An Iron Ranger's View: Preservationist clique thwarts Iron Range progress

There is nothing quite like living in a strip-mine community, especially once a mine pit's blast pattern is ignited. The walls of my house surge in and out as the concussion wave pulses around it. Numerous jagged spurs of cracks run through its f...

We are part of The Trust Project.

There is nothing quite like living in a strip-mine community, especially once a mine pit’s blast pattern is ignited. The walls of my house surge in and out as the concussion wave pulses around it. Numerous jagged spurs of cracks run through its foundation, spreading out like random spider webs that become constant reminders of the tremendous force inflicted upon the ancient rock formation entombing the valuable taconite ore.
During the five years I worked at the Minntac mine in Mountain Iron, I learned that mining is a difficult business. Most large mines are located in extreme locations like Siberia or northern Canada, where large populations are nonexistent and opposition is nil.
Here on the Iron Range, while the Earth literally shifts beneath our feet, mining also stirs up pedagogic grudges that have existed for generations. Plainly said, certain mines are desperate to expand, but a clique of preservationists, bent on saving the antiquated infrastructure, thwart the Range’s progress.
For example, legislation recently introduced to build a new combined regional school district quickly was kiboshed. Nowhere in the state, or perhaps the country, exists three public high schools within a 10-mile radius with a graduation class of around 200 when the total communal population is less than 20,000. It is not a mystery why anyone is reluctant to spend tax dollars to fix these ailing schools.
The stickler was where to build the new school. Virginia is the most populous but is landlocked between Mountain Iron, Eveleth, and the mines. Eveleth has the land and a spacious old campus, but the mine is on its doorstep. Additionally, keeping the new school as close to the community college as possible was a priority. Therefore it was only reasonable to build in a new section of Mountain Iron. Naturally, this did not go well with residents of either Virginia or Eveleth.
One simple solution may be to deed the necessary land from Mountain Iron to Virginia so the school could technically be built in Virginia. As game theory proposes when multiple players are involved, everyone has to give up something or all risk losing everything.
It is my belief that one first-rate school would be able to compete with the rest of the state’s schools that already have modernized. Not only does a single school system lower operating costs, keeping the students on one campus instead of expensively transporting them between schools would help stabilize the continuity of learning.
At this juncture, help from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency would be greatly beneficial in offsetting some of the costs of introducing advanced curriculum and open scheduling. It is a national disgrace that there are institutions of higher learning still utilizing 12th-century, pre-printing press instruction that was based upon lecture, rote memorization and regurgitation. Even worse is the outdated belief of factory scheduling. Traditional hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. strictly accommodate a few favorite  teachers, coaches and janitors who purposely restrict open scheduling. If the Range’s schools are to survive and prosper, this tail-wagging-the-dog mentality can no longer be tolerated.
The modern learning paradigm of interactive, multiphasic self-instruction and online guidance with instant feedback and results from multiple computing devices enhances the studying and learning processes that achieve quicker and higher levels never before imagined. While some traditional methods are still necessary, change is happening faster than anticipated. Combine this with open scheduling and students would have access to instruction at all hours of the day, evening and weekends. After all, for years, schools have been staying open all hours, patronizing those playing ball and stick games.
Once the school is built, the Range actually may begin to progress, helping itself to enhance its future sustainability. However, if the Range’s infrastructure isn’t modernized and the mines cannot properly expand, future generations won’t be left wondering why these uncooperative and maladaptive mining towns failed.

Thomas Schur of Mountain Iron was a municipal power plant operator for the city of Virginia and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in psychology and a minor in Western philosophy.

What to read next