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:


2 thoughts on “Pros and cons of shooting off your mouth

  1. Rachel North says:

    Here in Leelanau County we have a school being considered for closing. And the passionate words of the teenagers moved a mountainous School Board to keep it open. Quality wasn’t the issue; student population in the highschool has dwindled to less than 20 per graduating class. The kids explained that they liked the family environment and small class sizes. And since there’s enough money to keep going … Kids today–aren’t they great!

  2. Just reading about — and seeing on CNN during Black history month — the Civil Rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. After the adults were jailed and released, Dr. King and other strategists asked the city’s schoolchildren to march for integration and their human rights.
    The kids marched. They faced police dogs larger than they. They faced fear and foul mouths and threats, and they faced death (four Birmingham girls paid that price in a bombing later in the year). The kids went to jail. And they had a hand in creating their future and making the world better for all of us. What a great lesson for young people — stand up, step forward, create your world.

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