Academic journal article English Journal

But We Don't Got Nothing: Countering Rural Brain Drain by Forging Authentic Connections through Text

Academic journal article English Journal

But We Don't Got Nothing: Countering Rural Brain Drain by Forging Authentic Connections through Text

Article excerpt

Growing up, I spent my summers with my grandparents who lived in a rural community in New Mexico. My grandmother showed me how to farm and taught me to walk rather than ride in a car. We baked bread and did science experiments while my grandfather brought in fresh honey from his hives and pecans from his trees. We canned, spoke to everyone we met, and caught frogs at twilight. The text of my life experience was characterized by our daily interactions and their stories of living in sod houses, making butter to sell in town, and having to pick cotton instead of starting school in September. The time I spent with them I now see as the text that shaped who I am and eventually prompted me to dedicate my life to the field of education where I might share my stories with students who travel on different paths than my own.

I was working with writing instruction in a rural middle school that happened to be situated in one of the most rural, impoverished, and frankly forgotten counties in the southern United States. During one of my visits, I overheard a conversation between two of the sixth-grade girls who were in a heated discussion about their weekend plans.

"Listen, I got to go over to that Wal-Mart 'cause we don't got nothing here. Where else am I gonna go?"

"Yeah but you couldn't come over because you were offbuying your stuff. What was I supposed to do?"

"Yeah but we don't got nothing! What do you expect?"

Too often rural communities are seen through a deficit point of view not only by outsiders looking in but also by the inhabitants themselves. As a result, the rich community values, history, and cultural heritage gets lost because the children of these communities see lack rather than riches and simplicity rather than complexity. One of the resulting issues facing rural areas is brain drain. Brain drain, otherwise known as the loss of talent to outside opportunities, affects societal stewardship and affects the overall growth and future development of the community (Carr and Kefalas 20; Sherman and Sage 2). According to Hannah Estes et al., it may be the lure of education that draws students away from their homes (10). The path of going to college, becoming exposed to the larger dominant culture, and then choosing to settle in a metropolitan area seems to be the preferred cultural pattern for those students who are encouraged to leave home (Carr and Kefalas 54; Sherman and Sage 4). The result of this migration is that those who are educated and skilled do not return home, thereby denying their home community the fruits of their accomplishments.

Brain drain is first an economic threat. Rural areas are facing lower population growth rates in comparison to their urban counterparts. Between 2000 and 2009, rural counties grew at a rate of 2.9 percent compared to 9.1 percent in urban counties (Gallardo). This loss was exacerbated by economic shifts that leftrural areas with a scarcity of employment opportunities. First agriculture waned as a source of employment, and then industries that once maintained entire communities became outsourced to countries with lower costs of labor (Sherman and Sage 2; Wake 23). Communities had scarce choices for the employment of their children (Artz and Orazem 164). With a lack of employment choices, communities struggled to retain those students who would encourage innovation, movement, and growth. The outlying result of this loss is that rural communities labor only to sustain and maintain rather than develop.

Brain drain is also a cultural threat. Rural areas suffer because the potentially successful members of the community, those people who could be counted as mentors or community pillars, are simply not there (Carr and Kefalas 124). What ensues is a cultural gap that begins to negatively delineate an increasingly stagnant place (Gruenewald 5; Lyson 133). As well, the aging population loses its voice and no one remains to hear, revere, and understand the importance of their stories (Lockette 17; Sherman and Sage 4). …

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


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.