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"We're not gonna fix it."
This devastating assessment of the latest school shooting in Tennessee came from that state's congressman representing the Second District, Tim Burchett. Faced with a lethal situation in his own state, the best answer he had to give was to normalize the violence and carnage. This elected official chose the violence of the moment as the standard and acceptable state, and not the will to change.
Each time a tragedy like the one at the Covenant School happens, there is a grisly system to which we have become accustomed ("Seven weapons bought legally," March 29). After the "thoughts and prayers," after "lifting up the families and first responders," after the mournful body counts, there is a moment when the dismay and terror turn to questions of "How? Why?" Often, the calls for blame fall to some acceptable and reliable culprits like mental illness, the internet, social disintegration, school safety, evil. As Burchett suggests, there are a slew of "well, what can you do" culprits that underline the helplessness of the situation. That "well, what can you do" response can conveniently frighten us into inaction, while at the same time, distance us from the causes.
We normalize. The best answer we are given is to normalize the violence and carnage. In Minneapolis, and across the country in 2020, we chose not to normalize the violence against Black lives and Black bodies. Instead of accepting another death (and another, and another) a movement started that, if it wasn't able to fully vocalize "no more" or "enough is enough," at least refused to see the deaths as "normal" in a civilized and prosperous country.
There is no reason carnage should be the state of our lives in the United States, no reason why the deaths of children and teachers should be considered normal. There is no reason why "we're not gonna fix it" other than cowardice and lack of social will.
Michael Whistler, Minneapolis
Huge majorities of Minnesotans favor policies that would curtail the current easy access to guns. Most of us want to keep schoolchildren and adults from being killed. Favoring background checks: 92%, including 86% of gun owners. Favoring "red flag" laws: 86%, with 78% of gun owners in agreement. Between 2008 and 2017, nearly 4,000 Minnesotans died by gunfire. These data are from a poll by the Joyce and the George Family Foundations.
If we keep sending people to Congress who don't do anything to stop gun violence, we're voting to kill children. Most of us are outraged and sickened by the inaction.
Vote for people who will listen to the outrage. Minnesota needs to send leaders to Congress who will care more about the lives of little children than their own jobs and who will not succumb to the gun lobby. I heard one member of Congress say nothing can be done because people will do what they want; another said the problem is fatherless families and mental illness. These are excuses to avoid acting on the gun problem.
To those leaders who don't want to take action to address life-or-death problems: Get out of Congress.
Melinda Quivik, St. Paul
Take care with a new citizen board
Regarding Ron Way's views in his commentary "Restore citizen voices to the MPCA process," I suggest a cautious approach to enabling a new citizen board. As a former Pollution Control Agency staff member, I can recall some citizen boards were well qualified, neutral to politics and sincere in finding improved staff decisions. Others not so much. Depending on how "policy" is defined, some former boards meddled with staff decisions on individual permits, environmental reviews, cleanup decisions and even enforcement actions.
At a time when timely decisions are demanded of PCA staff (see the review of the air-quality permits process by the legislative auditor), the board process adds yet another challenge to make regulatory decisions quickly. What kind of balance between improved transparency and a quicker environmental decisions can be found? I recall hours and hours of staff time committed to preparing and presenting items to the board, then being directed to go back and try again. Be careful in implementing another citizen board to ensure PCA decisions are timely and that political will does not interfere with good science.
Roger Bjork, White Bear Lake
The career can't compete
Both recent opinion pieces on teacher pay and public education have good points but are flawed by their narrow points of view ("What teaching gets you," Readers Write, March 28, and "Yes, pay teachers more, but also get more for our money," March 28). Some other points should be part of the discussion.
- Average salaries can be misleading without context. While some metro districts have much higher salaries, they do not represent the majority of districts in the state. Some districts in the state have starting salaries that are higher than the top salaries of rural districts after many years of experience.
- Why would a top math/science student become a teacher in a small district starting at $37,000 a year while their college classmates with the same degrees are starting in industry in the range of $80,000 to $100,000? Let's not forget that the vast majority of teachers with a master's degree and many years of experience will never get to that level of pay.
- Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores are not a good indication of teacher success. For many years, my district was stuck in the 50th percentile in science. When the MCA test results became rapidly available due to computer scoring, we decide to use the student's scores as part of their course grade. An amazing thing happened! As a district we immediately jumped into the 90th percentile. The students suddenly cared about how they did on the test!
- Parents, while they were once students, have little or no training as teachers or educators. To say that they should determine the curriculum of their child is like saying that because I own and drive a car I should tell a mechanic what to repair when my car breaks down. Or evolution should not be taught because of their religious beliefs. When a student in our district questioned a teacher about creation, the student said the Bible was literal and that Cain and Abel had had children with their mother.
We will never get high-quality teachers for all of the students in our state until we make the profession affordable and attractive to top college students.
Robert Cruse, Hastings
Compassion over sneers
I pay good money to subscribe to the Star Tribune because I believe it helps me to be a well-informed participant in our democracy. This weekend I had reason to question that belief when I read the snide comments that came from the presumably fully developed brain of Chuck Chalberg ("They're just kids — so do whatever they say?" Opinion Exchange, March 26). He spent hundreds of words ridiculing recent comments and decisions of two female elected officials regarding teenage criminal offenders and transgender youth, but had not one constructive word to offer.
Our community and nation are earnestly struggling to find ways to help our children face a difficult world, learn from their mistakes and become healthy, thriving adults. Chalberg's comments evince no understanding of what it might be like to raise a child who questions their own gender or to be a parent of a child who may have committed a serious crime. And while I understand that the Star Tribune operates in a media environment where outrage engages the audience, I am disappointed that my daily newspaper choose to print such a corrosive commentary.
Bill Karns, Minneapolis