Monday marks the 800th anniversary of the English Magna Carta. It deserves more than a cursory look. The venerable document stated three principles that are central to our government — indeed, to all elected governments across the world — and are vibrantly alive today:
• "The king is not above the law." Richard Nixon resigned under the long shadow of this contention.
• "Citizens who are taxed must be represented" was, of course, the rallying cry for the American Revolution — and so many of the uprisings during the eight centuries that followed the Magna Carta.
• "All citizens have a right to a trial by their peers." They are not subject to the king's whim alone. To this day, the most heinous criminal has this inviolate guarantee.
Politicians talk forever about our "God-given rights." Perhaps the Great Charter's contentions were divinely inspired, but our forefathers also deserve a heartfelt recognition for their earthly efforts in crafting the cornerstone of democracy.
Mark Welter, Ramsey
OFF TO COLLEGE
Don't lose sight of the value of studying the liberal arts
The College Board's recent push to get high school students focused on science will be welcome news to many. Careers in science, technology, engineering and math, also called STEM, are more relevant and necessary in today's global market. But, as a high school graduate heading off to Vassar in the fall, I hope we don't lose sight of an equally valuable liberal arts education.
I know what you're thinking. English? History? Philosophy? "What are you going to use that degree for?" The answer is, "a lot."
First, students majoring in English, history, philosophy and other liberal arts become strong writers. While there has been a big shift from writing in print to writing on computers, people who write well are still a huge asset. Maybe we won't end up using our knowledge of ancient Greece in our day jobs, but we will hone our writing skills through research papers about ancient Greece, which can put current news in perspective, and in persuasive essays about the impact of globalization.
Second, liberal arts students become good communicators. Young people often are criticized for being stuck behind screens and inept at face-to-face interactions. Departments such as drama, film and international studies produce confident, creative and sociable people, well-prepared to hold jobs that require us to connect and communicate.
Finally, a liberal arts education helps us learn how to learn. Too often, education emphasizes cramming as much information into our heads as possible and then spitting it back out on exams. What's missing is the practice of analysis — the "whys" behind the facts. At a liberal arts college, students learn to question and analyze — developing skills that will help us throughout our lives.
I support the College Board's decision to award, beginning in the fall, a new credential to high school students who complete Advanced Placement coursework in engineering, biomedical science or computer science. Yet let's remember that humanities students also have a lot to offer. Like our fellow students in the sciences, we, too, are able and eager to lead.
Maria Bell, Golden Valley
MINNEAPOLIS AQUATENNIAL CUTS
Downtown Council's explanation was insufficient
Tom Hoch and Steven Cramer made some valid points defending the Minneapolis Downtown Council's decision to trim the days and events regarding the Aquatennial festival ("Why we trimmed the sails of this year's Aquatennial," June 4). However, this particular article did not address which events were eliminated. From other sources, I understand that the two most popular family events — the milk-carton races and the sand-building contest — were scratched. I question the common sense of this council to rid itself of what actually works. Please tell me why.
The council has successfully stripped the aqua from the Aquatennial, leaving only the water-skiing show on the river. This will work about as well as the European marketplace that replaced the Holidazzle parade. Common sense isn't running rampant in downtown Minneapolis, is it?
Judy Murphy, Minneapolis
Closing of Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock is decisively correct
"River's shipping era sinks into the past" (June 10) missed an important opportunity to highlight the strong science behind the threat of invasive Asian carp in Minnesota. Research and monitoring efforts clearly show that invasive carp are a threat to our state's waterways. Breeding populations of invasive carp have been conclusively documented by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service in Iowa. More than 70 adult invasive carp have been caught in the Mississippi in Minnesota, not to mention recent catches in the St. Croix River.
Experience combating other invasives has shown that a swift response to an identified threat increases chances to manage or eradicate the species and protect our waterways. The closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock will provide an important physical barrier against the spread of invasive carp to the headwaters of the Mississippi while additional research on the problem continues.
Across the country, tens of millions of dollars are spent to reduce the negative impact of invasive carp on fisheries and recreation. Doubting the threat of invasive carp in Minnesota, or the science supporting it, is an unnecessary distraction that could likely cost our state more in the long term.
Jill Bathke, St. Paul
WEIGHT AND EXCLUSION
Always remember that there are two sides to every story
My education and my profession taught me early that "there are always two sides to any story." I have to daily remind myself of this adage when I read the newspaper, hear about blatant lies being spread on social media and reflect on what I consider the current climate of victimhood.
Perhaps the lady from South Dakota (Readers Write, June 11) was mistreated by an Edina clerk. Perhaps not. I only know I have often shopped in Edina and never once have I been treated discourteously. In addition, when I was the girls' golf coach at Armstrong High School, we played Edina every year and, although our team was soundly beaten by Edina 19 of my 20 years as coach, my girls regularly remarked how much fun it was playing the Edina girls. My girls never once complained of any rude behavior.
A responding letter writer (June 12) called the clerk a "buffoon." Before making such a judgment, folks, hum along with me from that old standard: "It ain't necessarily so."
Len Colson, Plymouth
Can a horse be a hero? Yes.
In response to the June 9 letter about the adulation for American Pharoah after the horse's Triple Crown victory ("No matter how well it rhymed, hero headline was wrong"), I fully agree with the writer on what constitutes a "hero," giving unselfishly and unconditionally, improving lives, sometimes saving them. Her example of the dedicated mother is perfect.
But heroism comes in other forms, too. Every once in a rare while someone — human or equine — appears to light people up from within, to transcend the mundane and to inspire people to rise to whatever heights they are capable of. American Pharoah — and his human partners who worked unselfishly and unconditionally for years to show the greatness that was in him — is indeed a hero in my eyes and thousands of others. Seabiscuit did it 75 years ago, Secretariat did it 42 years ago, American Pharoah did it this month, and a loving mother caring for her disabled child every day. All heroes.
Lyn Cowan, Eagan