The new minority (5×8 – 5/17/12)

Facing change, the retiring teachers, a letter to the high school graduates, what rural Minnesota offers, and the money woes of NPR.


This should be interesting. For the first time, white babies are in the minority in the United States, according to new data from the census bureau.

“This is an important tipping point,” said William H. Frey, the senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, tells the New York Times, describing the shift as a “transformation from a mostly white baby boomer culture to the more globalized multiethnic country that we are becoming.”

Among the many issues facing the nation in the new era: Will aging white people be less inclined to educate a young population that looks less like themselves?

It may also force the nation to look at its growing tendency to treat immigration as a four-letter word. “Eventually, when the economy returns, we’re going to get more immigrants, maybe not from Mexico but from other parts of the world,” Frey told the Washington Post. Otherwise the U.S. would be Japan, with its disproportionate share of elderly citizens.

Discussion point: How — if at all — do you think the nation will be changed a generation or two from now?


The best part of this time of the year? The stories of retiring teachers, especially the ones who’ve spent their entire working lives at one school. The Sun Newspapers provides today’s time travel with a profile of Terry Ruhsam, who started teaching at Metcalf Junior High in Burnsville two years before I graduated from high school.

Times have changed, of course. Kids don’t hang around after school much anymore, he says, because there’s not much to hang around after school for

“Like danceline this year — we had a danceline, but it was hard for them to perform, because we didn’t have any games,” he said. Budget cuts wiped out team sports.

He teaches history but requires his students to stay up to date on current events.

How has Metcalf changed over the years?

There used to be music over the loudspeaker that announced the end of class and continued playing as students passed between classes, said Ruhsam, who remembers the halls being somewhat calmer during those times.

“I do remember at holiday time they had a Christmas tape you wouldn’t dare play anymore,” he said. “Eventually the system broke, and that was the end of it.”

Those sounded like good times.

At South High, Louise Bormann is retiring, according to the Star Tribune. she directed more than 40 theater productions at the school.

Although she labels South as “awesome” and teaching as “the greatest life anybody could have,” Bormann also saw the profession changing in ways she doesn’t like. “I would prefer not to teach from a script,” she said. “There’s too much testing and not enough conversations.”

She also says she doesn’t much care for students calling teachers by their first names.


A former chancellor at an Illinois university offers tips for the Class of 2012: Don’t borrow money:

One: If you have to borrow money to enter a university straight away, don’t. Go to a community college. Pick rigorous courses that you know will transfer and get them at an 80 percent discount off the cost of state university prices. Don’t borrow a dime. If you need a boost to finish after demonstrating ability at a community college, borrow sparingly in the last two years, but never in the first two. Never.

Two: If your life circumstance requires you to work and study simultaneously, do it. There is no law of the universe that says a college education must take four years. If it takes more, and you can do it for cash, do it. Don’t borrow money.

Three: Consider carefully with your family, and counselors you trust, the dollar value of your career-path choice. Find a way to graduate from college with little or no debt.

Find the whole letter in today’s Chicago Tribune.

What advice for today’s graduates would you offer?

Here’s mine: Go figure out a way to roam the earth.

Also: Blow stuff up.

Related: MnSCU considering another tuition hike (Star Tribune)


Out in farm country, when you fall off a roof, you get a lot of well wishes, Kathryn Draeger, who writes Resettling Big Stone County Minnesota, writes today. Her farmer-husband, Mike, took a tumble off a new chicken shed, breaking an arm.

It’s a worse accident than it may sound and a compelling reminder that farming is a very dangerous job, and when a farmer goes down in April, May, and June, that’s a pretty devastating time, which Ms. Draeger captures perfectly.

I’ll just say this one last thing. My husband is a good, caring, hard working man of very few words. His daily word allotment is 40 words- so he uses them sparsely. A couple nights after he was home and trying to get his beaten up body comfortable in bed, he whispered so quietly I could have missed it, “thank you for taking care of me dear.” And I’ll say the same thing to many of you out there reading this.

Thank you for taking care of us dears.

Thank you for working the fields, feeding the cattle, hauling chicken feed, patching the coop. Thank you for relighting the wood boiler and filling it up anonymously. Thank you for your prayers, hotdishes, cookies, bars, and rolls. Thank you for the loads of laundry washed, dried and folded and for the loving care of our kids. Thanks to my boss and colleagues at the U for support and reminders of the priorities of life. Thank you for the cards and the kindnesses you’ve shown. They are sustaining and encouraging us. It is a blessing you know–this day and those around us. For these gifts, Let us be truly grateful.

No wonder so many people want to move to rural Minnesota.


Cuts could be coming to NPR, the Washington Post reports today. Corporate contributions to the network are way down from 2011’s record pace.

But the hole is growing deeper: Through March, NPR recorded a $2.6 million deficit, over and above what its endowment covers. The growing deficit makes it “likely” that NPR will end its fiscal year in September in the red, said Dana Davis Rehm, a spokeswoman.

Knell spelled out some of the details in a meeting with NPR employees on Wednesday. But he stopped short of suggesting that NPR would have to chop its staff or its lineup of news and entertainment programs. “That’s the last thing I want to do,” he said in an interview.

Like many news organizations, NPR is facing higher expenses this year as it covers the Olympics in London and the presidential election at home, among other major national and international stories.

The situation isn’t nearly as dire as in 2008, when a $23 million shortfall led to the dismissal of 64 employees, or about 7 percent of NPR’s workforce, including several longtime correspondents and program hosts. It also dropped two daily programs to save money, including “News and Notes,” a show designed to attract more African American listeners.

The network reportedly is considering axing the only program it has targeted to African Americans and other minorities.

Bonus I: From WHYY’s Fresh Air:

When writer Florence Williams was nursing her second child, she read a research study about toxins found in human breast milk. She decided to test her own breast milk and shipped a sample to a lab in Germany.

What came back surprised her.

Trace amounts of pesticides, dioxin and a jet fuel ingredient — as well as high to average levels of flame retardants — were all found in her breast milk. How could something like this happen? Find the answer here.

Bonus II: A conservative shareholder of Time Warner wants to muzzle anti-Tea Party remarks from Morgan Freeman, who’s on a publicity tour for a movie. Tech/media analyst Dan Gillmor says the correct response should have been, “‘Have you ever heard of free speech, you jerk? I don’t care how many shares you own.'”

Bonus III: The rape in the Boundary Waters. (WCCO)


Recent departures of senior leaders from Best Buy have cast a new light on office relationships between employees of different ranks. Today’s Question: Have personal relationships in the workplace ever presented a problem for you?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Leaders of the Minnesota House of Representatives assess the just-concluded legislative session.

Second hour: Life in North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

Third hour: The golden age of local music.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): On the anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, an American RadioWorks documentary, “Thurgood Marshall Before the Court.” Before Thurgood Marshall was named to the Supreme Court, he was the NAACP attorney who spearheaded the school desegregation case.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: New choices for amputees.

Second hour: The consequences of an economic collapse in Greece.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Local bands on late-night television two nights in a row, an almost all-local “Rock the Garden,” local bands selling out First Avenue’s main room more than ever — there are enough indicators to prompt Chris Roberts to ask local music observers and practitioners whether this is another golden era for local music.

Minneapolis Park Board Director of Forestry Ralph Sievert talks about the task of replacing the trees destroyed by last May’s tornado.

  • jon

    @#1 US policy towards immigration has been a perpetual joke through out at the very least my life time.

    US policies (War on Drugs) have turned large parts of Mexico over to Organized Crime, and the US has done little to help stop these issues (DOJ Gave them guns) but some how we don’t see it as our problem because we put up a fence.

    We’ve made it out business (some time after WWII) to police the world, with little concern for our own populace or the stability of North America.

    Ironically it just struck me today that the US has a disputed border with a country that manged to get troops into Washington D.C. and burn down the white house and capital building. Canada. Seems like we need to get our affairs in order on our own continent before trying to save every other part of the world.

  • Jim!!!

    re:Bonus 1, I got a kick out of the photo and caption/control:

    -(+) Enlarge Photographer: B-D-S/

    Breasts are getting bigger and arriving earlier. They’re also attracting chemicals and environmental toxins, which are getting passed along in breast milk.

  • Jim G

    @#2 After teaching 34 years I retired a few years ago and began volunteering in another district. I didn’t mind them calling me by my first name, it was on my name tag. However, I was repulsed by being called “Dude” when I was old enough to be the kid’s grandpa. And I get asked why I don’t ever want to be a substitute teacher…

  • davidz

    NPR could save some unexpected expenses by not covering the Olympics in incredible depth. They should stick to covering topics that no one else is going to do well. Sports coverage is just not within their core of reporting capabilities. So send someone to handle a small bit of the non-sports Olympic news, and leave the actual sports reporting to NBC, ESPN and the BBC (who I suspect will be covering it extensively, but from their own back yard).

  • Bob Collins

    Unfortunately, in the post 9/11 world, you have to position your reporters for the “what might happen” at these sorts of international “targets.” I doubt very much their staffing considerations are based on their sports value.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Whites won’t become a minority in this country because they will do what they always do: expand their definition of white.

    Study American history. Europeans who came from countries on the Mediterranean weren’t considered “white” until their votes were needed. Ditto the Irish.

    The only reason the GOP hasn’t been able to relabel Hispanics as “whites” is because of their hideously racist anti-immigration jihad. They will move past that because they need Hispanic votes. And if that fails, we’ll suddenly discover that Black Baptists are “whiter” than Euro-American feminists because Christianity will be the new determiner, not skin color.

  • allie

    RE: #1 My husband and I are 2 weeks out from our first child. When we first started telling people we were having a kid, one response my husband received from a random co-worker was:

    “Good. We need more white babies.”


    My poor husband didn’t know what to say. I think he just backed away slowly. How does one respond to such blatant crazy?

  • Kevin Watterson

    My advice to graduates: Focus your college career around gaining marketable work skills, not the concept of “earning a degree.” A degree will get you your first job, but if you want a career you’ll need to show prospective employers what you can do, not what you have. If you leave college more skilled than when you started, your time and money will have been well spent.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re Facing Change – Here’s the headline from a piece in the Onion on the topic:

    Report: Caucasians Will Soon Be A Minority In Their Own Goddamn Country