Red River, New Mexico.

I was recently on a mini-vacation with my wife and our 2-year-old daughter — a quick little trip to northern New Mexico and back.

On our last day there I took a walk through the woods with my daughter, who is mostly a sweet little angel but at times can be a disagreeable heathen. In the days leading up to the trip, she wouldn’t stop talking about how she was looking forward to “going to Mexico,” (I didn’t have the heart to tell her we were actually not travelling internationally.)

So on our last walk I asked her if she was ready to go back to Oklahoma.

“I don’t like Oklahoma,” she replied.

Now, obviously, she doesn’t really mean that. New Mexico is really nice, but she has her school in Oklahoma, her dogs are in Oklahoma, her friends are in Oklahoma (and we have wifi, something our cabin lacked.)

But it made me think.

Her future public school teachers just rallied for days at the state Capitol, in part, because they get paid less than gas station employees.

Oklahoma now ranks No. 1 in the nation in per-capita incarceration.

A number of our state legislators left office in the last year or so because of sex scandals — including family-values Sen. Ralph Shortey, who got busted smoking marijuana with a teenage male prostitute in a small motel while wearing a shirt imploring women to “go make a sandwich.”

While we were in New Mexico, the Tulsa area — home to a lot of cool stuff but also a shrinking populationfelt another strong earthquake. The quake, like the hundreds of others in recent years, was likely caused by the way our oil-dependent state prioritizes drilling and injects the resulting wastewater deep into the ground.

Oh yeah, we’re also the state that gifted Scott Pruitt to the rest of the nation. You’re welcome for that one.

As my daughter and I were walking around the woods, I started to wonder what she will eventually think about her home state.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember necessarily being embarrassed by Oklahoma, but I was certainly aware of its place in the national hierarchy. In high school I took a trip to Chicago. While there I struck up a conversation with some other teenagers I was playing basketball with.

One of them asked me about our horses and wagons.

Ha ha. Funny joke.

It took me a minute to realize he was being serious.

One day during our trip to New Mexico, we rode a ski lift up a nearby mountain. Once on top, we took a brief hike with a handful of other tourists. Our tour leader was tossing out information about the different nearby mountains and valleys and local history when he stumbled on a word, struggling to spit it out.

“Sorry,” he said. “That’s my Oklahoma public school education coming through.”

Later, I quietly told him we were from Oklahoma, too. Turns out so was the other couple on our tour.

While walking, the tour guide told us that he hadn’t been to Oklahoma in awhile, but he hadn’t heard a lot of good things coming out of the state recently.

Then he stopped briefly, surrounded by blue skies and fir trees, and told me “I love it up here.”

Well, I love Oklahoma, even though I’m acutely aware that sometimes maybe I shouldn’t.

Not too long ago, I was listening to a podcast about education. Long story short — it talked about supporting public schools and colleges that use their funding to educate poor students rather than on amenities like fancy dorms, swimming pools, or expensive cafeteria meals.

The idea being that while it may be better on a macro level for your child to receive a private school education and then head off to a college where their every need is met, it’s worse for society as a whole.

In a way, that’s kind of how I feel about Oklahoma.

Sure, I could pack up and leave and take my family to a state that values its schools and its teachers and its citizens more than this one does.

But I also want to be a part of the group who stays here and tries in small ways to urge our state to be better.

But it’s hard to look at my daughter (and to think about my son, who will be born this winter,) and not wonder if at some point in the near future they’ll be better off elsewhere.