February 2012
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Marching backwards on education

By Galen Larson

I admire the tenacity of the educated few in Montezuma County working to improve education in the area. There are many people here that do not want to be educated, nor do they want their young to further themselves through education.

Numbers don’t lie. If one examines past elections, it stays fairly stable: 56 to 44 percent oppose any progressive vehicle to help this county move forward.

Our forefathers and pioneers who came in wagons and push carts through many hardships, losses and struggles understood the importance of education. When they built towns, the first two buildings were a church and school. They pooled their money (taxes) to hire a schoolmarm.

Just a few months ago we had the opportunity to do much the same; Create some new school facilities for our children by providing a modest match for a generous grant from the state. This would have enhanced the city and county.

Yet this measure to fund the Southwest Open School failed. One person was so adamant about not funding education that she stated on the front page of the other local paper, “Our children do not need a créme de la créme education.” Oh, really? One of the Republican presidential candidates stated in one of his speeches, “We need to let more foreign students in as we need more science and engineers graduating.” One of our state legislators just took a trip overseas to teach South Africans how to form a more cohesive and uncorrupt government. When she returned she stated that money wasn’t all that made for a good education. The interviewer should have then asked, “If not money, then what is?” Why was the South African government willing to pay her fare, lodging, etc., so she could educate them as to forming a government? Apparently they believe money helps with education.

I see the leaders in the community think it necessary to spend $400,000 to give our county employees a little more space and to better working quarters. Shouldn’t it be the same for our youth?

Oh, yes, I’ve heard this one: “I don’t have any kids in school – why should I have to pay for others?” After World War II we enacted the GI Bill to send our heroes to school. Through this educational program we became the greatest nation on earth. We went to the moon and back. Built a transportation system from coast to coast. Created many innovations from food to medicine and did it in 60 years – all from a créme de la créme education system, because we were willing to spend the money. And this benefited the society as a whole.

Are we now regressing to thumb-sucking idiots? It seems so. We demean teachers and complain about their meager salaries. Teachers reach into their pockets to pay for school supplies. I worked in construction many years and never saw a ditch-digger bring his own shovel.

Oh, yeah, teachers work only nine months a year. Of course, in the summers most take courses to learn how to better teach our children. When in construction I sometimes worked only six months a year, making twice what a teacher makes.

Education is the backbone and foundation of every society. All dictators and persons bent on controlling the masses were adamantly opposed to education – rounding up professors, imprisoning or murdering teachers, banning and burning books.

For the price of a package of cigarettes a day we could have built something here for many generations to be proud of.

Lack of education is the biggest contributing factor in poverty.

My wife was a teacher in a small town the size of Cortez. Her accomplishments were many. One of her students is now working for one of the largest gem purchaser in the U.S. Another went on to work at Redstone Missile base. The one troubled student she and her co-workers were not given the proper tools to guide dropped out of school and murdered another person. Proper tools and an education might have saved two lives – who knows? And wouldn’t that have been worth the price?

God bless our teachers. They do their best to make America a country to be proud of.

Galen Larson writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.


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