Justice Alan Page Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari

Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Neel Kashkari told students that hiding in Minnesota’s relatively strong educational averages are some extraordinary disparities.

“Not everybody in Minnesota is getting a good education,” Kashkari said during an Upper School-wide panel discussion and Q&A. “Not everybody in Minnesota is developing skills to reach their full potential, and it turns out that’s a real problem.”

Over the past three years, Page and Kashkari have partnered on a proposed state constitutional amendment, the Page Amendment, that would enshrine education as a civil right and make providing quality education to all children a "paramount duty" of the state. The two—who explain that they come at the issue from different lenses: economic (Kashkari) and justice (Page)—presented this year’s Steiner Lecture, which is held every two years exclusively for the Upper School community with the objective to provoke thought and discussion around real-world issues.

“Neel and I talked, and we thought if we had a constitution that put children first instead of the system, we might bring about real change,” Page told the audience. “We thought if we changed who was responsible for addressing our educational problems we might be able to bring about change.”

Because the Page Amendment’s supporters and opponents haven't cut along traditional political lines, the topic presented a challenge for students to put aside preconceived notions of “liberal” and “conservative” and to critically consider the education disparities and achievement gaps that have existed for decades in Minnesota.

“It gets complicated, and that’s okay,” says Beth Calderone, PK-12 social studies chair, who together with an advisory group of students selected this year’s speakers last spring when Minneapolis teachers were on strike. In considering the state of public education in Minnesota, Calderone says, the Upper School community has the chance to think about the partnership Blake has within the greater community. 

“As an independent school, I think we have great opportunities through programs like Breakthrough Minneapolis at Blake,” she told the Upper School student newspaper, the Spectrum, “but we could probably do a better job of thinking more holistically about our place in the educational ecosystem in Minnesota.”

See photos from the Steiner Lecture. Photos by Rebecca Slater