COLUMN: Smart kids leave Utah

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Source: CVDaily Feed
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“Me fail English? That’s unpossible!”

—Ralph Wiggum, from “The Simpsons”

In what was understandably a source of pride for most who live inside the city of Logan, a report jointly compiled by the magazine U.S News and World Report and the American Institute of Research ranked InTech Collegiate and Logan high schools 1st and 3rd, respectively, in its ranking for the state of Utah.

With the No. 2 school on the list being a charter school like InTech, that makes Logan High School the highest ranked public high school in Utah. Yay!

I have two children who currently attend LHS. I am quite pleased with their efforts and with the education they are receiving. But, a question regarding my children’s high school education has to be asked.

What happens when they graduate?

The easy answer is that they will attend Utah State University – and that is amazing for me. I will love going to Aggie games with my kids and sharing an alma mater with them. They will receive a great education and be in a place they know as well as their own bedroom. But, a question regarding my children’s college education has to be asked.

What happens when they graduate?

Short answer: They leave Logan.

And that is the awful irony that comes with living in Cache Valley. You can get a great education here, but then if you want to make money, you pretty much have to leave town.

What are our children to do? There simply is not that many high paying jobs here.

I know this is an old argument. And maybe someone out there can refute what I claim with hard data saying that USU retention levels in Cache Valley are not that bad. I have a better idea. Go to USU’s graduation ceremony this Saturday and ask the youngins what they are doing.

Some might be staying here for graduate school. A few might be staying here because their spouse has time left to graduate. And the privileged few already have daddy training them to take over the family business while they landscape the Cliffside mansion.

But the rest of them? Adios, muchachos!

Watch the trail of U-Haul trucks over the next week as they convoy up through Sardine Canyon and are gone from Cache Valley for good. We are losing a huge swath of educated people who know this valley and are leaving it behind them.

I know what you are saying right now. Cache Valley is gaining population. This is very much true. My retort is, “Who are they?”

Are they educated professionals looking for tech jobs? Are they middle management types who were recruited here to help organize factories with hundreds of workers? Are they young millionaires looking to open a huge factory – or a startup – that will hire hundreds of workers?

Or, are they mostly unskilled workers who will fight for the same underpaying jobs with others of similar skill sets and the few USU people who remain in Cache Valley until they or their spouse graduate?

Cache Valley has no middle class. On the state flag of Utah is the word industry. It should be the word inheritance, because that is the only way anyone is getting by in this state anymore.

Cache County and the various city councils within its borders need to cure themselves from a lack of imagination and its aversion to foresight. Handing out residential licenses like free samples at Sam’s Club is going to continue to compromise the fragile infrastructure of this valley. Touting “business friendly” over the much more attractive moniker of “worker friendly” will not improve the overall demographic of this area. With a dwindling middle class, the tax burden will fall on to the homeowners of this county – many of whom already resent the influx of apartment buildings that depreciates the value of their homes.

We need to keep the smart kids from our top shelf high schools and our impressive university from leaving. Having them fight for fast food jobs with everyone else is not the way to do it.

It is time for the various councils in this valley to stop worrying about criminalizing liquor. They need to rid themselves of their cowardly fear of sex education and the gays. And maybe President Obama might wait long enough from forcibly taking their guns way for them to concentrate on issues that really affect the quality of life of this valley.

Jobs! This valley needs good paying jobs! No more anxious indulgences regarding socially conservative issues that do not put an extra dollar in the pocket of social conservatives.

Jobs! Jobs that enable workers to have a sense of pride. Jobs that are not easily taken away from a worker if their boss decides one day they do not like their face, or who they are.

That is what currently afflicts the average Cache Valley worker. That is what creates the “Us vs. Them” mentality that precludes many from having a vested interest in the future of this valley. And, politically, that kind of inequality and hopelessness is what usually turns Republicans into Democrats.

Allow me to end this column on a personal note. I have three children. I have been playing tennis in my head deciding between staying in Logan or moving back to my hometown of Philadelphia. My lack of reliable, good paying work here is the main reason I believe I will have to leave Logan and all the amazing things that living in northern Utah has to offer.

But, here lies the conundrum. If I stayed here and watched as all three of my kids graduated from both Logan High School and USU, I would then have to face the day when they will be far away from me. Because, given my pessimism regarding the lack of initiative taken in this valley regarding jobs, they will not be able to make a good living here.

The best way to keep my family close to me, as I ascend into middle age, is to move out of Utah. For a place that loves to herald itself as a great place to raise a family, it seems the only way to do so is in relative poverty.