This is a counterpoint column to the People’s Press Board of Contributors columnist Emma Hansen who has taken the liberty to write about education topics within our community on occasion. As someone quite familiar with the topics Ms. Hansen has addressed, I can say her columns often misrepresent the facts. I reached out to Ms. Hansen to ask about her background in education to gain a better perspective as it relates to secondary education and many of the topics she writes about and she graciously got back to me and indicated she trains childcare providers and is an early childhood instructor with a neighboring town. While I could not locate licensure information related to her early childhood credentials under the Minnesota Department of Education website, I do want to acknowledge and thank her for her work with preschool families and kids.

Most recently, Ms. Hanson wrote a column about the World Religions class at Owatonna High School (“High school education and world religions in our own backyard,” Sept. 24). I found her article to misrepresent the facts of this course. Ms. Hansen mentions that she has “written course and chosen content.” While I am not sure exactly what this means, I can safely say that if she did have experience in curriculum writing, she would clearly know that a course syllabus does not cover the entire curriculum for the course but is simply a general outline. Consequently, this led her to write an entire article based on minimal information.

Furthermore, Ms., Hansen states, “and why not voodoo and Satanism? I’m going to guess that these would be too controversial. Atheism isn’t included at all and I would suggest that this is a widely held worldview/religion at present.” The World Religions course does cover voodoo, Satanism, and Atheism contrary to what Ms. Hansen states in her article. While Ms. Hansen may have her opinions to what should be covered in this course, this is like telling a physical education teacher in what sequence to teach students physical fitness in ninth grade PE or that students should not dissect fetal pigs in 10th grade biology because it is inhumane. Teachers spend countless hours writing curriculum that contains a scope and sequence of their content; complete with measurable learning objectives and assessments. Furthermore, they research and collaborate on content that will provide students with optimal learning opportunities to prepare them for college and life. They are required to do this in nonpartisan way regardless of how controversial the topic may be. The World Religions course has served thousands of students well for almost 40 years and I have no doubt this course will continue to add value to the educational experience for students into the future.

Additionally, elective courses such as World Religions are a choice. Detailed course descriptions are clearly stated in the course registration catalog and teachers are available at a required registration conference for parents and students so they can make an informed decision on which courses to take. Students (with the guidance of their parents) can make highly educated decisions when choosing which classes to take.

The misinformation by Ms. Hansen does not stop with just the World Religions class. Her August 2019 article about the bond referendum where she ironically states “Manipulating the truth is still deceitful” or misinformation in her February 2019 article about many details of an incident at OHS and how I was in my office during this incident (her manipulation of the truth was deceitful by the way) are two additional examples. Ms. Hansen’s misrepresentation of the work our school board and superintendent actually have done in response to our last bond referendum were unacceptable in that column. They have spent countless hours and gathered data to make an informed decision to best meet the needs of our community and, most importantly, our students which is contrary to most things Ms. Hansen states in that column. Providing an opinion is one thing, but misrepresenting the truth is another which seems to be a pattern of many parts of her columns.

Enough is enough! Our educators in this community deserve better. We have enough misinformation in the world today and we certainly don’t need another contributor to this.

Mark Randall was an educator for 24 years, including a principal for 17 years. He was the former principal of Owatonna High School.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com

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