Rural Education

“If students have to move away from their rural communities in order to use the things that we teach them, then we are teaching them the wrong things.” – David Nickell, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society while speaking on The Death and Rebirth of Rural Sociology panel.

Wendell Berry

The Rural Sociological Society, of which I am a member, honored Wendell Berry at their annual meeting with their “Distinguished Service to Rural Life” award. His acceptance speech was a highlight of the conference and drew a standing ovation. From the local paper:

With a button stating “Stop Mountaintop Removal” pinned to his suit, Berry accepted a Distinguished Service to Rural Life award from the international Rural Sociological Society. The organization held its 69th annual meeting over the weekend in Louisville.

Berry said he was surprised to be honored by the group, given that much of his writing over the years has generated controversy. His books and essays are known for a theme that blames the demise of rural communities on agribusiness and the industrial economy.

“You don’t expect certain things. The things I’ve written have been controversial, and to have a whole group honor you for them is kind of a surprise,” he said, adding with a laugh, ” and kind of a relief.”

If anyone in the crowd disagreed with him yesterday, no one indicated that. Instead, he was met with a steady line of students and teachers clutching his books, all of which he happily signed.

After faulting the land grant university system for the continued degradation of farm and rural life in his acceptance speech, Berry said he believes that “someday we will look back on ‘objectivity’ in academic research as a very influential idea, but a very strange one indeed.”

The Symbolism

The year is 2015… The quadruple subsidy (pdf) of ethanol proves to be an insufficient method of producing enough biofuel to meet skyrocketing demands. In response, the petrol-guzzling military industrial complex plows through the Midwest on a hungry rampage consuming entire fields of corn, bucolic family farms and unused windmills in the process. Still, all the corn in the country proves to be an inadequate solution to the post peak-oil energy crisis.

Photo Credit: Sean Sheerin (2006), Land Stewardship Letter, Vol 24, No. 2.