A post about rural youth may seem out of place here, where I typically cover urban education issues and New Orleans in particular, but recently I have been doing some work/research that has again pulled my focus into the needs of rural children and young adults. I also have a personal connection to rural life, but more about that later.
There are many reasons rural youth are also at-risk and some of the reasons are quite similar to urban youth. However, there is often less attention paid to rural issues because of the psychological place rural America occupies in our minds. As some who lived in the rural Adirondack region of New York State and in Vermont, I can attest to the simplicity and beauty of rural life, but rural life is not all rolling hills and chirping crickets (and mooing cows, and laughing coyotes, and all the other wonderful sounds I sometimes miss).
This is not to dismiss the needs to urban youth, but to draw attention to rural youth as a population that is also under-served and in need of attention from educational researchers and reformers. Understanding rural culture is an important piece of the puzzle. Some urban solutions will work in rural areas, others won’t. Some small Adirondack communities with which I am familiar have one school building for grades K-12. When I worked in undergraduate admissions, I once met a young man who was a senior in a graduating class of 4, from a school in a remote rural part of the Adirondacks. In these situations, school choice models don’t provide solutions because location is limiting. With low population densities, rural communities often have to fight to keep the one school they have– forget about school choice kinds of reforms in these situations.
The point of all this is to say, rural matters. Rural communities are special to me from my experiences with them and they are deserving of researchers’ time and attention.
Rural Education Links:
Education Week recently relaunched its Rural Education blog, which is a good source of information about rural education issues.
College For Every Student works with both rural and urban populations throughout the United States and is one of the few college access organizations with an intentional focus on rural students.
NCES: Rural Education in America http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ruraled/page7.asp
Rural School and Community Trust
Rural Schools Partnership
National Rural Education Association