See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


The concern that professors might indoctrinate impressionable students with the professors' political philosophy is intense and extremely politicized, but it is nothing new ("Extremist ideology has already hijacked state's public schools," Opinion Exchange, April 7).

When I first started teaching law students in the 1970s, I was worried about that very issue. Along with a colleague, I developed a questionnaire designed to measure student attitudes toward crime both before and after each of our criminal-law courses. We wanted to see if the student attitudes were influenced by our teaching. As part of this study we decided that on the issue of insanity we would openly advocate polar opposite positions. My colleague advocated for an expansive insanity defense that would provide a broader umbrella of mental conditions that would excuse a defendant. I argued for a much narrower defense that would make it extremely rare for an accused successfully to raise insanity as a defense.

To our surprise, the attitudes of my students shifted toward my colleague's expressed views, and his students moved toward my espoused position. The results were not statistically significant but interesting and a bit humbling. It occurred to me after that if I wanted to indoctrinate my students (which I didn't) maybe I should take positions I don't believe in. It also occurred to me that maybe we underestimate our students' ability to think for themselves. After all, that is what we are trying to teach.

Peter Nicholas Thompson, Minnetonka


It would be a clown show. Skip it.

In response to the April 15 article "Trump, Biden urged to debate," I believe (strongly) that President Joe Biden should not debate — for multiple reasons.

First, Biden says that whether he will debate Donald Trump "depends on his behavior." Trump's behavior never changes. Second, the news organizations that signed on to encourage the debate explain that presidential debates are a part of a "rich tradition." Trump has cancelled tradition with his denial of what has always been assumed in our democracy — that the loser accepts the result. Third, Trump lies. How can anyone debate against falsehoods and lies? Differences of opinion can be debated but not falsehoods. Fourth, I believe the news organizations that signed on to encourage debates did so because a Trump/Biden debate would be the sensation of the century. It might even surpass the infamous spectacle of O.J. Simpson, riding in the white Bronco.

And finally, what many of us (the media especially) are looking for is a slip-up, a momentary lapse. Do we want that one moment, that one lapse, to become the primary image of whom we might elect as our next president? I think not.

Lynn Bollman, Minneapolis


Regarding the April 15 article "Trump, Biden urged to debate," I offer the following.

In an entrenched political atmosphere where we basically get our information from selective viewing, one that aligns with our predisposed personal political leanings, I am not sure the percentages of those who like/dislike the candidates would move much. I would like to see the major networks offer their best talking heads on the same stage in a debate on issues and policies. This would allow everyone see what they do not normally view or hear in their regular news reporting, filling a vacuum of information.

It would seem that we currently live with a fourth arm of government, the media. The media would be held to a high a level of honesty. This format may lack the drama of a presidential debate but would hopefully better separate fact from fiction.

Tom Page, Cohasset, Minn.


Dems, get your messaging straight

Democrats could easily win the election on Nov. 5 if they would do two things: 1) Stop talking about "abortion" and "women's reproductive health care" and 2) start hammering on the fact that Trump and the Republicans gleefully took away a woman's right to her personal bodily autonomy.

You have to do a better job of framing your message, Democrats. Context is everything, so look at the big picture. Remember, nobody likes abortion or thinks it's a good thing, and nobody enjoys talking about it. (Yes, it's important, and women should certainly be able to have access to abortions if they need them, but it's not an overly compelling strategy to get votes.) Also, and while women's reproductive health care is vital and absolutely necessary, it's not a sensationalistic topic that will motivate most of the electorate. However, focusing on how Trump and the GOP were more than happy to strip away a highly personal right from women is something that can energize voters and get them to the ballot box.

Half the voters in America are women. Those women now have fewer rights than they did 50 years ago. Talk about that at length. Civil and human rights matter to voters. Trump is bragging about being the one who took women's bodily autonomy rights away. He's proud of that. Be outraged and angry in response. Center your campaign rhetoric on that topic. Effective framing of your message is how you win elections. (Republican political strategists already know and understand this. That's why the GOP has essentially controlled the political narrative in this country since the days of Ronald Reagan. Learn from that.) Forget about abortion and health care rhetoric. Instead, focus on how Trump and the Republicans joyfully and insidiously took women's rights away and you will win, Democrats.

Vanessa Sheridan, Apple Valley


Doing the stories no one else will

I believe Helen Warren missed the point in her response ("Community journalism has options," April 13) to Reed Anfinson's lament about the demise of local news media ("Eight more community newspapers soon will vanish," April 10). It was a small local news outlet in New York that first rang the alarm on George Santos. That is the ultimate value of local news. As a former small-town news editor, I covered all the necessary community and personal events like weddings, school fairs, church suppers and fundraisers. They are all important. But I believe Anfinson's point was that local governing issues and even the shenanigans that occasionally go on need to be covered as well for the benefit of the community. Important journalism comes not only from press releases but from a reporter working his/her contacts to uncover the information that keeps citizens in these communities safe and informed on important issues of the day. Most of these outlets are break-even or marginally profitable but provide a necessary voice in this age of click-bait journalism.

Paul E. Lakeman, Minneapolis


I appreciated reading Reed Anfinson's commentary on vanishing community newspapers. In addition to the lost reporting of school board, city council and county commissioner meetings, accounts of small-town sporting events will be silenced. As noted in the same edition in "We embrace our sports heroes ..." and "Get a jump on March Madness with a Basketball Day" (Opinion Exchange), we tell and retell long-remembered stories about attending tournaments that were almost canceled due to March snowstorms or when future stars are honored, like when Kevin McHale was named Minnesota Mr. Basketball his senior year playing for Hibbing High School. Whether in basketball, baseball, softball, hockey or wrestling, student-athletes become our hometown heroes. Without community support through locally owned and published newspapers, we lose, regardless of a team's winning record.

Jane Stock, Fergus Falls, Minn.