Saturday, July 14, 2012

An Incubator of Citizens

Self-reliance, dependability, perseverance.  Each word describes elements of a strong American.  In a world that doesn’t appear to reward or honor these qualities, how does one go about developing such attributes in America’s future taxpayers, voters, community volunteers, and politicians?  Is there a training camp where we can send our young people so that self-reliance, dependability, and perseverance become second nature?

Ironically, folks can skip the summer camp or the high dollar prep-school.  Rural schools all over our nation focus on these qualities every day.  It would be impossible to run a small school district far from resources that many large districts rely on if the staff and students didn’t model these traits from kindergarten through twelfth grade. 

Every strong, successful rural school teaches self-reliance from the time that little five-year-old first walks through the door.  Rural schools require students to depend on their wits and abilities to acquire information and resources that are easily attained in large cities.  Many of these students live a long way from a Walmart and depend on themselves to figure out how to create everything from collages, Halloween costumes, and shop masterpieces without driving to a shopping center. 

  This dependence on initiative instills a confidence you can’t buy.  It also teaches these kids they control their destinies.  As adults, they don’t expect someone else to take care of them.  They step up to care for themselves as well as others incapable of caring for themselves.

In rural schools, students don’t have an endless number of teachers, friends, support services, or supplies.  As a result, they learn that others depend on them to fulfill obligations.  With even one player gone from an eight- man football team, the other players face huge obstacles.  

When that player goes down or that band member is ill, he or she will sacrifice to meet their commitments.  Oftentimes, the crowd will see tears of frustrated disappointment burning the cheeks of that team member who isn’t physically able to be in the game or band.  Those kids know the team or school’s success depends on them.  This understanding of how communities successfully function creates the ultimate citizen, one who is more concerned about community rather than personal interest.

People who grow up functioning with limited resources whether those be talent, bodies, or money know the one resource that makes up for any elements they lack is perseverance.  It is perseverance that gets these kids through endless bus rides to and from school, from academic activities to athletics to music to forensics to FCCLA to FFA to Kayettes to church activities and for some to work at home or in a business.  Rural schools model and depend on people who stick with a program and finish it.

Self-reliance, dependability, perseverance.  These are  qualities rural schools instill.  Western Kansas incubates these qualities and delivers them to a waiting world.

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