The authors of a recent study on young people in a small town in Iowa have discussed the results of their study in the Chronicle of Higher Education [ht: pk].
I agree there’s a problem of brain drain—not only in Ellis, Iowa but in Bethel, Vermont and in many other small towns in rural America. Some young people are leaving and many others, who stay, have a dim future.
But, after that, the authors get it all wrong. They take global capitalism as a given, and can’t imagine any noncapitalist alternatives. They recommend changes in education that sort students into the appropriate places in the capitalist job market, and fail to think about reorganizing the economies of rural America—activities in agriculture, industry, and services—in a noncapitalist manner.
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.
Their message is adapt to a changing capitalist world, not change that world in a noncapitalist direction. The policies they advocate thus represent a brain drain of another sort. . .