On day 3, Kersten uncursed

The Star Tribune has in the past sought to compensate for walks on the wild side with columns by Katherine Kersten in ritual fashion. The ritual requires the publication of vituperative responses and incantatory letters to dispel the dread she induces among the members of Minnesota’s lunatic left.

When the Star Tribune published Kathy’s “Undisciplined” this past Sunday, it followed up with two days’ of such responses. One could almost smell the odor of garlic repellent rising from the page.

On Monday — no time could be lost, this was an emergency — St. Paul public schools reading specialist Julia Hill and Institute for Democratic Education in America director Dana Bennis whipped out “False claims and dog whistles” (published in Tuesday’s paper). Looking around online, I discover that Julia and Dana are a domestic team. Dana “has taught in democratic, progressive, and conventional school settings and earned a Masters Degree in Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University.” Even aggregating their abilities, the two are in need of remedial assistance.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius pretended to refute Kersten in “What Katherine Kersten can’t grasp about schools but readers should” (published in Wednesday’s paper). Cassellius took advantage of the extra time to consult her thesaurus for adjectives expressing disapproval. She condemned Kersten with the obligatory curses culminating in “flat-out racist.”

A close reading of Cassellius’s column nevertheless reveals her tacit agreement with the gravamen of Kersten’s column. One might infer from her agreement with Kersten that Cassellius is herself a “flat-out racist.” Cassellius’s column exposes a true scandal that has yet to be told. It is a scandal that this woman is Minnesota Commissioner of Education.

So far, the Star Tribune is following form. Today, however, the letters to the editor depart from the ritual. They support Kersten. First comes the letter from Mountain States Legal Foundation president William Perry Pendley to make a point of law:

Whatever Kersten’s critics say, courts have their own opinion

Setting aside state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius’ vicious ad hominem attacks on Katherine Kersten (“What Kersten can’t grasp about schools but readers should,” counterpoint, March 21, in response to “Undisciplined,” March 18), she reports that “a close look at the data would have made it abundantly clear that a number of Minnesota schools are suspending kids of color at far higher rates than their demographic proportion.”

Even if that is true, the question is whether it means anything. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held, for example, “[D]isparity [in discipline rates] does not, by itself, constitute discrimination.” Furthermore, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that such demands for demographic proportionality constitute forbidden racial quotas: “Racial disciplinary quotas violate equity in its root sense.” That schools must have race-neutral school discipline policies is without question, but the presence of racial disparities does not mean the school, its leadership or its teachers are engaged in racism, and it certainly does not mean that federal or state bureaucrats may impose racial quotas for school discipline. Such quotas are not just foolish and even dangerous — as we learned recently in Florida; they are unconstitutional.

Patrick Doyle of Motley, Minnesota, notes the scandal Cassellius has inadvertently exposed:

Cassellius’s counterpoint to Kersten’s “Undisciplined” was hardly a fresh approach from the Minnesota Department of Education. Here are just a few of the talking points she used to describe Kersten’s comments:

• “Divisive diatribes.”

• “A new low.”

• “Outrageous claims.”

• “Misleading, reckless and — worst of all — flat-out racist.”

• “Falsehoods.”

• “Right-wing sources.”

• “Fearmongering.”

• “Racial resentments.”

• “Divisive and hateful.”

Enough is enough! The Minnesota Department of Education and our children deserve better than Brenda Cassellius.

Beneath Doyle’s letter the Star Tribune appends this: “Editor’s note: In a post this week on the website of the Center of the American Experiment, Katherine Kersten responded to two recent counterpoints to her March 18 commentary in the Star Tribune. See https://tinyurl.com/kerstenresponds.” Kersten seems temporarily to have created something like a disturbance in the Force.


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