14 SES 07 B, Rural Schools as Hubs for the Socio-educational Development of the Community (Part 4)
Symposium continued from 14 SES 06 B
The decline of the global rural population is a political crisis, reflected in debates over the value of living in rural areas. A dominant perception has arisen that rural spaces are culturally barren and lacking in the essentials of modern society (Corbett, 2013). Thus, political, cultural and economic discourses, which frame rural communities in deficit, seem to limit the potential for alternative discourses about the quality of rural life. Communities and schools cannot be separated from this context shaped by political and economic forces that relocate industry, prioritize low-wage labor, and support the replacement of public goods and services with private or quasi-private providers (Lipman, 2011). Additionally, competition arises among schools and communities – a competition for people and financial resources, and in rural communities, a competition for survival. In this precarious position, rural schools are required to meet educational mandates in order to remain both viable and competitive by attracting highly-qualified teachers, involved families, and monetary resources to their districts. The study presented here is a part of a larger ethnographic project that investigates the impact of demographic and economic changes on a rural community’s survival and their school’s educational performance. As rural communities across the United States are faced with aging populations, industry disinvestment, and popular urban-equals-progress discourses, local schools play a significant role in attracting and retaining residents and businesses. This paper will address how a remote, rural school district considers its local value and markets itself in order to address the challenge of declining community support, financial resources, and students choosing to enroll. This paper explores data from a single case study of a rural school and community in the Upper Midwestern United States. Data collection involved observation of school board and other educational meetings, semi-structured interviews with school officials and employees and analysis of publications highlighting school achievements. My study speaks to this hope: “While it is hard to be optimistic about the fate of rural youth and rural places in an increasingly globalizing economy, it is not a given that present trends will continue; it is not a certainty that rural areas will continue to be passed over as places with few economic opportunities, places where messages related to what constitutes success are inextricably tied to leaving” (Theobald & Wood, 2010, p. 32). This paper illuminates one rural school’s strategies to push back on this notion and attract people to their community.
- Corbett, M. (2013). Improvisation as a curricular metaphor: Imagining education for a rural creative class. Journal of Research in Rural Education 28 (10), 1-11. - Edmonson, J. (2003). Prairie town: Redefining rural life in the age of globalization. - Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. - Lipman, P. (2011). The new political economy of urban education: Neoliberalism, race, and the right to the city. New York: Routledge. - Miller, B.A. (1993). Rural distress and survival: The school and the importance of “community.” Journal of Research in Rural Education, 9(2), 84-103. - Theobald, P. & Wood, K. (2010). Learning to be rural: Identity lessons from history, schooling, and the U.S. corporate media. In K.A. Schafft & A.Y. Jackson (Eds.), Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century: Identity, Place, and Community in a Globalizing World (pp. 17-33). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. - Tieken, M.C. (2014). Why rural schools matter. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.
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