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Cutting out the good stuff


I am in the process of writing an article about the wonderful resource we here in Santa Cruz County enjoy, Quail Hollow Ranch. For years I have enjoyed going there with my kids and taking part in the programs run by Lee Summers, who, to my surprise, does not have a teaching background. She’s a natural born teacher of kids. She listens to them and gently prods them onward. She modestly gave all the credit to their natural interest, but you and I know that a bad teacher can kill all but the strongest will that a child has to learn.

One of the coolest things about writing is that you enter into every subject through the door that you drew in the wall of your knowledge. That door is the place that you think, based on what you already know, where the good story lies. You have this image of what you’ll see when you open the door. If you’re a bad writer, you’re already planning what you will write, and you’re just looking for people to give you what you’re looking for. If you’re attempting, at least, to be a good writer, you approach that door knowing that once it’s open, anything is possible.

I expected to write about what a great program it is, and how all the local families who haven’t taken part in their programs need to sign up. And I will probably write about that. But my conversation with Lee opened into a whole other can of worms. We don’t live near Felton, so we’ve never taken part in Quail Hollow’s afterschool science program, but I know that in this time of budget cuts and focus on tests, science at schools is getting the short end of the stick, especially for elementary kids. I’m guessing a lot of families were thankful for QH’s program to fill in the gaps.

Then the past year happened, and, well, we’re just outta luck. Lee is thankfully not out of luck — she still has her job. But her job is going to take her around the county working parts of jobs that other people who were laid off were doing. Quail Hollow’s afterschool programs? Gone. Quail Hollow’s weekend programs? Barely surviving, depending on the level of commitment of their volunteers.

I can’t imagine how hard it is for a person of conscience to be working in our state government right now. I’m not sure that many of the people in our legislature are truly people of conscience; I’m definitely losing any hope that I had that our governor is a person of conscience. Yes, we’re in big trouble, but there are ways to fix this big trouble.

This all reminds me of when my daughter was in preschool and was having trouble in a teacher’s class that she’d just moved into. I met with the teacher one day and suggested some things that might help my daughter: more guidance with structured projects, more one-on-one attention and conversation… The teacher answered (and I quote this exactly): “That is not my philosophy.” Not being the queen of comebacks, I only thought of the perfect one later: “I don’t have a philosophy; I have a child.”

Frankly, I just don’t give a darn if you are in our state government and your philosophy is that taxes stink. I’ll tell you what stinks: how many kids I personally know who won’t have healthcare if you “no new taxes” people win out. Those kids without healthcare will save us money, right? Except the little indications of underlying health problems will go unnoticed, and one day they end up in the emergency room. $120 per year for a well child visit vs. $800 minimum for emergency treatment, plus doctors who should be helping car accident victims having their time taken up with asthma and diabetes management, parent education, social work.

I thought we all got this straight for the last 8 years: trickle down theory Does Not Work. Investment in our infrastructure, education, and health Does Work. Sheesh. Even the Economist, which I’m getting free through a promotion, thinks that we should have nationalized healthcare.

And our state parks? And our county parks that are suffering because of the fallout from our state budget and our state parks? Think about the money we’re going to have to invest to fix the broken facilities, the damage to the environment due to poaching.

Just think about this: When we were in Mexico a couple of years ago, we went to a beach that was described in our guidebook as a “charming, local hangout.” There were diapers and baby poop floating in the water. Think that can’t happen here? If no one is taking out the garbage, if the restrooms are boarded up, where do you think all the poop is going to go? Our fisheries are already in trouble — poop in the water is just going to make it worse. The devastation to our state is just beginning.

Or, on the other hand, it can be stopped. We do have options, and a lot of it depends on how the state deals with their problems, which do, in fact, trickle down into becoming counties’ problems and cities’ problems. I’m so glad Lee has her job, but I hope to see her back at Quail Hollow on weekdays too. If she’s not there to watch out for the place, what are we bound to lose in the long run?

Posted in Culture, Education.

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