April 28, 2004


Nick Coleman constantly derides the death of "Minnesota Nice". Yet it's on full display at the Minnesota Senate these days.

Of course, as any real observer of Minnesota and Minnesotans knows, "Minnesota Nice" is just a pseudonym for a sense of passive-aggression; a "Minnesota Nice" person will talk about the Timberwolves to your face, and stab you in your back when you turn away.

Steve Kelley and the Senate Education Committee are "Minnesota Nice".

First things first: I'm not an especial supporter of "No Child Left Behind', at least not in its specifics. I think it puts too much emphasis on testing, and not enough on critical thinking, or even the teaching of thought.

And state Education Commissioner nominee Cheri Pierson Yecke is a major proponent of NCLB. But in a larger sense she supports something that Minnesota public education desperately needs; accountability.

And that just won't do, for Minnesota's educational/industrial complex.

In a 6-4 vote that followed party lines and left Republicans fuming, the Senate Education Committee advised the full Senate not to confirm Yecke, who stepped into the job more than 14 months ago...Even Yecke's supporters concede that the embattled commissioner has been a lightning rod for the Pawlenty administration. She has stirred up controversy with her support for more student testing and new academic standards for all Minnesota students, and has alienated many teachers and other educators.

DFLers on the Education Committee recommended rejecting Yecke because of what they said is her polarizing influence on the education community, dividing it into antagonistic pro- and anti-Yecke camps. That's bad for education, they said.

Right. Because diversity is a bad thing.

Because adults can't differ on things like this. (Any of you private sector employees out there - does anyone care if you like your boss or her policies or not?)

And goodness knows the DFL ideologues that run the Education committee aren't fiercely ideological. Are they?

"I think the issue here is what is causing the polarization," said Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis. "And I think the issue of qualifications involves more than just having a diploma. I think it's broader than that."

In response to a Republican legislator's comment that an education commissioner didn't have to be a healer, committee chairman Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, responded:

"I'm not looking for a healer. But I'm not looking for someone who by her rhetoric or otherwise is an active divider."

That "rhetoric", of course - the "rhetoric" of opposition to the Teacher's Union's agenda.

Go into a public school (as I have to do, but hopefully not for much longer). Mention Pol Pot. Talk about Adolph Hitler. Discuss Jeffrey Dahmer. You may or may not get a reaction (many teachers might not know who any of them are).

Mention Yecke or Pawlenty (or, for that matter, George W. Bush). Watch the teeth and fists clench, feel the steam shooting out their ears.

No. I'm not exaggerating.

Kelley said he didn't know when the committee recommendation would wind up on the Senate floor, but said he would suggest to Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, that the Senate act quickly on the matter and vote Yecke up or down rather than taking a third course of action: laying the confirmation aside indefinitely.

"I just want to get closure on this," Kelley said. Asked what action the full Senate might take, Kelley said he couldn't predict.

Steve Kelley is the Tom Dashcle of Minnesota.

Posted by Mitch at April 28, 2004 06:07 AM

"No. I'm not exaggerating."

You are correct. My aunt-in-law, a wonderful lady--great fun to be around and always in a good mood--is a financial aid officer at a tech school. Bring up Pawlenty, and even her demeanor changes. Oh, she'll joke about him, but you can tell the tone of the jokes is different; she hates the guy.

I guess that's what you get when you are perceived as a threat to the status quo of a beaurocracy: those with a vested interest in the way things are will do whatever they can to protect it, including souring people like my aunt-in-law against their "enemies."

All I can say is, where are the "efficiency experts" in government, especially public education? The only downsizing that goes on is what's happening in Minneapolis (closing some buildings and moving kids around a bit), and even that is accompanied by tremendous screaming.

Whew. Shoulda made that an entry on my blog, sorry.

Posted by: Steve Gigl at April 28, 2004 10:16 AM