K.A. Jordan's Reviews > Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America

Hollowing Out the Middle by Patrick J. Carr
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's review
Aug 17, 2011

Read in November, 2009 — I own a copy , read count: 2

The entire country is becoming more and more polarized to the seacoasts and the big cities. This is not the figment of our collective imagination. "Hollowing out the Middle" is a book that explores the plight of the small towns in America's Heartland.

Written by Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas, "Hollowing out the Middle" discusses a phenomenon called 'Rural Brain Drain' where the Achievers, the best and brightest of a given class, are groomed by their teachers to leave home, never to return. The others are Stayers and Seekers. Stayers are mostly ignored, though the future of the small town actually rests with them. The Seekers are self-motivated to flee the crushing grip of small town sameness, many of them join the Military. (There is a class of 'Returners', but most of them are Achievers who don't make it in the big world.)

What I liked about this book is their honest assessment that this sorting process plays out in high school. That validation should make many of us sigh with relief. We weren't hallucinating, high school WAS rigged! The whole community operates in the favor of the 'Achiever' class, grooming them to leave home. As these people do leave and never return, they take all those resources with them, weakening the community left behind.

For a town like my home town the result is clear – the Achievers leave – the Stayers stay – completely unprepared to handle the problems of their home town. So things get worse because the people who stay behind are brainwashed into believing 'they will never amount to anything.' They are not educated to take on the roles most needed in their communities. There are no 'Stayer' doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers or politicians.

The Stayer students are left to rot – the compost heap that provides the next generation of High School students.

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