OPINION AND COMMENT by Bob Weaver|
During the national Rural Trust Conference in Charleston WV held in April, it was apparent that those attending, from one end of America to the other, wanted to talk about simple things, valued things.
There were symposiums, conferences and trainings, but there was much more as advocates for small communities came together, in this case community-based schools.
Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" reminds us that rural people think a lot about their families, the universe, the eternal. They can see the starry sky, the milky-way and beyond.
They can see each other.
Urban people, so it seems, are forced to think more about themselves, living in faceless cities geared to rapid-transit lives. We don't hold than against them.
Conference folks talked about their kids, their villages and towns, their neighbors, and the essence of community life - a place called home, connected.
They talked of their fear that the world is spiraling away from such a place, their four-year-old children in some communities facing long bus rides of one-and-one-half hour each way, traveling to humongous, costly cookie-cutter buildings, far removed from their community.
In West Virginia, Sen. Brooks McCabe, a real estate developer wants "economies of scale" applied to rural government, saying the state must become more "globalized." He likes that word.
When community or county governments default or are eliminated, their school system goes with it. Bigger is better, more efficient, cost saving, the power brokers say. Those antiquated systems are hold-overs to horse and buggy days. Unworthy.
But, surely there is value in the small.
With fewer people spiritually connected to their place of origin, it may be easier to give up roots, community, and connectedness. The census folks say the average family is moving and changing job sites about every five years.
In this maddening environment, Rural Trust members hold close to the values of home and community, while many politicians give lip service.
They know what works best for public education.
They know what works best for their children.
They know that political and corporate power often takes away from the smaller.
They know that their fight is worthwhile.
They seek to breathe life into our schools and communities, holding them close to their bosoms, like some clutch to diamonds and pearls.
That was what the conference was about.