Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In rural towns all the across the Midwest, communities invest in bright young people who go off to college and find successful careers anywhere other than their hometowns. This is the story being played out in small towns across Oklahoma, without question. We can see this even in the language we use to characterize young people. "She's going somewhere," we might say about a 17-year-old with a good ACT score. And about the boy who isn't successful in school or has a bad reputation, "He isn't going anywhere." The story is the same: to stay put is to fail; to move on is to be successful.

Bill Kauffman has an article in today's Wall Street Journal on this subject of the rural brain drain. Small town communities contribute to their own suicide, he says, "by inculcating, in school and too often at home, the belief that fulfilling one's promise means leaving for the city lights or the manicured suburbs. The purpose of education today, as Kentucky poet-farmer Wendell Berry argues, is to train young people to leave home."

Kauffman's article is a review of the recent book, Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America. The sociologists who authored the book recently published a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that summarizes their work. 


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