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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 5, no. 12 (April 30, 1997).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c April 30, 1997
Studying the rural in education : nation-building, "globalization," and school improvement / Craig B. Howley.
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Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
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1 of 13 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 5 Number 12April 30, 1997ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Education Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1997, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any article provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Studying the Rural in Education: Nation-Building, "Globalization," and School Improv ement Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational LaboratoryAbstract This essay maintains that nation-building, partly through systems of schooling, has served rather more to debase than improve the rural circumstance. It suggests that a different logic of improvement is needed in rural education, but refrains from prescr iptions. Instead, it focuses its attention on the s ort of questions that researchers (and school improvers, f or that matter) might ask to discover or invent tha t logic variously. It draws a distinction between cosmopoli tan and local interests and provides examples of is sues that exhibit the distinction. Finally, it suggests and provides hypertext links to sources in sociology, literature, philosophy, and education that might help educational researchers (and anyon e else with an interest in "the rural") ground their studies and their actions in i ssues that honor rural interests. I remind readers that the very word "essay" means "tentative." Since the 1983 debut of A Nation at Risk good critiques have unmasked the domestic implica tions of the idea that the nation can be preserved through e ducational reform. Until recently, however, few hav e doubted the sustainability of schooling as an insti tution for nation building, and fewer still have fr amed such doubts in light of the rural circumstance. The rura l experience, however, offers scope for doubt. This essay attempts to raise those doubts from that perspectiv e. Too often, researchers overlook what is most partic ularly rural as a fit object of inquiry in educatio nal research. Instead, objects of national--or perhaps, cosmopolitan-practice absorb their attention and thereby obscure rural issues and dilemmas. Public school cu rricula and practices do look remarkably similar worldwide (e.g., Benavot, Cha, Kamens, Meyer, & Won g, 1991), and this fact ought to disturb educators more than it apparently does. Educators, after all, have a vested interest in the institutions of cultural transmission. When practices are so similar to one another worldw ide, we ought worry about the health of global cult ure


2 of 13overall. Part of what this essay intends is to pull back the veil of national, or cosmopolitan, concer n in order to expose contemporary rural issues not only worthy of attention in their own right, but worthy of partic ular attention in an ethos more evidently concerned with globalization than with its related need for rural ization (cf. Orr, 1995). Improvement in rural education requires a logic quite different from the one that still prevails. A changed perspective on the purposes of schooling is needed if educational researchers would help devel op institutions that actually benefit rural communitie s. I will argue here that a worldwide decline in th e importance of national sovereignty has made the his toric mission of school improvement--conceived as nation-building--counterproductive in rural places. Although few educators have properly understood th e relevance of this change to the system of American schooling, there are good reasons why the change is salient to rural communities--and to rural practiti oners and researchers. This essay aims to help educ ational researchers grasp the implications of this change s o as to consider issues that are perhaps more germa ne to rural school improvement efforts.Rural School Improvement is Nobody's Fault In the best of all possible worlds, the interactio n between disciplined inquiry and the arduous labor of keeping school would naturally, and easily, entail the improvement of schooling. But we no longer trus t the naturalness or ease of such an interaction; we are less optimistic about the whole enterprise of schoo ling, including research about schooling, than formerly. From 1910 to 1965, education was part of the march of progress toward an inevitably better future--a prog ressive, postwar, and increasingly post-rural futur e. Although many people behaved as if research had bee n a part of this improvement, it would probably be fairer to say that ideology and technology were stronger i nfluences. Lately we seem to have discovered that r esearch occupies a seat less exalted than we previously tho ught. Instead of technology being the handmaiden of research (science), we are more and more frequently acknowledging that research is the handmaiden of technology. Research cannot, in any case, reliably cause schoo l improvement, because schools improve when those involved jointly will it, and this they may do entirely without the bene fit of research. Properly speaking, research may inspire or deflate improvement efforts; that is, depending on its qual ity, research can either undermine or fortify the will to improve. Of course research once promised that it would create a reliable path to improvement in all realms of life. But it h as not been able to live up to this promise in educ ation. As a result, a sort of hysteria for "more practical" edu cational research has grown up. We forget that the focus of the effort was always on creating reliable processe s for improvement. The nature of education, I have argued elsewhere, is such that the goal of fashioning wide ly applicable and reliable procedures for improveme nt is unreasonable. This is not the same as saying that i mprovement is impossible. Clearly, schools do impro ve and they do decline. What is needed is thoughtful resea rch that attends to the particularities (and not th e generalities) of the places of which schools are or ought to be part. Rural places in the contemporary world may suffer more than other places from the lack of such research and from the misguided effort to build up widely applicable and reliable procedures for schoo l improvement. Too many current research efforts, it seems, undermine improvement in rural education. To o few pay attention to rural circumstances, and too f ew offer anything to fortify the will of those who would see rural schools improve for the benefit of rural comm unity. In fact, during the past century and a half, impro ving rural schools also meant reshaping and redirec ting them into a national system--a system of schooling, manufacture, trade, politics, and culture--that ha s insured, if not required, the depopulation of the countrysid e. This trend toward rural depopulation and unemplo yment continues, confounding and subverting rural familie s and rural communities. The increasing automation of agriculture, mining, and timbering has led to the w idely repeated misrepresentation that "rural no lon ger means agriculture." What people mean by this phrase is that rural jobholding no longer means agriculture (or mining or timbering). Technology has effectively se vered the natural connections--the economic connections--people once maintained with the land. Fewer rural people--and rural people less and less frequently--are responsible for rural land. (1) They are now as "free" as the rest of the nation t o wander


3 of 13wherever big capital requires them to go. Schooling is a handmaiden to the system that is responsible. And educational research is an (albeit subsidiary) hand maiden to the technologies that enable that nationa l system. Rural school improvement of this sort is nobody's f ault; it is endemic and longstanding."Today's Culture Sends Strong Messages" Why has such a subversion of rural places, with it s inevitable reflections in practice and in researc h, continued for so long? CPRE, the Consortium for Pol icy Research in Education, fingers a culprit suffic iently powerful to explain the problem: "Today's culture s ends strong anti-intellectual messages" (CPRE, 1996 p. 7). This, by the way, is what I infer that Wendell Berry (1990) means when he claims that our society is "mind-dominated": We fail to attend to things that might otherwise be obvious to us. The mind turns ag ainst itself, and perhaps schooling is the instrument of such a turn of mind. The dilemma of rural education is constituted of this irony. Not only is it true that anti-intellectual message s "are sent" to us, we are surrounded and relentles sly bombarded by them. Worse still, we repeat them, not only to others, but to ourselves. We live and brea the these messages; the very institutions of our societ y are anti-intellectual, and our universities are b y no means exceptions to this rule (cf. Howley, Howley, & Pend arvis, 1995). Universities are knowledge factories given to maki ng intellectual work as routine as manufacturing (Anderson, 1993); hence, they are not particularly well-equipped to consider improvements that require breaking rank with established relations of power. Beyond this general shortcoming, universities have generally implemented a cosmopolitan, modernizing m ission; and this mission is perhaps pursued with th e highest purpose the more the university's territory is understood to be a parochial backwater. This observation may set some good people's teeth on edge, so let me add that I'm decidedly not suggesting that Harvard and Berkeley are the best r esources for approaching matters differently in rur al education. Their students and professors may empath ize and exhibit wonderful insight, but they are not usually here, or for very long Once more: None of us is singly, or in groups, to blame, but it's as if we've been missing something. What's wrong?The Default Position of Rural Educational Research Most educational research, regardless of type of lo cale, is carried on today as if nation-building wer e still an operant principle in the world system. Thi s is no wonder, since the most concerted and best f unded effort (yielding the best research by technical sta ndards) is sponsored by the federal (national) gove rnment. Several connections can be drawn to prevalent mode s of operation under which research into rural education and rural schools is conducted. (2) We should all recall that superbly executed resear ch that fails to ask the right questions will miss the point. C. Wri ght Mills (1959) took Talcott Parsons sternly to ta sk for this failing ("power" was not a word in Parsons's lexico n). First, skepticism prevails that rural schools are, or should be, very much different from urban or suburban schools. Underlying this belief, but seldo m articulated, is the presumed Platonic ideal form-of-the-school, of which rural, urban, and subu rban schools are all equally imperfect images. With us, the common school is not common simply because all neig hboring children of whatever class or race have attended it, but it is understood as having the ide alized form of the school in common with all other American schools. When Americanization was the essential edu cational project, such an ideal served a purpose; o ne could argue--though few do so today--that the ideal was emancipating for the European-Americans who invented it. Second, beneath this skepticism about rural school s runs a deep disregard of actual rural places, diverse as they are. Disregard of these places enta ils the invisibility of the peculiarities of rural families, rural ways of living and working, and local rural meaning s and knowledge. The anti-intellectual larger culture--which is as evident inside universities as outside them (Anderson, 1993; Barzun, 1959; Hofsta dter, 1963; Howley, Pendarvis, & Howley, 1995)--makes it easy for scholars and ordinary citizens alike to av oid


4 of 13appreciating these peculiarities, except for fleeti ng sentimental purposes. In our disregard for manua l labor, an enduring reality in rural America, we have as a peo ple forgotten how much reflection and cleverness go od handiwork requires. Relying on machines has helped make the culture stupid. Computers may be carrying this stupidity one step further. Third, on the terms of nation-building, schools an d districts are believed to constitute localities t hat frustrate reform efforts. CPRE (1996, p. 6), for in stance, finds that "state and local agencies are sl ow to adapt to new policy goals." Presumably these new policy g oals are those promulgated at the national level by learned societies and various combinations of natio nal leadership. There is an historical shift of per spective inherent in this view: Where localities in the 19th century could be understood as units that contribu ted to nation-building, today they are widely understood a s impediments to national vigor. In the 19th centur y, states joined the nation. In the 19th century, Americans shaped localities and localities shaped Americans. Today, local districts, schools, and teachers need to be f ixed, systemically, and almost-all-at-once (cf. Sas hkin & Egermeier, 1994). In the case of schools in rural p laces, the very nature of the systemic argument bla mes the victim while inflicting further punishment. Fourth, the imperative that research now become ex ceptionally "useful"--that is, that it technologize the mission of truth-finding and truth telling-means that studies must be designed to ensure development of educational goods and services that can be marketed as universally effective, or nearly so. In practic e, one might argue, this rumor of universal effectiveness promises that most such goods and services will be out of place in most locales. Few researchers believe in t he old corporate model of development any longer, b ut many now hail Total Quality Management as the next wave of development; and "world-class-standards" ar e the watchword in this new scheme.The Problem There are other assumptions in American culture th at might be listed as contributing to the difficult y of inquiring about rural schools and communities, thei r mutual educational dilemmas, and their mutual sustainability. And the conditions under which educ ational researchers, working in very instrumental w ays, might also be mentioned (e.g., timing their labors to election cycles). But the four assumptions given above are enough to illustrate the problem. If, for instance, the topic is statewide reform, ag ain, the focus of effort is likely to be the specia l backwardness or challenges of rural places in acced ing to the reforms, not the disjunction between loc al and state priorities. If the topic is student aspiratio ns, the focus is likely to be how rural schools can best "increase" the level of students' aspirations, not the relationship between student commitment to rura l life ways and cosmopolitan ways. If the topic is the dro pout rate, the focus of effort is most likely to be strategies for retaining or retrieving students rather than th e disjunction between rural schools' national purpo ses and the nature of local rural economies. These are all real examples, disguised to protect us all, for I too h ave conducted such studies. It is not easy to see rural issues, and, as Paul Theobald remarke d recently in a private conversation, "The learning curve is very long." Th is paper and the others in this session are trying to help others shorten that curve. A shorter curve, however may just be a steeper curve. The problem concerns motive, commitment, and attent ion. This essay has so far explained the motive for examining rural dilemmas more closely: the prim ary purpose of mass education in America is collaps ing. The time has come for educational researchers to de velop different commitments. This, of course, is al ready happening, as the pages of Educational Researcher attest with almost every issue. Among those differ ent commitments, which really are familiar to many rese archers, are local purposes for education--forms of education and their institutional expressions that sustain local communities, especially as thoughtful and active cultures.Nation-Building In the 19th century, nation building was the major educational project, and much of it took place in rural schools because over half of all Americans lived in rural locales until 1917 or so. By Americanizing


5 of 13children local rural schools not only converted imm igrants into citizens, they ironically also convert ed themselves as a national system. The ideological ro ots of the national system are arguably rural (Meye r, Tyack, Nagel, & Gordon, 1979; Theobald, 1995). Our historical motive for improvement seems to be that we wanted then--and still want-good Americans to issue forth from schools, like Athena from the head of Zeus, without histories or idiosyn cracies. The only adaptation we have made today is that we n ow want them perfectly prepared for, and accepting of, the emerging postindustrial conditions of employmen t, which look less promising than the conditions of industrial employment at the height of modernist in dustrial power in post-war America. The grim outloo k we hold on the future, of course, bodes ill for school improvement conducted in the name of building the nation. (3) This point was recently brought home to me in a bo ok to which I have been alluding (Anderson, 1993). The author, a scholar of political science at the U niversity of Wisconsin, argued forcefully that improvement in thought and reality is an aim worth preserving f or the university. It strikes me that this argument is needed because we no longer agree about our plans for an i dea like "school improvement." Your improvements ar e my debasements, I might well claim. (4) The very logic of improvement, it seems, has escap ed us. At the end of the industrial age, we doubt t he efficacy of reason because technical rationality has perhaps unwittingly, but none the less certain ly and prominently, helped magnify the evident horrors of the 20th century. Anderson, however, wisely points out that--although progress is not inevitable, nor the workings of power necessarily just--we nonetheless need to believe we can make the world a better place and use the powers o f the mind to facilitate that end (Anderson, 1993). So reason, it turns out, requires faith to s upport it. It is faith we have lost, not reason, and not the n eed for decent research. Although our lack of faith undermines the role of K-12 schools in producing good Americans, the purpose has already been rendered specious by the d eclining importance of nation-states. The education al problem of producing good Americans, aside from the perpetual danger that such a mission is xenophobic is that being American no longer has much to do with shaping the American ethos. The American ethos, according to Christopher Lasch (1994), is being con structed by elites whose primary allegiance is not to American democracy but to their own self-interest i n the global marketplace. They wave the flag to pac ify, and not to rally, followers. The work of nation-building, fueled by the 19th ce ntury rural experience, is virtually finished. This point requires some interpretation, because it must at first seem short-sighted and improbable, not to mention remote from issues of educational research and prac tice. Whereas in the nineteenth century, "we" all wanted to be Americans, we could not then have been so sure what it meant to be Americans. To be an American circa 1850, onl y somewhat less so than in 1750, entailed participation in the project of fashioning (perhaps equally by contribution and by negation) what it meant to be an American. It was difficult work, and we have not found the results very satisfactory; g reed, venality, and injustice were as common then as now. As Daniel Kemmis (1990) and others have suggested, the frontier allowed us to hide from ourselves. Rur al newcomers, up to and after the closing of the fr ontier, were acquisitors and not uncommonly thieves. When c lever or lucky, they made sure that other newcomers usually people with fewer initial advantages, kept moving (Theobald, 1995). The point here is that there is no reason whatever to think that life in America and life in schools would improve if we just returned to the way things were 150 years ago. Nostalgia is an equally bad foundati on for educational research and for educational practice. Nation building, however, is over not merely becau se America has matured, but because the worldwide project of nation building is ending. The sovereign ty of nations is in dispute and under assault, as i t must be when national financial resources, which emody nati onal sovereignty, circulate rapidly through interna tional markets ("the global economy"). The political usefu lness of the nation-state is being superseded by a new political-economic formation, though little is know n about this emergent formation. Sovereignty based on territoriality, however, is less and less functiona l. It is difficult to determine if, when one "buys American," one really is buying American. Often one is buying "multinational firm," globalized but nonetheless pr ivate capital.


6 of 13 Globalized private capital, however, is an unsatis factory replacement for sovereign territory. The id ea of place itself is antithetical--and therefore esse ntial--to the idea of globalization (McMichael, 199 6). We need to realize that the emergence of localism in tandem with concern for globalization is not a conundrum or an accident. It represents a new circumstance in the e volution of the world; it also suggests that the fo cus on global competitiveness constitutes an insufficient preparation for the 21st century. In short, the way Americans understood ruralness i n the 19th century is dramatically different from t he way Americans now experience it, and from the way they must increasingly begin to realize the y experience it In that phrase ("they must begin to realize they experience it") lies an educational purpose profoun dly at odds with 19th and especially 20th century educatio nal purpose. Back then, 'rural' need not have been conscious of itself. It was conscious, rather, of s omething else, an ideal Americanism in which the ru ral experience was a passing phase. Today, the rural ex perience will not continue to exist unless self-con scious and unless it develops its own purposes. But there are many reasons why "the rural" will persist, and more still why it must persist (having to do with what, in Wendell Stegner's fine phrase, people are for ). Again, I am not arguing that the rural past was an idyll, nor that rural places are necessary harbors of virtue. Slavery was a rural phenomenon; dispossessi on of Mexican American colonias was a rural phenomenon. The genocide against American Indians w as carried out on the frontier. Although all these injustices contributed to nation building in North America, neither do I argue that nation building is a necessary harbor of evil, nor, further, that emerge nt political formations may implement justice more properly and more generally (they are more likely to magnify greed and injustice in my view). I do claim that c are for particular places is more necessary to justice and decency than ever and that threats to the integrity of local places are multiplying.Commitments Local and Cosmopolitan "Local" is a crucial concept to keep in mind when dealing with rural places, as intimated previously. A recent conversation challenged me to say whether or not any useful definition of rural were possible. (5) For statistical purposes, it really is easy enough to d efine rural, but I choose to draw the distinction b etween local and cosmopolitan Local can only be described as a set of commitments usef ully distinguished from cosmopolitan commitments. And because rural places are composed of small communities, with a degree of separateness from one another, in sparsely populate d places, they are exemplars of the idea of local And in fact, rustic ways have generally served modernizing society as the perfect antithesis of cosmopolitani sm. (6) Can urban places share such commitments? They can, but, as Jane Jacobs (1984) has pointed out, our cities have been remade by what she calls "the sort ers," social engineers and policy makers who have separated industrial zones, residential districts, low-income housing, and commercial districts from o ne another. The effect of the sorting has been to dest roy city neighborhoods--urban localities with paral lel commitments to those still prized in rural places-and recreate cities as placeless entities. Cities s eem a darker, dystopian, adaptation of the suburban nightmare. Wh ereas, in the country, people's character is eviden t in their homes and farms, in the city people try to sy mbolize their character in modes of self-presentati on, particularly the way in which they dress. Changeabl e fashion substitutes for the enduring substance of place that characterizes rural places and people. The issue of commitment lies in the realm of ideol ogy: what we believe, why we believe it, whose interests our beliefs advance, and how we reflect t hose beliefs in thought and action (research and pr actice). Education for nation building is very different fro m education that would cultivate particular communi ties and the ideal of community, on that experiential basis. We are, it is fortunate, much less shy of commitme nts and values than used to be the case. After all, private businesses, universities, and non-profit corporati ons are used to developing vision or mission statements founded on what we members assert as beliefs. This is the place where I am going to get very spe cific in this essay, because I wish to indicate pla inly some of the things that those researchers who might be interested in rural education, but have not yet interpreted its proper interests, could be looking at. These lists are hardly the result of research; they are the result of 10 years of observation of rural literatu re, however, by someone to whom people have the vex ing habit of asking: "What should I study in rural educ ation?" Observe that these are only topics, and tha t actual


7 of 13studies must consider locally relevant issues that emerge from local experiences or that embody local dilemmas. For the sake of contrast I begin with 'co smopolitan' topics that can be related to rural set tings, but which do not share rural commitments (These topics are not commended to readers!) Cosmopolitan commitments .These are cosmopolitan concerns as they apply to r ural education: how to... increase the level of students' aspirations, overcome resistance to consolidation and school clo sure, overcome the disadvantages of students' backgrounds implement state and national reforms, offer a broad and deep high school curriculum, insulate the school from local politics, implement "best practice" (i.e., nationally validat ed methods and programs), and change the local culture. Rural (local) commitments The following list is (merely) illustrative of lo cal concerns loosely related to the preceding cosmopolitan concerns, as they must inevitably be in the era of waning inf luence among nation-states but better capturing issues of the rural circumst ance: senses of and attachment to rural places, the relationship between school and community susta inability, proper aims for an education committed to rural com munity, rural pathways to rural adulthoods, community engagement in rural schools, rural community and educational stewardship, curricula to sustain rural places, small-scale organization in rural schooling and com munity, and cultivation of appropriate local meanings, knowledg e, and commitments. Most of the usual suspects that researchers and do ctoral students in education are advised to conside r could be "ruralized" according to the commitments e numerated above. Many educational researchers will first need to separate themselves from their own cosmopol itan training. Several preparations can help.Preparations First, there is an excellent rural literature, but one must read not only in education but in rural sociology, rural community development, history, an d, especially, literature. Unlike these other disci plines, literature (literary fiction) has typically had a m uch better grasp of the nation-state qua fiction (7) (the Appendix lists books that have influenced me). Second, and perhaps more critical to one's groundi ng, is interest in matters and minds rural I mention this preparation second because it ought ideally to go without saying. One nonetheless suspects that s ome of those who attempt rural studies are more interested in other things (e.g., tenure, the rural venue see ming perhaps less stressful than the national venue). In terest means some combination of experience and understanding that puts one in the middle of the sa lient real issues. The best experience on which to ground interest (this is a third preparation) may be living or working in a rural community. This experience is nonetheless insufficient in itself. The fourth and perhaps most essential admonition i s that those interested in rural educational resear ch should bring some sort of critical framework to the experience. Rural educators who would conduct rura l educational research are at risk in this regard, pr ecisely on account of their training, both as educa tionists and as researchers. The reasons should be clear from th e main discussion: Educationists and researchers ar e cultivated as cosmopolitan nationalists. What am I talking about? Amitai Etzioni once asserted that the instrumental ism of schooling increases with each higher level, on which basis doctoral programs could be said to be t he most instrumental schooling of all. Although thi s is a


8 of 13strange turn of events for those who are called "do ctors of philosophy," very little research is ever guided by philosophy, and the theorizing that does guide it i s usually very narrow. This is merely how 'positivi sm' works. Concerned with, and usually trained to do th e thing right, most of us lack not only the persona l capacity, but, more importantly, the institutional capacity to do the right thing (to borrow a useful phrase from the leadership literature). Our 'training' not only prepares us to ignore local issues, but predispose s us to ignorance. (8) The Importance of Critique "Critique" is almost a dangerous word these days; it conjures images of dejected marxists, undisciplined post-positivists, ethereal post-struc turalists, Nietzschean postmodern flakes of varied crunchiness, deluded romantic communitarians, and w ild-eyed paradigm shifters--many of whom are not on ly incomprehensible, but who are actually trying to di smiss reality altogether. Academics are held up for special ridicule by those few practitioners and numerous po licy makers who know a little of the arcane struggl es that beset academe. The dismissal of critique on this view (i.e., the view that madness lies in the direction of critique ) is all rubbish from the perspective of this essay, and it is neither bold nor modern. In fact, responsible an d very practical marxist, post-positivist, postmodern, and communitarian critiques are, each of them, very mu ch needed in rural educational research. Anderson (1993), rather conservative in his outloo k, has the role of critique about right: its highes t purpose probably is in service of action to make the world a better pl ace. This sort of practicality, however, is very different from the national instrumentalism th at determines the best-funded research agendas beca use it allows for realities outside the accepted canon of national security issues. Rural education lies in t he shadow of this canon. Critique that aims to make the world a better place might cultivate a supportive, but n ot directive or determining, expectation for research. Practical critique is needed at present in the con struction of properly rural education. Such critique, in fact, h as long been needed. Right now, however, the opport unity for it is perhaps more auspicious, since the motive of school improvement is becoming less and less sa lient to real conditions in the world. Let me add that I am no paradigm-shifter. All the paradigm-shifters of my experience seem to be selling snake oil, and that is a very old trade. So far as I can make out, the world is going on as it always has: birth, life, death, diversity, and unity ( e pluribus unum indeed!). There are momentous changes afoot in the world, to be sure, but such changes are always just being born, or in full bloom, or they are dying. Other te chnological revolutions, other conceptions of knowl edge, and other bases of political organization than thos e we now appear to be giving up, simply constitute the flux of history. Though Heraclitus's river flows on, rur al places are major tributaries to the flow, and at this bend of the river they have a lot to tell each other--and m uch with which to inform all the global flows.Endnotes1. Agriculture, however, must still mean "rural," since large urban hydroponic w heat and corn farms to supply the global grain market have yet to emerge, though it would be an interesting conceit on which to base a science fiction novel.2. Recall that these points apply to a century-anda-half of school improvement. There are plenty of r ecent exceptions, perhaps an increasing number, and the f act that we are having this conversation is perhaps evidence that things are changing.3. The grimness of outlook is not evident to everyo ne in education. But ample evidence suggests a decl ining standard of living, a shrinking middle class, and a proliferation of deskilled jobs in the US. The sch ool establishment exhorts the populace to prepare for w ell-paid high-tech jobs, but the supply of such job s is likely to be inadequate to the demand for them.


9 of 134. I am, of course, claiming that we need research about a different kind of improvement. There will b e objections to this point. Many educators and profes sional improvers claim that we have done enough res earch and that extant research already tells us what we n eed, and it's not more research. We need, in this v iew, systemic improvement; authentic learning and assess ment; we need to honor multiple intelligences and creativity; we should aim at cultivating lifelong l earners (seemingly defined as those willing to unde rtake an interminable round of formal schooling)--all in the name of preparing the nation for the 21st century of global competition. This is a jejune (underfed) adaptation of the logic of nation-building. 5. The setting was a university, and some of the pa rticipants to the conversation seemed prone to dism iss ruralness as a "demographic," and therefore superfi cial, feature of reality. In general, in both highe r and lower education, rural connotes an equity issue of not quite pressing con cern. The mental image of bucolic poverty, however, is mostly an oxymoron.6. Educators, especially educational administrators are apt to associate the distinction between loca l and cosmopolitan with Alvin Gouldner, who used the term s to describe organizational inhabitants--cosmopoli tans were careerists not particularly committed to the o rganization, but to a larger professional purpose. My usage here sweeps up history, culture, and politics.7. Jacobs (1984) is a refreshing exception among th e social sciences. Her critique of macroeconomics i s based on the thesis that cities, and not nations, are the engines of economic growth and health. Macroeconom ics, in Jacobs's view, is a fiction based on the need to pr otect and reinforce national sovereignty. Macroecon omics is a poor tool of economic understanding and managemen t because it substitutes national sovereignty from the local integrity that powers economic life.8.Though this is a sharp charge, this sort of 'igno rance' (really a form of knowledge) is the basis of the widespread longing for so-called interdisciplinary studies, and the longing for wholism more generally a longing that actually is not new, but which coincid es with modernism. You need to turn to good fiction however, to follow these longings through the cours e of the 20th century. This reading is never part o f a researcher's training.ReferencesAnderson, C. (1993). Prescribing the life of the mi nd: An essay on the purpose of the university Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press. Barzun J. (1959). The house of intellect New York: Harper & Row. Benavot, A., Cha, Y., Kamens, D., Meyer, J., & Wong S. (1991). Knowledge for the masses: World models and national curricula, 1920-1986 American Sociological Review, 56 85-100. Consortium for Policy Research in Education (1996). Public policy and school reform: A resear ch summary Philadelphia: Author.Gouldner, A. (1958). Cosmopolitans and locals: Towa rd an analysis of latent social roles, I. Administr ative Science Quarterly, 3 281-306. (work on the new class ") Gouldner, A. (1957). Cosmopolitans and locals: Towa rd an analysis of latent social roles, II. Administ rative Science Quarterly, 2 444-480. Hofstadter R. (1959). Anti-intellectualism in American life New York: Columbia University Press. Howley, C., Howley, A., & Pendarvis, E. (1995). Out of our minds: Anti-intellectualism and talent development in American schooling New York: Teachers College Press.


10 of 13 Jacobs J. (1984). Cities and the wealth of nations: Prin ciples of economic life New York: Random House. ( Excerpt ) Kemmis D. (1990). Community and the politics of place Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Lasch, C. (1995). The revolt of the elites and the betrayal of democracy New York: Norton. ( review ) McMichael, P. (1996). Globalization: Myths and real ities. Rural Sociology 61 (1), 25-55. Meyer, J., Tyack, D., Nagel, J., & Gordon, A. (1979 ). Public education as nation-building in America: Enrollments and bureaucratization in the American s tates, 1870-1930. American Journal of Sociology 85 (3), 591-613. Mills C. (1959). Grand theory [fun with Talcott Parsons ]. In Mills, C., The sociological imagination (pp. 25-49). NY: Oxford University Press. (excerpt from The Power Elite ). Orr D. (1995). Reruralizing education (draft manuscri pt). In W. Jackson and W. Vitek (Eds.), Home territ ory New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Sashkin, M., & Egermeier, J. (1993). School change models and processes: A review and s ynthesis of research and practice Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Off ice of Educational Research and Improvement, Programs for the Improvement of Practi ce. Theobald, P. (1995). Call school: Rural Midwest education to 1918 Carbondale, IL: University of Southern Illinois Press.AppendixThese books are not the best nor the only works to commend. Many very useful, shorter works specifical ly devoted to rural education should be consulted. One can, however, easily catch up particular issues in that more specific literature. The other sort of reading, merely hinted at below, is much more d ifficult to prescribe, but much more essential, and, I would argue, a nece ssary condition of more specific reading.Literature, Philosophy, Sociology Arendt H. (1959). The human condition Bell, D. (1976). The cultural contradictions of capitalism Bellah, R. and colleagues. (1985). Habits of the heart ( critique of ) Berry W. (1974). The unsettling of America Forster, E. M. (1921). Howards end [ online text ]. ( film ) Foucault M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison Gaventa, J. (1980). Power and powerlessness [no web ref found 4/19/97] Kemmis D. (1990). Community and the politics of place Lasch, C. (1991). The true and only heaven: Progress and its critics [no web ref found 4/19/97]


11 of 13Lasch, C. (1979). The Culture of Narcissism Nearing, H., & Nearing, S. (1970). Living the good life Schumacher, E. (1973). Small is beautiful (E.F. Schumacher Society ) Stegner W. (1946). Second growth (novel) Veblen T. (1899). The theory of the leisure class. ( online text ) Weber M. (1904). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism ( online excerpt ) Walker M. (1946). Winter wheat (novel) West C. (1989). The American evasion of philosophy: A genealogy of pragmatism Whisnant D. (1983). Modernizing the mountaineer .Education Brown, R. (1991). Schools of thought: How politics shape literacy in the classroom ( review ) Carnoy M., & Levin H. (1985). Schooling and work in the democratic state Counts G. (1930). The American road to culture ( related analysis ) Cubberley, E. (1922). Rural life and education DeYoung, A. (1989). Economics and American education DeYoung, A. (1995). The life and death of a rural American high school. ( review ) Gatto, J. (1990). Dumbing us down (for the skeptical: placed in context ) Jencks C., and colleagues. (1979). Who gets ahead Katz M. (1968). The irony of early school reform ( recommended by Noel McGinn) Keizer, G. (1988). No place but here [no web ref found 4/19/97] Kliebard, H. (1986). The struggle for the American curriculum [no web ref found 4/19/97] Nachtigal P. (1982). Rural education: In search of a better way Shea C., Kahane, E., & Sola, P. (1989). The new servants of power Sher, J. (1977). Rural education: A reassessment of the conventional wisdom [no web ref found 4/19/97] Spring, J. (1976). The sorting machine: National educational policy si nce 1945 ( other work ) Tyack D. (1974). The one best system: A history of American urban ed ucation Wigginton, E. (1985). Sometimes a shining moment [no web ref found 4/19/97]


12 of 13 About the AuthorCraig Howley Director ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Sch ools Appalachia Educational LaboratoryPhone: 800-624-9120 email: I've written about, studied, and lived in rural pla ces. (It's debatable whether or not I still live in a rural place, but the local chamber of commerce says I do, given that our house sits 2 miles north of I-64). Culture, politics, economics, and history concern m e. I wish schools were better at promoting 'the lif e of the mind' (whatever that is; finding out is part of the adventure) among everyone. And I think there are r easons they don't, but these reasons constitute more than just inattention or foolishness. Culture, politics, economics, and history suggest reasons.Literature (fiction) may be a much better guide to true education in rural places than the sorts of po or studies we educationists sponsor. Check out Wendell Stegner 's Second Growth (circa 1950) or Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (circa 1990) and even E.M. Forster's Howards End (circa 1920). These folks have preserved something we have tried desperately to abandon, but can't actually escape. The wonder is that, though these books (and many more) treat the dilemmas of rural l ife, they also deal with the idea of a true educati on more universally. Now, that's fun because it's not easy. In particular, novels don't lend themselves to tra nslations as cookbooks.Teaching well is the most difficult work in the wor ld. We make a great mistake with attempts to make i t easy or happy. Happiness is not a worthy aim for educati on, nor is getting and holding a good job.Copyright 1997 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Edito r, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona Stat e University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-2692). The Book Review Editor is Walter E. Shepherd: The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Andrew Coulson Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University


13 of 13 Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Marshall University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Richard M. Jaeger University of North Carolina--Greensboro Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Rocky Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education William McInerney Purdue University Mary P. McKeown Arizona Board of Regents Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson Arizona State University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers University of California at Davis Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois--UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education Robert T. Stout Arizona State University