Center of the American Experiment: A Frightening Reminder that Edina Isn’t Immune to Fearmongering, Lies


Tanner Jones, online copy editor

Last week, I was dismayed to sift through my family’s mail and find a copy of Thinking Minnesota, a magazine sponsored by noted Minnesota-based conservative think tank, Center of the American Experiment. Its flashy, propagandistic cover projects dystopian themes. On it, a teacher points to a blackboard reading, “A is for activist,” and an image of what I can only assume is a depiction of the “black power fist.” Before the teacher sit two gawking students, presumably hypnotized by their school’s liberal curriculum. “WHOSE VALUES?,” the magazine’s title screams, “Educational excellence threatened by ideology in Edina schools.”

Katherine Kersten, the article’s author, boasts an Ivy League background and many bylines at the Star Tribune. But don’t be fooled; her aim has only ever been to provoke fear and controversy. “Perilous,” she once said of same-sex marriage, indicating that its legalization will open the floodgates to polygamy. “Tribal,” she once called Kenyans, in an article in which she likened Rep. Keith Ellison’s (MN 5) proposal for a “Peace Department” to Norway’s 1939 declaration of Neutrality to Hitler’s Nazi regime. Her thoughts are both unfounded and absurd. This latest piece is no exception.

Kersten begins her attack on Edina as she typically does, by fear-mongering. She paints a very different Edina than I’ve ever experienced, one where test scores are falling and “kids are not ‘on track for success.’” In reality, Edina remains an elite academic juggernaut. In 2017, U.S. News & World Report awarded Edina High School a gold medal for academic success and ranked it fourth out of 769 high schools in the state; teachers regularly win awards (just two weeks ago my calculus class was interrupted when my teacher was commended for his dedication to technological innovation); and students routinely excel in academically-oriented extracurriculars. If you want more evidence, look to the list of Minnesota seniors who qualified as National Merit Semifinalists. You’ll find that Edina High School features far more names than the vast majority of its counterparts and is only bested by schools with significantly larger student bodies. But perhaps the clearest example of Edina’s persistent dedication to success is Edina Public School’s 2015 referendum, which pledges over $120 million for academic improvements and innovations throughout the district over the next two decades.

Even if you don’t believe me when I tell you that Edina is academically strong, you still shouldn’t fall for Kersten’s argument because most of what she says is patently false. Below are various quotes from the article, including alleged quotes from EHS students and parents; beneath are my responses.

“During Edina’s ‘May Term,’ our child had no choice but to take a class called ‘Race, Racism and Whiteness.’”

Please don’t believe this. Students absolutely have a choice in what May Term classes they take. I invite you to read this document which describes the May Term registration procedures and this document which lists all 100 May Term classes, including 99 which are not called “Race, Racism, and Whiteness.”

“Many fear retaliation–in terms of grades or humiliation–if they voice a contrary opinion.”

It’s unfortunate that some students may feel this way. However, there are ample opportunities at Edina High School for conservative students to voice their opinions. Numerous conservative students wrote articles in Zephyrus last year, and EHS’s Young Conservatives Club boasts over 250 members. Additionally, I can think of several classes I’ve taken that encourage respectful intellectual debates, leaving room for opinions on both sides of the aisle. I lean conservative on a number of issues and have particularly enjoyed debating hot-button issues in classes at Edina.

“One teacher told the class Trump winning was worse than 9/11 and Columbine.”

I can’t prove that this didn’t happen, but I’ve never heard anyone mention it, nor can I think of a teacher at Edina who would’ve said this. I urge you to err on the side of reason on this one and not believe this claim without substantial proof.

“The day of the election every single student was in the commons chanting ‘F*** TRUMP.’”

This is ludicrous and frankly laughable. Last year I walked through the commons on election day between every class and have absolutely no recollection of this. What I do remember from election day, however, was a group of students telling a Latino student that he would soon be deported.

“A striking violation of [district] policy occurred on November 22, 2016, when Edina High’s student newspaper ran an editorial … about the presidential election. It was … hyper-partisan.”

Please read the editorial for yourself. There are four references to the election in it. One which simply refers to it as “divisive,” something that’s indisputably true. Another passage says the campaign “might have” left some students feeling targeted, another fact. A third simply states “some [students] were crying the morning after the election.” And a final reference states, “no matter … who you supported, you can recognize political decisions have far-ranging personal consequences,” something else to which every sensible person can agree.

The real purpose of the editorial was to respond to an event that EHS teachers would’ve been wrong not to respond to: an Edina High School student posting the n-word to social media along with a picture of himself surrounded by a drawn-on white robe and the letters “K.K.K.” “Hyper-partisan” is the last term that should be used to describe this. This editorial was no more than a call for peace in a time of turmoil.

Ultimately, Kersten’s piece is no more than what you should expect from her: partisan lies. She points to a marginal decline in Edina’s academics—which numerous sources thoroughly debunk—and jumps to the conclusion that the decline must have been caused by the proliferation of liberal ideology. Her assertions are absurd and purely anecdotal, coming largely from anonymous sources. She condemns activism, something as American as baseball and apple pie, and teachers for taking a firm stance against the ideology of the K.K.K. Don’t believe this article. Don’t fall for fear-mongering.

I want to emphasize that I chose to write this article completely of my own volition. It was not prompted by Zephyrus, the EHS administration, or any teachers.