I was saddened to read about the arrest of Myon Burrell last week (“Burrell charged with two felonies,” Aug. 28).
Like many Star Tribune readers, I followed the story of his release from prison in 2020 and the commutation of his sentence, and I remember with deep sadness the horrific event that led to his arrest and conviction in 2002.
Since the coverage of Burrell’s release, I have been thinking about crime and punishment and how we treat juveniles in this country. When something awful happens, what is fair? What is right? How do we adjust our stance as new knowledge (cognitive, forensic, societal) emerges? The commutation showed that we, as a state, are willing and able to adjust old thinking, and I am grateful for that.
Burrell is no longer a kid. And yet, this new twist in the story is tough for me to settle. Allegedly, he’s gotten himself into some bad stuff. But I wonder: What is our responsibility when a person has been removed (by us, the state) from society for so long? How does a person readjust to social life after 18 years in prison? What are fair expectations, and what help is given?
In this case, we may consider that Burrell’s actions as an adult are on him. But the transition from child to adult (with a lengthy prison sentence in between) and from punishment to personhood? That’s on us.
Tracy Nordstrom, Minneapolis
NEW STATE FLAG
In recent discussions about the proposed new state flag, the issue has become bogged down, swamped with ideas, preferences and requests (“State flag redesign effort hits next wave,” Sept. 2). We are proud of our state, and we want to show it well. So one person wants to represent the four seasons, another wants our state motto, while still others want to see the diversity of our cultures. A popular desire is to see our geography, including our landforms, our lakes and our natural flora and fauna, especially the loon and the pink lady’s slipper. Important positive dates in our history get mentioned.
The problem is that we can’t have it all. When I was an elementary school teacher and teaching art, I advised my students to know when to stop. Otherwise, you get an artwork (flag) about which future generations say, “Yeah, this … is a mess.” The only way we would be able to get everything onto it would be to have a huge QR code that people could scan for information.
Many states and countries have flags that are simple and identifiable. Think of Arizona. These flags become one element in their culture without trying graphically to represent all the other elements. And, while most of the designs have meanings, few, if any, people know what they are. Everyone recognizes the Union Jack to be the flag of the United Kingdom. But do people know that it combined the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick and signified the political merger of England, Scotland and Ireland? Does anyone care? Let’s keep “simple and identifiable” in mind with our next go-round.
David Rosene, Brooklyn Park
Regarding the state flag dilemma: Keep it simple and nonpolitical. A sunset on a lake with pine trees, a loon on the lake and lady slipper in the foreground. Enough, end of story! Saved you a lot of money on consultants!
Connie Sambor, Plymouth
It’s disgusting and downright wrong that seven to 13 elite people have the privilege to redesign our state flag for the other 5.7 million. I wrote to Gov. Tim Walz several times promoting that if Minnesota is going to redesign the flag, it needs to be an open art forum for all Minnesotans to enter into — something that is fun for everyone and gives Minnesota artists as well as all others a chance to help with this project. Also, we all should have a vote on which flag then becomes our state flag. Not just a few chosen by the governor and his people. There could be a special vote for all of Minnesotans because each one of us is important in this endeavor. The committee could outline boundaries for submitting a redesign and gives us an address on where and who to send our designs to. Wouldn’t this be more fun for us?
Caroline Lampert, Cambridge
Test score discussion has been in the news for years with not a lot of real change in the level of success or how we look at it (“Latest grim test scores require correction,” editorial, Aug. 31). I would suggest that perhaps we are looking at wrong indicators. An example: This week I read a quote from a farmer who was pulling water from a large aquifer out west, surprised that after 20 years of this type of irrigation over a large geographical area, the aquifer was running low. The farmer expressed surprise; he didn’t know this could happen.
Running out of water is an existential problem, and when you go through the news cycle for a week or so, you will find no real problems plaguing us whose root causes are problems in math or reading. It’s time to look at those test scores for what they are: test scores. I believe we should quit telling our children that they all need to have the same exact skills at the same young age and simply use test scores to inform the individual and their family. Quit using these scores to beat up on those who are less fortunate and allow children and young adults time to learn at their speed and to their individual level. Focus instead on real problems like where our water comes from and how we can make sure we have enough of good quality for the next generations. Let the learners learn while we focus on the real problems of environment and society.
Alan Briesemeister, Delano
At the risk of sounding insensitive, I find myself in disagreement with a letter writer’s comments in Saturday’s Readers Write section regarding the importance for students who “require help or assistance to get up to speed” of “feel[ing] validated” with “their self compassion and self esteem … intact.” Additionally, the point that “separating students from one another, whether it is inside or outside the classroom, has a tendency to instill a sense of failure.”
To be totally transparent, I am from another generation who believed education was meant to prepare us for the real world, and where self-esteem was not automatically provided to us. Failure was a real part of our life, and it could and did, in my case, give incentive to do well in school and stay out of summer school.
The letter writer mentions that “learning new concepts and techniques is frequently painful and stressful.” I totally agree with this. However, in the real working world if I don’t learn new concepts and techniques, I will not have a job. Having experienced and survived failure throughout my life has been a positive thing that started in elementary school.
My hope is that the letter writer’s comments are not indicative of the attitude of our school system and that education concentrates more on preparing students for life than artificially inflating their self-esteem.
Bruce Lemke, Orono