We spend lots of money on our schools. We do it because we believe education will improve our society.

But as you drive down Florida Avenue (in Hemet), you’ll quickly realize there is something seriously wrong with our society at a local level. And it may seem our schools are doing little to help.

Perhaps, however, our downward spiral is actually caused by the success of our schools. You see, our schools focus on preparing students for good jobs. Because of that, our community ends up sending our best graduates off to the best jobs — and those jobs aren’t local.

We pour our money, our efforts, and our love into young people who move away and become wonderful additions to someone else’s community. Our own community is left with the unmotivated, uncreative and uneducated.

In turn, these people (who place little value on education) send their own children to our schools and we enter a downward spiral. (I’m generalizing, of course; there are many exceptions — one of them very dear to me.)

Silicon Valley and even places such as Bakersfield are vampires that suck the lifeblood from communities like ours.

But how can our community attract talent when we offer few good jobs? How can we attract families who value education, when our schools have so many people who place little value on education?

Small business startups may provide an answer. I’m talking about innovative, visionary enterprises, not just more fast food franchises.

To get started, these businesses need little more than an unfurnished suite, a few computers, and broadband access. Oh, and a handful of brilliant, creative, motivated people who share a vision.

Can Hemet provide that infrastructure? Of course. Can Hemet schools produce those young people? Absolutely.

As these startups grow in size and number, they’ll quickly deplete our local talent pool. And that’s where magic happens; we start sucking talent from other communities.
New talent flows in, and with it come families who value education. We have created a positive feedback loop. Like a loudspeaker placed too close to a microphone, Hemet will start to squeal.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Hemet Valley came to be known as Graphene Valley! (Graphene is a substance Intel is looking at as a possible replacement for silicon.) Wouldn’t it be cool if local property values consequently went the way of those in Silicon Valley. Might that not make Measure U the best investment you ever made?

Unless we are ready to give up and let the downward spiral turn to freefall, we really have no choice but to put money into repairing our schools.

For one thing, we’ll never attract outstanding teachers if the schools they’ll be working at are in shambles.

But Measure U is a local measure paid for with local dollars. We have a right to expect it to improve our local community. Why should we spend money to improve communities in Silicon Valley and Bakersfield?

Let’s pass Measure U, but at the same time let’s demand changes.

We needn’t change everything overnight, but let’s focus on our brightest and best (no exclusivity, everyone’s invited), and let’s move beyond preparing these kids for jobs that don’t exist locally.

Let’s not just teach skills needed to get a great job; let’s teach what it takes to create new jobs. Let’s not teach how to merely seek new opportunities; let’s teach how to create new opportunities.

Let’s demand school environments that foster creativity rather than rote memorization. Let’s encourage risk-taking rather than risk aversion. Let’s encourage students to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes instead of teaching them to avoid mistakes and penalizing them when they do.

Let’s offer courses in business plan writing and raising venture capital — not as frivolous electives but as courses every bit as rigorous as calculus and AP English.

Let’s develop the talents of bright, innovative, ambitious entrepreneurs who’ll turn bold visions into business realities. Let’s make these students feel they’re a vital part of our community.

Let’s help them develop local contacts and build local networks. That will give them good reason to stay here (or return) when they set up shop.Let’s make Hemet (and Idyllwild) squeal. Let’s start by passing Measure U.

Dan Pietsch