for a new stadium. Is it possible to have one without the other?

You betcha! Here's how:

Carl Pohlad sells the Twins to an ownership group comprised of all the American Indian Nations in the state. The Indians are wary of the state using a Twins bail-out as an excuse to jump into the casino business, and this would solve that concern. Secondly, Minnesota's Indian Nations have already been using their gambling money to diversify economically ­ even into the tightly-regulated business of banking. Lastly, not all Indians currently benefit from gambling, and this would spread economic opportunity to all.

Discarding the 15-year-old Metrodome seems like an awful waste, especially when a new stadium could cost up to $500 million. But remember, the stated reason for a new stadium is to help the team avoid operating losses of $7-10 million a year. So without a new stadium, the new owners of the Twins will still need some of those new "revenue streams" we've been hearing so much about.

Therefore, I propose that the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission sell the Metrodome and the property upon which it sits to the new ownership group, since the Indian Nations would have certain advantages operating their baseball team on "Indian land." A precedent exists: the old Sears store in downtown Duluth, which is now an Indian casino.

There have already been many proposals to "save the Twins" with various types of gambling. But they've been met with stiff opposition from people who oppose expanding gambling with a state-run casino, as well as by those who think anti-Indian sentiments lurk behind efforts to help the Twins. So, let's let the Indians do it.

Casinos already use musical acts and other forms of entertainment to attract visitors. The new ownership group would use the Metrodome as the hub of a new gambling/entertainment complex. The baseball team would help draw customers to the casino, proceeds from which would more-than-cover yearly operating losses of the team. In addition, a downtown casino would provide a boost to Minneapolis' convention business.

In review, this plan has the following benefits:

· Twins stay in Minnesota.

· Taxpayers do not have to build a new stadium.

· Carl Pohlad no longer losing money.

· No "expansion" of gambling via state-run casino.

· Further economic development for Minnesota's Indian Nations ­ including those which do not currently benefit from gambling.

· Boon to Minneapolis' convention business.

So what about other Metrodome tenants? Would they be left out in the cold? No. The Metrodome would continue to operate as a sports facility ­ the original Metrodome building would not itself be "converted" into a casino. The Minnesota Vikings and University of Minnesota ­ along with all the other Metrodome users ­ could negotiate leases with the new owners of the Metrodome. Existing leases would be honored, of course.

No doubt by now some of you are saying: "But you can't mix baseball and gambling!" Well, if we were to build a state-run casino to pay for a new stadium, thereby making money for the Twins' owner, it wouldn't matter whether the casino was 10 feet or 10 miles from the stadium ­ we would be mixing baseball with gambling. This proposal is simply more honest about that fact. Besides, if Indian Nations can put their gambling proceeds into a highly-regulated business such as banking, then why not a baseball team? There would NOT be any sports betting at the casino.

One final thought: Should the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission or the City of Minneapolis not be amenable to this proposal, the ownership group could build its own outdoor stadium/casino complex on the St. Paul river front. (Are you listening, Mayor Coleman?)


Liberal Bias in the Public Schools -- First Hand Report

This was my first hand experience with the liberal political agenda in the public schools. It happened in February, 2003. I've removed some names here because the situation was dealt with and I don't want to incite anyone to "go after" anyone at this point. What follows is a letter I sent to St. Paul schools superintendent Dr. Patricia Harvey. I received a letter of apology from Dr. Harvey.

Dear Dr. Harvey:

I am the father of a first-grader and a third-grader at [St. Paul public elementary school]. Monday, February 10 was Parent Involvement Day/African-American Parent Involvement Day. I spent the morning at the school, and attended a special whole-school assembly in observance of Black History Month.

The students sang songs of African-American origin. They played music that showed an African influence. They presented a play that told the story of the heroic Rosa Parks. The students did a great job.

There was also a visiting speaker on the program ­ [Professor X], a professor of African-American history at the University of Minnesota. Professor X spoke of how the story of America is also a story of Black people. He told us that a Black man ­ a Moor ­ was captain of one of Columbus' ships. He told us that a Black man accompanied the Spanish explorer Cortez through what is now the Southwestern United States. He told us that the African survivors of a slave revolt founded the first permanent, non-native settlement in the Americas. He told us that it is important to understand that Black people have always been a part of this country. They belong. They didn't just get here. That was a good message.

But then Professor X went off course. Probably in an attempt to tie in with current events, he gave the students his pro-affirmative action views. Then he told them that discrepancies in prison sentence lengths for dealers of crack vs. powdered cocaine amount to racism. And he closed with his views that we should send food, not guns, to Iraq.

Now, it's hardly a shock that a college professor would have opinions on these issues. And it's no surprise that he would come down on what is generally considered the politically liberal side of each one. Nor is my complaint about the appropriateness of these topics. While these issues may go over the heads of the younger students, the older students should be encouraged to discuss them. Reasonable people of all colors can and do disagree on these topics.

But there was no discussion. Rather, Professor X's views were presented to the students as the definitive word from a visiting authority. After each opinion was expressed, he coached the children with "isn't that right?" or "can't we all agree?" until they all spoke out in a chorus of approval.

To see such a manipulation of young minds, young minds ­ including my own two children ­ that didn't even understand what they were agreeing to, was a disturbing sight.

But I've saved the worst for last. While talking about affirmative action and college admissions, Professor X opined that rather than be concerned by a public university that makes admissions decisions based on an applicant's skin color, we should oppose a private college's decision to give preference to the children of alumni. To try to make his point, Professor Hyland used our nation's President as an example in a passive-aggressive attack. After first saying that he had "nothing against him for being a Republican," he went on to say "but I think we all can agree" that the President is not very bright. Then he coached the children and egged them on until they were all agreeing ­ and laughing ­ that our (Republican) President is stupid.

This is not what we pay taxes for. Whatever happened to respect for leaders? What happened to a photo of the President on the classroom wall, whatever his (or someday her) party? If anyone in our schools wonders what has happened to respect for authority, from kindergarten teachers, to principals, to college professors, you don't have to look very far.

I can't believe that at a time when saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school is considered controversial ­ because you can't force or inculcate patriotism ­ it is acceptable to teach our children that their (Republican) President is stupid. Why is this sort of political indoctrination in our schools acceptable?

Surely you must be aware that there is a sizable group of people in this country who believe our public schools suffer from a left-wing political bias. Some people respond to this concern by home schooling or sending their children to private schools, depriving the public schools of state funding that accompanies those students.

While I share those concerns about political bias in the schools, I made the decision not to run from it. Over the years I've been bothered by small manifestations of this bias, but I've told myself to be open-minded. I've reminded myself that my own biases affect how I see things. I've let things slide because no single incident was severe enough to raise a ruckus over. But I've always told myself that I would speak up if it went too far.

This is going too far.

But let me be clear on the purpose of this letter. I'm not writing to blow the whistle on [school]. I'm not writing to complain about or demand action against the school or the principal. I've already had a meeting with [school] principal [Y]. She apologized to me, saying she did not know the speaker would take the tack he did, and agreeing that some of his talk was not appropriate.

I don't want you to make a scapegoat out of [school], although that might be the easy way out. [school] is a good school. My children have had good teachers, and they are learning a lot.

And I'm not writing to vilify the speaker. Until he strayed off the topic, he was interesting and informative. And he's entitled to his opinions. But he was unprepared for such a young audience, and was perhaps a poor choice to speak to this group.

But in the end it doesn't matter that the speaker was unprepared for this age group, and it doesn't matter that the principal didn't know what the speaker would say. It doesn't matter if no one intended the program to be biased or controversial. The fact is, it happened. And I suspect it happens in other schools and at other times. I don't want it to happen anymore.

Let's use this as a teachable moment. I want to draw attention to this problem throughout the District, maybe even statewide.

So my purpose in writing is threefold. First, I want it on the record that these sorts of politically-biased incidents can and do occur. I will accept no denials. I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. The only question is how many other speakers are allowed to espouse their unchallenged, unbalanced views, and in how many other schools? I can get over this one incident at [school], but I have to ask, how deep is the problem?

Second, I want the Superintendent and School Board on record as to whether or not they approve of presentations such as that given by Professor [X]. This is your chance to take a stand and show those of us who are concerned about a political bias that our fears are unfounded. But if such political indoctrination of our children meets with the administration's approval, then let's be open about it.

Third, if the schools are going to be expected to present programs in observance of holidays or other special events, then the District owes it to the schools and their on-site staff to help provide resources to present an educational, balanced, and politically-unbiased program. The schools shouldn't be put in a spot where they feel they must have a speaker in order to show proper respect for the event, but then they are left on their own to figure out who such a speaker might be. Additionally, guidelines should be provided to help guest speakers better prepare for their audience, and better understand what is expected of them.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and consider my concerns. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely;

David W. Downing


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