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As a Minnesotan of Norwegian ancestry, I am greatly concerned about the influx of foreigners in our state. They have a weird language. They celebrate their own festivals and religious traditions. They wear funny clothes. And don’t get me started about their food!

What brought this to mind is that I just learned those dang Germans outnumber us, even if, God forbid, we count the Swedes! I can’t understand their language. And Oktoberfest? Really? Why don’t they celebrate Midsummer or Whitsun with maypoles like the rest of us? And lederhosen? Ridiculous. And they drink dark beer, which they brew themselves! And what is a schnitzel? I’m not comfortable with all of this.

Funny, it seems it started with them having their own communities, churches in their own languages and their own separate social structures. Why didn’t they immediately assimilate? But, a few generations later, to my surprise, I can hardly tell them apart from Sven and Ole’s grandkids. Or my kids.

If we true-blooded Scandinavian descendants of poor, illiterate Norwegian immigrants can coexist with the Germans, I think we can handle folks from other countries, even poor ones. Time and a shared love of hot dish, the Vikings and Minnesota United FC (Go, you Loons!) will bring us together. Relax, folks, people are people. Let’s give them the same chance Sven and Ole got, the one that my ancestors and yours got.

Mickey Greene, Minneapolis

• • •

I appreciated the headline “Behind Beltrami’s ‘No’ ” (Jan. 12) and the attempt to describe in some depth what happened in Bemidji when the County Board met and voted 3-2 to not accept refugees in their county. I also admired the large photo accompanying the article. I don’t know how representative the picture was of those at the meeting, or even those in Beltrami County, but I see a soulful picture of older working-class white men with worry and questioning on their faces. I don’t see hate. I don’t see bigotry.

And I don’t think that calling the decision a disgrace or vowing to eliminate Bemidji as a destination for summer travel are positive ways to promote refugee settlement. I see those responses as put-downs of people who have a different opinion. I also don’t necessarily think it is a horrible thing to allow a county to opt out of accepting new immigrants. The article described some reasonable arguments for doing so.

I wish that we could have an unemotional, all-encompassing, open and honest discussion of immigration. At the heart of it is not only empathy for refugees and immigrants, but also empathy for our fellow Minnesotans, many who are hurting and unsure of their own futures and meeting their own basic needs. I am pretty sure that somewhere in the middle lies some common ground where we can all meet.

Mary Bolton, Stillwater

SCHOOL CHOICE

Vouchers don’t work like you think

I read with interest the commentary by Andy Brehm about school vouchers pushing equality in education in the state of Minnesota (“School vouchers would push equality in class,” Opinion Exchange, Jan. 13). All I can say is, “Here we go again!”

Conservatives and the Republican Party are always pushing for school vouchers to help “poor families” go to private schools for a “better education.” It really is an attempt to ultimately destroy public education. The voucher system is alive and well in the state of Wisconsin, where I was a superintendent for six years, and it has helped destroy public education and make the taxpayers of that state pay for private education for those who were already sending their children to private schools.

Seventy-five percent of those students who received voucher money were already going to a private school. Most of them were not minority students, even though it had been an experiment for years in Milwaukee.

On paper, it looks like people could attend their school of choice even if it were private, but it doesn’t work out that way. What it did was allow students to go to those private schools and not receive a better education or follow the same regulations that public schools must comply with. Special education is not a required part of private-school curriculum, for example. It is not an even playing field, and the educational test scores are even or below public schools at best. Unless the district is paying for transportation, students would still not be able to go to their schools of choice (how would they get there each day?). The problem with poor test scores in urban schools has much more to do with poverty, crime and a feeling of hopelessness than it does with the “magic” touch of vouchers or charter schools.

Please do not let the state of Minnesota fall into the same trap as the state of Wisconsin. Vouchers will not change poor schools.

Leland Kulland, Burnsville

• • •

You have to read down nine paragraphs in Andy Brehm’s illogical argument before you hit the key admission that invalidates his case: “forcing [public schools] to compete with private institutions or shutter their doors.”

Charter schools are not required to serve special education needs of students. These private schools can avoid the costs and regulations that public schools bear while siphoning off taxpayer dollars. This is not competition. It is cost-shifting the needs of special education students to the underfunded public school system. Unless and until charter schools are mandated to meet the same requirements as pubic schools, the word “competition” is and will remain a code word that means special privilege without accountability.

George Hutchinson, Minneapolis

LINE 3

We can’t ‘modernize’ energy with technology from last century

At the very end of the Jan. 11 letter “Enough stalling. Let’s build it” regarding the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline comes the ploy: “before it’s too late.”

Before what is too late? With coal coming to an end and dirty tar sands oil next in line, perhaps the writer is concerned that the industry’s oil asset will be stranded. Or is he worried about the Enbridge stock price? Or is he worried about the many pension funds that are overinvested in soon-to-be devalued fossil-fuel-related companies?

Claims about jobs, revenue for communities and energy needs are attempts to distract. Line 3 violates treaty rights, threatens our water and fuels climate change. Minnesotans need to use energy companies offering jobs, revenue and clean energy.

The writer implied that the state Department of Commerce said the project is needed and safe by saying the agency “found no significant impact on Lake Superior should a leak ever occur,” but the department has argued that the pipeline is not needed. It has identified a potential for many adverse environmental incidents.

The letter writer is a higher-up in an organization, Consumer Energy Alliance, that misrepresents its title. It does represent, predominantly, large fossil fuel corporations and trade associations.

His statement about “modernizing Minnesota’s critical energy infrastructure” with respect to oil pipeline technology is an oxymoron. As a century of fossil-fuel use has been the driver for much of our climate catastrophe, “modernizing” would imply technology of the future, not of the past. It’s time to embrace modern, clean, renewable alternatives that will improve our quality of life and protect our critical natural environment.

Peter Truitt, St. Paul

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