Letter: What if education was used as economic development?

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Dear Editor:

My kids would roll their eyes the moment I would say, “I have been thinking…”  I would hear moans, groans, and “now what?”  I can only assume its because I think outside of the box, I like to analyze, dismember concepts, things in general, and look at all the pieces, what works and what doesn’t.  While working in construction for many years, I won awards and bonuses for this sort of thinking because this kind of thinking generates income and cut costs and wasted money. Just because some processes and structures always have been a certain way doesn’t make it right, effective or efficient. This was my epiphany today.  Education used to grow the economic base, jobs and stability for Rio Blanco County as a whole, but not within the boundaries as we know it. 

I had a conversation with my daughter. They are looking to leave New Mexico because it has the worst educational system in the United States. The number one thing they are looking at are schools. Second, what kind of environment they want to live in. Why? Because like many young people today they are not locked into an area for a job, they get to choose where they want to live.  Michelle’s mind opens, light shines in, angels sing and the many pieces of “what if” start coming forward. The most valuable thing any community has are its children, because they are our future.  Right now, in my humble opinion, this nation is in major trouble. The USA is 13th in reading and comprehension, 20th in math, and 23rd in science. South Korea, Finland, Canada and New Zealand are kicking our teeth, even Poland is way ahead of us. How many children have anything to come back home to Meeker for?

When I mentioned this idea to an old friend and the possibility of maybe a year-round school I heard the comment, “That will never fly here, too many ranch kids.”  The truth is, for Rio Blanco County, ranching is less than 1 percent of the tax base, so next argument! Kids in countries and nations outside of the U.S.A.  go to school more with higher standards, they graduate at 16, and most have a trade or an associate degree by the time they are 18. Why shouldn’t we? Lets do that!  Let us build something local worth learning, expanding and staying for.

What if we looked at our schools as the most valuable economic development cornerstone we have only to build upon, and do it outside of the box and the federal standard? Raise the bar. The top school districts are Aspen with 1,727 students and five schools. Second is Cheyenne Mountain District in Colorado Springs with 5,104 students and 11 schools. Third is Lewis Palmer Consolidated Schools in Monument, Colo., with 6,343 students and 9 schools. 

What if we looked at new ways to educate, expand and explore education? Not only to accommodate our own children but to invite other families who are not locked to an area-specific job area to do so?  Instead of bizarre climbing rocks on the court house lawn, hiking trails and playgrounds that sit empty, lets feed a need, feed minds, along with a quality of life we have to offer. I get sick of hearing about building the tourist trade. When the economy tanks the first thing you give up is your vacation.  Second, we don’t have a ski area, and are not close to one. Third, we are allowing the upriver to be developed by the rich and removed who only spend two weeks a year here and push up the tax base that forces the real ranchers and farmers away. Fences are being built to keep people out, not cows in. We have so much more to offer than “just tourism.” To me this is an insult.

What if we take hemp growing and look at manufacturing fiber, rope, cloth, along with the amazing benefits of CBD, as well as the high protein food that comes from it? What if we embraced and expanded on the healing arts?  Reiki, message, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbology, natural based foods, organic gardening, metal work, building, ecology (not the extreme left of right real management). What if we embraced art, painting, sewing, weaving and creating? Not just as business, but as schools? Places of learning, not just correction centers. Let’s embrace the history we have to offer, webinars we can give, life we have to offer that is simple, peaceful and slow. There are countless ways of embracing things and doing it if we concentrate on building something, not just spending money on a dead horse. There is extreme wasted money and resources in the county, it is long overdue to demand a stop to it. My Dad referred to this as, “money was burning a hole in your pocket.”  Just because you have it don’t spend it on frivolous, stupid things. We should be a place that someone wants to live in give and contribute to, not just to visit and spend money on once or twice. Let’s re-open the hot springs!

How about affordable housing?  There is one, but from the perspective, less is more, not the mansion on the hill or upriver, but the concept of actual community? Tiny houses, garden homes, condominiums that are small, effective and efficient, but affordable for the common man.  Attract those who are already doing this and are successful at it. The fact that we have fiberoptic and internet here is a solid base that it is upfront, affordable and honest. The top three tech jobs in the U.S.A. are computer equation, online business and online automation. All done from one’s home. The top money maker in Colorado is hemp and marijuana, (yes, they are different). Colorado collected $508 million in taxes from its number one crop. 

The accepting of things as they are is the death to growth and something more, or as a wise man once said conformity, and belief is the death of intelligent. I will add, it is also a choice. 


Michelle E. Hale CH.t.