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Scrabbling for answers

A shudder felt around the globe.

Massive tectonic plates slipping and causing incredibly violent earthquakes?

No. But, nasty nonetheless.

Tuesday, manufacturers of one version of the game Scrabble announced a rules change and a new edition of the game — one that will allow use of celebrity names and other proper names. Worse for Scrabble purists, the new version is said to allow words to be spelled backwards and for words to be played unconnected to any others on the board.

While the next edition of the game will be introduced in Britain, can its arrival on our shores be far behind?

The reason for the changes: To make the game more attractive to a younger market. As in, dumb it down younger folks whose educations are less complete with each passing year will not be daunted by the prospect of playing a game that requires an above-average vocabulary and spelling skills. (Players will likely use calculators to keep score.)

While the ruckus in the Scrabble world is amusing, the reason for the change is not.

Britain is not alone in dealing with educational deficits among its young people. We also struggle with myriad questions concerning how best to educate our young people and prepare them for competition in a rapidly shrinking world — one in which huge advances are being made in what were once “backward” countries, in which economic and cultural challenges arise daily.

And we are now dealing with additional problems standing in the way of improving public education — the need to immediately reduce budgets and resistance on the part of many taxpayers to provide additional revenues.

In Pagosa, the local school district has labored to trim more than $1 million from next year’s budget, in response to cuts at the state level. Similar cuts must be made the next year as well.This means increased difficulty providing quality public education for our children.

We consider public education a civil right.The effort to maintain it begins here.

Residents of Pagosa Country need to do a gut-check on this issue.

School district officials should ask if, despite the cuts, they provide the best education possible. Are teachers evaluated well related to outcomes other than test results, and are ineffective teachers being relieved? Are resources used with max efficiency? Are curriculum opportunities available for all types of students (those who intend to go on to college and those who wish to pursue technical ed or job experience)? If a student intends to go to college, is he or she being prepared with a rigorous senior year, or is the student taking only two, or even one academic class per semester? Are programs offered for students whose skills are advanced in a given area? Are there administrative expenses that are unnecessary?

Parents of students must ask whether a child is challenged in a disciplined environment, if academic standards at all levels are high. As a student moves to junior high and high school, is the student given homework? Is the home environment conducive to education, or is the parent unwilling to support the school system, its demands and its standards?

Those taxpayers who complain about the increase in property taxes (when values that produced those taxes did not hold) should ask themselves what is important, find a balance between immediate needs and the future of a community. If what remains after they are gone is important, they must decide how, and how much, they are willing to pay. Town and county officials must ask if they are willing to turn over sales tax revenues to the school district.

These are but a few questions we must ask as we seek to remedy a dire situation.

That, and “How many points for ‘success.’” Karl Isberg