Editorial: Embrace decline in ‘nativeness’Published 1:58pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tom Gillaspy, the recently retired state demographer, appears to be taking a “glass is half-empty” view of some data from the 2010 U.S. Census.
Between 1980 and 2010, the percentage of Minnesota residents who were born here fell from 75 percent to 69 percent. In terms of our national ranking in what we’ll call “nativeness,” Minnesota dropped from eighth to 11th.
This worries Gillaspy. “There’s less of a sense that we’re all in this together,” Gillaspy said. “We just don’t know as much as we used to about each other.” He also suggested that Minnesotans might be losing touch with those things that make our state unique — its history, its geography, even its Scandinavian cuisine.
That’s probably an accurate assertion, but even if our native-born rate hadn’t declined at all, we wouldn’t be surprised by a decline in our collective historical awareness. Each new generation, after all, is further removed from its immigrant roots. Convincing young people that they need to maintain a connection to and knowledge of their cultural history is difficult.
But it’s not impossible. When we take our children “Up North” to wade in the Mississippi River headwaters at Itasca State Park, we’re passing along a part of that heritage. Ditto for when we attend one of the summer festivals that are a staple of life in small-town Minnesota. Or when we launch a canoe in the Boundary Waters. Or attend a potluck dinner in a church basement.
The more important point we’d like to make, however, is that the ongoing “immigration” to Minnesota from Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa, other states and other nations is a good thing, and not just because our dining-out options are infinitely greater than they were a few decades ago.
“New” people bring new ideas, new traditions and new viewpoints to our state. It’s neither healthy nor interesting to work, play, and raise families in a “We’re-all-from-around-here” environment. (Louisiana, by the way, has the highest rate of native-born residents. Is that a title we really aspire to possess?)
So we see opportunity in our state’s demographic trend. We can learn from those who come here, while also helping them learn to claim our culture as their own — even as they add to it and change it.
— Rochester Post-Bulletin, March 20