Groton's problems will only get worse if it forgets about the kids

Groton – It’s a considerable trick now to operate a workable democracy when cacophonies of grandstanders shouting damnation at one another occupy the village green, that shrinking piece of real estate we once visited and shared ideas.

This is what’s become of Groton.

Everybody up on their soapboxes, armed with moral outrage and hyperbole. Makes for a great sound bite. Except there’s this:

The collateral damage.

The kids.

Always the kids.

The kids: the demilitarized zone between the grandstanders who are too intoxicated with their own voices to practice prudence and practicality.

Shall we examine?

A superintendent, faced with outrageous budget cuts, resorts to the oldie-but-goodie: threaten to cut sports in middle school and make them pay-to-play at the high school. This is a tired-but-effective tactic that gets the masses off their ascots and to the town meeting, where the superintendent would tell town councilors, in the wake of budget cuts, “I want to hear five people say you’re going to screw the kids again.”

Nice.

A town councilor, presumably with a straight face, would say that taxes are so taxing in Groton right now that “people will lose their homes if taxes rise again” later asking teachers to “give up 10 percent of their pay.”

What follows, of course, is blame assessment, non sequiturs, distortion and bluster. And the idea that cutting sports at the middle school and making them pay-to-play at the high school amounts to saving, oh, about a buck and a half in the grand scheme.

No matter. It’s about the bluster.

But you know who’s still silent here?

The kids.

Always the kids.

Just wondering: Does anybody ever speak for them?

Or it is not convenient?

What, you think it’s permissible to cut, cut, cut — not just sports — and think the kids in Groton have even a sniff at similar educational opportunities as they might in other towns?

Because why in heaven’s name would any family move to Groton right now, other than for the entertainment value of watching its leadership bicker?

Imagine: Some Pfizer family is about to relocate to our corner of the world. There are exemplary school systems in Old Lyme, East Lyme and Waterford. A burgeoning all-magnet concept in New London. The Agri-Science program in Ledyard. The overall excellence — collegial atmosphere and diversity — of NFA.

Note to Groton: The reasons for this morass are complex. But the consequences aren't. Your dysfunction is making you irrelevant. Perhaps you’ll consider this before your next soapbox convention.

A word about cutting sports programs or offering them to the highest bidder: Self-discovery, the essence of the educational process, happens mostly through sports and arts. Kids learn the vagaries of discipline and sacrifice, not to mention working with people of varying levels of diligence and want-to.

Sounds a lot like the workforce, no?

Sports and arts are co-curricular. Not extracurricular. Anyone who threatens their place on campus, or believes they should come with a price tag, has created a fissure deep enough for common sense to disappear permanently.

Education is a responsibility. It falls on all of us. And this is what happens in Everytown, USA: Budgets are perfectly reasonable when your kids are in school. But when they leave? You bellow like some forest animal at all the fat.

Abject fraudulence at its finest.

It is your duty, Groton-ites, to fund education. The very idea that an entire school may close and scores of teachers will lose their jobs fortifies the reputation Groton has earned: a helicopter drop of individuals who have never been invested enough to give their town any soul.

And to think New London is the butt of every joke around here. New London may be psychotic, but its spirit, loyalty and community make it the anti-Groton. Taxes are brutal in New London, too. And yet schools are improving. Even suburbanites are starting to send their kids to New London now because the all-magnet concept intrigues them.

So keep yelling, Groton-ites, in the mistaken concept that being right is more important than honoring your duty to the kids. Know what you’re telling kids now? That your taxes matter more than their development and opportunity.

What an inspiring sense of community.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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