Pros and cons of shooting off your mouth


Let’s hear it for intemperate comments.

Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels says “burn North High School down” because he’s unhappy with the quality of public schools, and people are riled up. What comes of it? A debate on the value of public education and how it should be supported and funded, and Anna Nicole’s terminal vapidness gets elbowed aside for awhile by an important issue.

The flap — some of it silly, some substantive — has lasted over a month. There’s been anguish and anger. The best result of all this was North High students getting back in Samuels’ face last week and standing up for their school. You gotta love it, young people provoked into getting rowdy in a good cause – “I’m not here to be knocked down. I’m proud of myself and proud of my school,” Courtney Bell told Samuels (who thanked her for speaking up).

Samuels is complex, and his views are hard to categorize. He’s pissed off people of all races and all political persuasions. But he’s thoughtful and he cares, even if his language puts both of those points in doubt sometimes.

“Can anyone who speaks forcefully, and without regard for image-management, get a chance in our culture of cheap outrage?” asks Adam Platt, the editor of the very good Samuels profile by David Brauer in February’s Mpls St. Paul magazine. The negative sound bite has, for many people, overwhelmed the context and the seriousness with which Samuels does – and all of us should – take the issue.

But Samuels calls it like he sees it, tells it like it is. Not everybody’s going to like it – I disagree with some of what Samuels says – and the tough brash language may keep some people from hearing him. But he just might wake some people up, too.

Platt’s thoughtful reflection on the article and the heat it’s generated, and a link to Brauer’s story, are at: