Open Dialogue?

The opposition to opposing views coming from the Social Studies Standards Committee mirrors disturbing examples of leadership from one DFL senator.

In this issue, Katherine Kersten and Catrin Wigfall document the chilling story of Gov. Tim Walz’s attempt to revolutionize how our children are taught history and other disciplines coming under the rubric of social studies. But that’s just part of a bigger picture in which state leaders claim to care about students, achievement and diversity while their actions, instead reflect insults, exclusion and hypocrisy.

Take the DFL Sen. Jason Isaacson. In just the last two months, he twice abandoned decorum in public forums to disparage conservatives — and he had the gumption to emphasize the need for constructive dialogue while doing so.

The first time was in February, during an Education Finance and Policy Committee hearing in which senators discussed the potential use of Something Happened In Our Town in elementary schools. The book is about racial conflict, especially the interactions between blacks and the police — from the anti-police perspective.

Part of the testimony came from Kendall Qualls, the founder of TakeChange Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that emphasizes the importance of education and family in the black community.

Qualls expressed concern over “a coordinated effort to promote critical race theory and this false narrative of white privilege and systemic racism,” he said. “It spreads fear, hatred and division among Americans, and it will create even more confusion for young people as it relates to race and how to get along with their fellow students.”

Instead, he wondered, why are we not focusing on the declining academic performance of our state’s students, regardless of race? That drew Isaacson’s ire.

“I don’t think anything Kendall Qualls has said is accurate or truthful about critical race theory and the existence of white privilege, and I want to make sure we’re clear about that.”

For the record, Qualls is black and Isaacson is white, and we want to be clear about that. So did Republican Sen. Justin Eichorn, who suggested that Qualls might know a little bit more about being black in America then Isaacson, and that it’s “troubling that we’re saying his testimony is lying. Who are myself or Sen. Isaacson to tell a black man what his experiences are like?”

Even better was Isaacson’s emphasizing the need to “create an open dialogue.” But how is it open if it’s only one-sided?

The situation was such the same a month later, only this time Isaacson had American Experiment’s Catrin Wigfall in his crosshairs. Wigfall testified before the same committee as Qualls, in this case to support Education Savings Accounts, which would make state money available to families to meet students’ needs through services including tutoring and mental health treatment.

Isaacson’s response? He called Center of the American Experiment “a joke.”

“When you bring conservative think tanks in here, it’s hand to take them seriously,” he added.

To sum up, a person who doesn’t share Isaacson’s views is untruthful, a joke, and not to be taken seriously. No wonder the mostly left-wing activists on the Social Studies Standards Committee — who want our children to be taught, among other things, that whiteness, Christianity and capitalism are oppressive to indigenous people and other minorities — were dismissive of the more than 5,000 comments coming from Minnesotans who are concerned about their proposals.

After all, if the leaders who write our laws are unwilling to have a truly open dialogue, how can we expect the officials who recommend new policy to be open-minded?