Have you seen and/or experienced The Rural Brain Drain (Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas, Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/19/2009)? After a number of suggestions regarding how to address The Rural Brain Drain, Carr and Kefalas conclude:
Ultimately, with a plan and a vision the undoing of Middle America is not preordained. The rural crisis has been ignored for far too long, but, we believe, it isn’t too late to start paying attention. The residents of rural America must embrace the fact that to survive, the world they knew and cherished must change. And, on a national level, rural development must be more closely linked to national economic growth priorities, and policies must be created to help these communities prepare for a future that is already here.
The article is drawn from material in their soon to be published Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America. As a resident of the rapidly developing (or should I say over-developed) Lancaster County, PA, I intend to place Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America on my to read list and see what insights might be transferrable to my context.
Below are a few brief thoughts which I would be interested in discussing further. Any takers?
- Although rural and small town America overlap, they are not the same.
- Pennsylvania, in contrast to some large stretches of Middle America, has a high number of regional state universities and liberal arts colleges which bring the educated back into small towns. Pennsylvania even boasts a large state university intentionally built in a rural location several hours away from the distractions of urban life, i.e., Penn State University. Note: Some faculty on small town campuses commute from metro-areas, so that their families can take advantage of more opportunities. In addition, many campuses find it difficult to serve/partner with their local communities even though quite a few started with that intention.
- I wonder how much the larger brain drain is a societal lack of interest in the value of education itself. I find the idealized desire for learning in films such as Music Man, referenced by the article, a rare commodity. That’s why inspirational producations such as Music Man return year after year in small town/rural communities, but seldom become part of the lived fabric of the community.
- Simplicity. Any interest in returning to living off the land as part of extended families or tightknit communities? I hear and read about this as an ideal desired by many, but are the authors saying this is impossible? Note: Our family continues to seek to move more and more in this direction.
- Local congregations have much to contribute in the discernment of vocation/calling, intentional commitment to one’s community, and the life of the mind. Do you have positive illustrations and/or visions of possibilities to be offered in rural/small town settings?