Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Dynamics of Social Class, Race, and Place in Rural Education

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Dynamics of Social Class, Race, and Place in Rural Education

Article excerpt

Howley, C. B., Howley, A., & Johnson, J. D. (Eds.) (2014). Dynamics of social class, race, and place in rural education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Dynamics is a book about social justice in a world where the traditional, modern, and global exist simultaneously and side by side by side. The authors represent that world from rural points of view in which the intersectionality of social class, race, and place is inescapable, active, and complex. The editors frame the arguments to identify institutional and cultural barriers that thwart rural citizens' possibilities "to organize their lives as they wish, to choose their own ends, and to realize them as they think best" (Mouffe, 1996, p. 20). At the center of that frame is schooling or "the State's schools," as the editors put it, in neoliberal times. From a variety of angles and with different levels of conviction, all contributors question the compatibility of neoliberal values and social justice in rural places.

In the preface, introduction, and closing chapter, the editors work as opticians to help readers use three lenses- class, race, and place-to focus sharply on the roles of schooling in rural life. Neoliberalism, they argue, positions rurality in marginal roles at best-a possible supply of cheap natural and, perhaps, human resources-and as wasted spaces and lives at worst. Neoliberal schooling mediates against rural traditions, inveigling rural students to adopt modern and global dispositions through "a global curriculum they will need if they are to take personal responsibility, if they are going to get out into the global workforce and succeed" (Barber, 2012). According to the editors, each lens adds to readers' overall acuity when considering economic, cultural, and political dimensions of the past, present, and future. Moreover, the combination of lenses is necessary when readers imagine how to "become able to break with what is fixed, finished, objectively and independently real" (Greene, 1995, p. 19).

To my reading, the authors tell four compelling stories: place confounds social class relationships; social forces direct public schools against rural place and class; direction is systemic and systematic; and therefore, most school outcomes are negative in terms of place sustainability. Using a metaphor from Marx's notion of commodification, Michael Corbett interrogates official efforts to reduce schools to a common denominator in order to compare them dispassionately. Visiting three schools in urban, suburban, and rural Canada, he demonstrates how social class works differently, rendering the comparisons questionable both in intent and consequence. Rakhat Zholdoshalieva, Alan DeYoung, and Umut Zholdoshalieva describe the invention of an indigent social class within the collision of the traditional, modern, and global in rural Kyrgyzstan. The Soviets built communities among nomad clans, used schooling to modernize and increase these populations, and then abandoned the region when their command economy disintegrated. "[N]ow formerly sophisticated villages like Ylay Talla are in serious decline, and the knowledge and values that used to be transmitted in their schools have very little instrumental utility or moral imperative" (p. 63). In the United States, Robert Pittman, Dixie McGinty, and Julie Johnson-Busbin offer empirical warrants for their counterintuitive conclusion that high school dropout rates are lower in more remote areas because local values of independence and self-reliance are expressed through family expectations.

Paul Theobald and Craig Campbell argue that rural communities (and therefore schools) have suffered continuously from America's initial rejection of old world feudalism to its current embrace of global capitalism. In search of profits, all things, experiences, and beings become monetized, leading to the disenchantment of rural places and people. Jerry Johnson demonstrates the continued legacy of American feudalism in a detailed study of class- and racebased school funding formulas and policies in Mississippi. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.