SAVE DIXON HIGH SCHOOL

A little more than a year ago, I moved back to Dixon, with my wife and our three school-aged children. We traded the opportunities, resources, and top-notch educational system of Wheaton—one of Chicago’s most affluent suburbs—for the much humbler life of this small town. It was not an easy decision, but it was one we confidently made for five reasons…

dixon high school referendum

Dixon High School, October 2016

First, we wanted to live in a place where community is at the core of day-to-day life. We wanted to live in a town where the importance of living together is reflected in the very layout of the town. By emphasizing the downtown and the riverfront, Dixon was clearly putting community first.

Second, we wanted to live in a place where people, places, and things are not treated as disposable. We wanted to live where people don’t leave each other as soon as the going gets tough, where stuff isn’t thrown away as soon as the new model comes out, where people don’t tear down buildings merely to replace them with something more modern.

Third, we wanted to live in a place where people don’t try to pay for things they don’t need with money they don’t have. Life in the suburbs looks great, but it is built on mountains of debt, stress, and overwork. We wanted to live in a place where a conservative fiscal approach preserves a way of life that is going extinct amidst our desire for bigger and better material things.

Fourth, we wanted to live in a place where not everyone and everything looks the same. We were tired of seeing buildings and people who all look exactly alike—perfect, sleek, and modern. We wanted to live in a place where people and places are aged and cracked differently. There is beauty in that kind of uniqueness, a beauty that cannot be found in the next new thing.

And, finally, we traded one of the best educational systems in the world for one ranked much lower, because the best educational systems are spending billions of dollars on technology to educate our kids, with little scientific evidence suggesting it will improve our kids’ education. In fact, there is some emerging evidence that turning schooling into entertainment will make our kids passive recipients of knowledge, rather than active engagers of school and life.

In other words, we moved back to Dixon, because the kind of progress we’d been living in didn’t feel like progress at all. It felt like a loss. It was with heartbreak then that, shortly after moving back to Dixon, I discovered my hometown is considering moving its central hub of education and community to the edges of the community, that it is planning to treat a colossal building as disposable, that it is planning to spend money it does not have to do so, that it is planning to replace a very unique and very beautiful building with one that will look like every other high school in the world, and that all of it is going to be done in order to give our kids an “upgraded” educational environment that may not help them become active learners anyway.

I’m not writing this because I want my kids to go to the same school I did. That’s nostalgia. I want something better for my kids than nostalgia can offer. I want them to live in a community where progress is not sought blindly. In an increasingly disconnected and indebted world, perhaps true progress is keeping the center of a community at the center, caring well for what we have, restoring what we’ve let go to ruin, and maintaining and improving it bit by bit as we go forward, rather than waiting for the next crisis to call our attention to it.

I know we all face a tough decision in November. But I cast my vote more than a year ago when we moved back to Dixon. I made my decision to live in a community that would find a way to save the high school we have, rather than mortgaging our future for the one we don’t. That’s how I will vote this November. I hope you will, too.

A decade ago, when-the-powers-that-be made a decision like this, we the people were mostly powerless to do anything about it. Now, with the click of a button, we can have influence. Be an influencer. If you are in support of keeping DHS where it is, I hope you’ll share this page with your friends and family.

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Note: Below is a replication of how the referendum will appear on November’s ballot. To be clear, the top item—County School Facilities Occupation Tax—is a separate proposition: it simply means that when you buy something in Lee County, you’ll be making a contribution of 1% to the improvement of our existing schools. I am referring to the SECOND item—Proposition to Issue $80,600,000 School Building Bonds. Voting “No” to this item means our existing schools WILL still be repaired and improved in the next two to five years as required by law, but DHS will stay where it is. 

Ballot

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.