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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 22, 2009 3:00pm-4:00pm EST

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absorb this lines and arrows of criticism. so all the attention this book has gotten, it is really surprising, because we set out to start a conversation on this issue not because we discovered it because we didn't and not because we have all the answers, we don't. but we felt strongly enough about to try and start that conversation. ..
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small town and i see every day how hard it is for people in small towns to survive but refused to leave. my boss, is also from a small town and graduated a few years before me. collectively we would like to say thank you for writing this book as we try to explain to friends who have moved away that we are perfectly happy in a small town on why and helping to keep alive. your book is helping to open the eyes of many people as i found out about the book from one of those friends who just doesn't understand how we can live in such a small, rural place. after reading your book she admits she misses the simplicity of it and should visit her parents more often. again, thank you for making our lives seem normal and making small town life available to
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people at least through your pages. okay, that was one of them. and another note was from a young woman from a small town in western kansas. and she writes my name is sarah dowling and i'm a practicing community planner in kansas and missouri. as i was doing some research this morning i came across an article in your book. i felt compelled to get in touch with you and express my interest. i am from kansas, called the specifically, and i was raised in a working family farm. my father, mother, myself and two siblings ran the farm growing wheat, corn, sunflowers and milo. if i said that right. within the last ten years or so many of our farming neighbors have sold or lost their farms. while my father is still operating his farm. i left colby to go to college where i received a b.a. in political science and master's degree in community planning.
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my master's degree is from kansas state where john keller was one of my professors. being from a rural area and seeing the flight of the u.s. continuing rapid decline of population one of my passions is understanding the rural population decline and the death of these communities. i wrote my master's paper on this topic focusing specifically on the 84 nw counties in kansas. because availability in jobs in my field i came to kansas city to work and have not been able to advance any of my studies on the topic. i would like to offer my help in any way should the opportunity ever present itself. for america is near and dear to my heart and i would love to contribute to this field of research. okay, so these are just some of the responses that we have received about this book and it's clear that it has touched a nerve and i think that it should because if we are ever going to have a conversation and get
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serious about small-town america dennett house to start somewhere. let me lay out some of the background to what we see as the issue why alice matters what is in many ways a typical small town, and what we consider to do going forward into the future. between 1980 and 2000, over 800 nonmetropolitan counties just like the one we are in right now lost 10% or more of their population to out migration. this is not natural decrease. this is people actually leaving. between 2,000 to 2005, over 800 rural counties lost 10% or more of the population again. and in those same counties there were more deaths than births. the median age in these places is also risen pretty dramatically.
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so that lead us to conclude that the people that are leaving are young and in most cases although we don't have firm of data they are mostly educated people. they are leaving for a variety of reasons. some leave because there are opportunities elsewhere. some leave because they want to. but the fact of the matter is many small towns are in some cases years away from extinction. and sometimes the final death knell for a town is when there are no longer enough children to keep open a local school. and we have seen in many places schools don't have enough kids to keep a school viable. so against the backdrop of this we began a study in this small town back in 2002 and have to pay tribute to the macarthur foundation to have the foresight and largesse to fund a study like this because most foundations don't really care about these issues.
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most foundations are now willing to spend what was for a study of its type quite a lot of money. and they were interested in something that wasn't rural brain drain and was in the future of small towns. they were interested in how people come of age in a small town. and we chose the town of katulis because of some of our ties. we chose it because it was in many ways what they wanted, fairly typical small-town far away from the big city that has squall and so on. and we got in contact with the school, tremendously helpful. we couldn't have done the research without them, and assembled in coming lists of high school freshmen who entered school to graduate in the late 80's and early 90's with a view to catching up with them in the early and mid 20s to late 20s so people who should be adults are on their way to adulthood by then. and we found very quickly that coming of age in the small town
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means you have to face to a pretty fundamental questions. those two questions are do i stay or do i go? and the second question is if i go do i ever come back. and in many ways the pathways these young adults have taken fall along the front line of those two fundamental questions. this isn't something that's new. i think this is the question young people coming of age in towns such as this and ellis have always faced. but what we found was that what is fundamentally different now is that the economy has changed, opportunities are different, and that staying or leaving now within the context of that is very different than it was 20 or 30 or even 40 years ago. so when we caught up with these young people we found their stories to be tremendously compelling. we spoke with -- we interviewed
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over 80% of the total population which is very good and again we couldn't have done that without the help from the school and we did in-depth interviews with over 100 young people from this town. we interviewed people in the town. we interviewed people in 15 different states from a mexico to maine from florida to minnesota. from new york to kansas. i put a lot of miles on my car. spend a lot of time in the air and airports doing this, and it really was truly a fascinating study to be involved in. what we found was that the young people sort of in many ways sort themselves out into various groups. those who believe, those who stay and those who come back. of the leading groups there are two main groups. one is we call them a vv coffee achievers. the achievers are young people motivated to leave because of
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mainly opportunities. they are people who normally attend for year colleges, get be ase. they are people who go on and succeed elsewhere. for the most part achievers leave and don't come back. the second group of the leavers are seekers. they are not quite academically achieved and the seekers use the military as a way to leave and go and see the wide world that is out there. the stayers are young people who never leave small towns. they are the people who have no desire to go beyond the confines of a small town, for whom life is just fine with a hour and whose working lives start early and revolve around these small towns. of the returners there are two groups, one we call boomerangs. these are people who go away for a very short time, always intend
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to come back and who come back to small towns usually although not always with associate's degrees or some college education and settle back down in small towns. and the last group is the smallest group of all and those we call the highfliers and they are basically the small number of achievers who come back to small towns some doctors, dentists, or entrepreneurs, the young people who are very sought after in many small towns, many small towns are trying to dream of ways to bring these people back. and when we spoke with them was very interesting how nearly every single scheme that a state or local jurisdiction can dream up to bring highfliers backed the focus on incentives when it really people move back for very much effective and more emotional reasons to be close to family because they really want to live in small towns and raise their families there.
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so, what's new, what's different, what does this matter and what does it have to do with the teacher of small-town america? well, what we found was in our research and again, through the voices and the words of the young people we spoke with and giving voice to their experience. what we found was that in small towns, and small towns i think have always done this, much of the community resources, much of the educational resources are focused on the achievers. the young people dustin to succeed. the achievers put it this way. one spoke about how the whole town has your back and one also spoke eloquently about how i feel i am dustin the to do something beyond here and i am being set forth to do this. and in many cases that's very true. and small towns have always done this.
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small towns have always done this very well. and small towns should do this. young people who have towns should go on and chief. but what is different now and what is crucial for those who stay and for many who return the fact many of the resources are now devoted to them means they are badly underprepared for the economy that is here right now. by that i mean for those who stay and those who return for 30 years ago there was a robust farm and factory economy in towns like alice. that's not the case right now. though some towns are managing to make it, some towns are doing okay many more towns have seen jobs disappear, have seen jobs outsourced, have seen jobs become lost to mechanization of agriculture and in many cases seeing jobs that were a solid
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working-class jobs a generation ago in agribusiness for example, meatpacking. your earnings as a meat packer now are a furtive look they were 15 years ago. they don't have benefits. the date have been at its 15 years ago. we talked to one of the stayers actually spoke about how it really rankles with him that he does a job on the same line with a guy that earns 20,000 more because he was hired at that time the contract was bitter and the benefits were there so he does the exact same thing as the guy next to him, doesn't have the benefits and earns 20,000 less. so that's the sort of reality now. the reality is for those who stay and many who come back there is a shrinking pool of opportunities. those opportunities even if they do exist are not as good as they were a generation ago. and again, putting all -- many eggs in the basket of those most likely to leave and least likely
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to come back is perhaps not the wisest use of resources. so, that's the problem in many ways. what are the points at which you can intervene and maybe some of the solutions. we think because this is an issue that happens it is a confluence of things that happen at the community level and the larger loan will that change has to happen at both levels. at the community level we suggest that the resources that are in distributed to kids, the investment in her young people, the cultivation, the mentoring, the skills be equalized across all groups. not that you don't prepare achievers to go off and do wonderful things. you could and should do that. that is a good thing to do. but that you also prepare those
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who stay for the opportunities out there. let me give you a couple for instance is and maybe explain how we see how that can be accomplished all the manufacturing has lost i think at last count 130,000 jobs in the current recession in the state of iowa there are opportunities in some fields. there are growth fields in the city of iowa. those growth fields are nursing and bob utech and wind energy. these are the kind of opportunities young people should be prepared for. what are some of the ways maybe we can prepare them? one of the things we think is an institution that is underutilized in terms of preparing young people who are not destined for a four year degree for these kind of jobs are community colleges. community colleges to have programs but many of the programs they sync up with high school are college prep programs or college credit programs again with the idea that you are going
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to go on with a four year degree. why not three imagine that? why not free imagine a situation where young people not dustin for four year degrees began to take wind energy glasses or introduction to computing plaza's while and high school through community colleges? why not have the bureaucracies of local school districts, community colleges and dare i say the larger university system in the state of iowa, one of the best in the country. why not have those bureaucracies speak to each other and talk to each other and actually think of ways in which you can productively link up with these various polls that operate right now like a mosaic. they don't speak to each other. paul e. in the sky, miti. it's already happening. i've got another e-mail. i didn't print it out. email is a wonderful thing. i'm learning so much in the last couple of weeks. i got an e-mail from a woman who was the director of the chamber
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of commerce and newton who is now the director of the greater newton development corporation. it's the wrong name but basically umbrella group. her name is kim didya, and she spoke to me about the academy's program they've begun in newton, and as you recall, newton was a town that had really seen its fortunes decline pretty precipitously when maytag closed. they lost 1700 jobs which for a town of its size is a body blow that few places if any would ever be able to recover from. you've got to give it to the people let newton that said if maytag is going to go and we are going to figure out a way to bounce back, and a half. they have refitted the maytag plant to build turbines for alternative energy. the every trained over 500 of
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those workers. it's not everybody but it's a lot of people and more latterly they are thinking along the lines of what we have been talking about of having this academy program where you link high school students into community colleges to prepare them for industries such as that. so, that's one thing that you can do at the level of the small town. there are other things that small towns can do. a group i didn't speak a lot about our seekers, military personnel. we spoke with people who were currently serving in the military or had served in the military and those conversations were incredibly poignant in lots of ways because we were speaking with people serving before and also during a timeout or mac. and this is an all volunteer army. this isn't an army that is a draft. some people choose to serve.
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and many people choose to serve for a combination of reasons. one of the most powerful reasons people choose to serve right now is the fact that this is the best opportunity that is going to come their way. and they do so because they believe that they will get training to believe they will get education, believe they will get a good living wage by joining the surface. and they do and they don't. one of the more poignant things we found when we spoke to the people who have served in the military and no longer serve in the military is they felt somewhat let down. that the skills they learned while in the navy or the army or the air force or rent really transferrable once they got out. these were skills that were not going to get them a job. there was one person who trained in the medical field and who would have to start from scratch to get a nursing degree after she finished.
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that's not right. that shouldn't be. there ought to be a better way to ease the transition back after you have served. it's hard and to me to see that there is some money set aside for veterans as of last week i believe there was an announcement by president obama. i think part of that can be devolved to small towns just like a list because ellis has a lot of veterans. and again, you can think of imaginative ways to train, retrain these young men and women to be at least able and available for some of the opportunities we have in the current economy. if third thing that can happen at the level of small towns that i think is invoked but is a wonderful opportunity for us. we hear a lot about the grain economy. we hear a lot about sustainable
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agriculture. these are two things by their very nature need to be decentralized. you can't have your green economy in the big cities, right? can't just have wind turbines in philadelphia. it's not going to work. maybe there is a lot of hot air that could power them, but in reality or wind turbines need to be off the coast. the need to be at or near small towns. this really can be ground zero for rolling out the grain economy and sustainable agriculture. we need to rethink the way we produce food. big agriculture, mass production of food, that day is almost over we as a matter of our own health and well-being me to do things differently. iowa, trust me i lived here all summer and grew things in the
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ground that i didn't think i would have a chance of growing anywhere. i was actually a skilled gardiner by the time i left here and lost all when i went back to the big city. i can grow things and i started putting things out and thought maybe i can't. maybe it was the soil. but joking aside, this can be ground zero by its very nature all to become major community supported agriculture are things that need workers, meet people. i was in iowa city today giving a talk and i went for lunch afterwards to a cafe, great food and i can't think of the name. something with cow and its name, the lazy cow, thu cow, something. but this was a cafe all of its food was organic and locally grown. how about that? basically, you know i love -- there is a scene that since each organic food what your grandparents called food. [laughter] right? so, it's not that we don't -- we
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don't have to be this way. we went as we in the 1970's. it doesn't have to be that way, and small towns can benefit from the investments that will pay off. and these are labour intensive things. at the larger national level, there are things that need to happen that big government has to do to help small towns. part of this is providing the support for the grain economy and for rethinking how we produce food. part of this is reforming labor laws and agribusiness. one of the reasons the wages of a meat packer are felt they were 30 years ago it's very simple agrobusiness can get away with it. and if i can take something from mexico and pay $5 an hour to do something i was being a local guy -- not only will i do it but darn it i'm going to get away
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with it and they have. and they say to the states like iowa well, if you let these guys organize and let local people organize and agitate for a living wage we are just going to move. my question to that is where are you going to move? the food is here. the land is here. do you think you are going to move somewhere else? no, you're not. if you are going to pack meet you are going to pack it right where it's at the source. so we have to think of ways to do that and by doing that you do to things. one, you lift the boat for everybody. they become real in jobs again when you pay people property and give them benefits. when he you enforce health and safety standards. the plant that was closed after the immigration rate what was lost, one of the things lost in all of the eink spilled on that was that plant had 157 health
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and safety violations in the previous 18 months. none of which were enforced. that is a disgrace. that shouldn't happen. why not make them good jobs? why not make them safe jobs? it is fairly easy to do. okay, lastly in terms of, there are a couple of other things i want to throw out. i want to get -- i've spoken for too long but that's the irish in me. put a microphone in front of me, there's a camera here i could be here for hours. [laughter] my mother used to joke when the fridge would open the light would be on i would go there, you know -- [laughter] -- song and dance. but, no, we do also need to provide support in real and sustainable ways for real towns. i think the stimulus is one way
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of doing it. again, the stimulus, each state delivers it differently but why not have that trickle-down, why not have real investment? why not have that investment again also go to some of the community colleges? and it has. there is a college graduation and initiative announced over the summer that provides $12 billion for community college development. so, the news is good. there are ideas out there. there are ways to attract people back to small towns. there is varied as the hair in your head, there is a program in kansas, tuition remission programs and west virginia and maine. there is the come back to iowa, please come campaign. quite literally that is what it was called, because on the winds are very polite or so i'm told, right? [laughter] we will find out in a few minutes when we get to the q&a, right? [laughter]
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where did you say that was, right at the front, write? [laughter] there are ways to do this. one of the things we thought about, there's an earlier statistic i didn't use early on but i will from now there. over half of all counties in the state of iowa, just the city of iowa, i can tell you about missouri and other states, have at least one medically underserved areas. and that is an area that doesn't have a doctor, nurse, nurse's assistant, a dentist and so on. so over half all counties in the state of iowa have at least one medically underserved area and about one-third of them have more than one. here is a thing the you can think about. why not again prospectively instead of trying to attract people back once thick of gone, right? because the umbilical cord gets thinner and thinner the longer your way it's harder to come back.
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why not identify people prospectively who are going to be the doctors and vendors and the dentist and the lawyers and whatever else you need in a small town and say here's the deal. we will help you out, we will have you do an internship with a local profession and help you as you go to college and provide some of your tuition or all of your tuition for your professional school. if you sign of to give ten years after you graduate to read. that would pay huge dividends for is their duty coverley small investment. and again, think of it as a can to a job for or americorps or whatever it is. think of it as a health corporation for america. it's quite simple. there are ideas right now, there are things. people ask about this issue and i say well, how bad is it?
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surely this has happened before. boom and bust towns come and go. and that's certainly true. here's what's different about this. this is a crisis that is slow burning, there's a continuum from the robust town on one end of the india almost shuddered how the other end. ellis is on the robust side of things. one or two things happen and you slide inexorably toward the of the side. there are thousands of towns along. this isn't just a front your issue. this isn't just a boom and bust cycle that happens rapidly, springs up from the earth and then disappears five years later. this has taken decades to have been. and if we don't start thinking about it now in ten or 15 years
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of time there will be many more counts toward the shorter end of things. so with that thank you for your incredibly rapt attention. thank you for not throwing things at me yet. [laughter] and we will open up for questions from the floor. i believe denise has a microphone, which please come speak clearly into it because we are taping for the wonderful c-span folks. [inaudible] with [laughter] someone has to break the ice. >> my name is amy tucker and i naturally a 2006 graduate from sumner, sumner fredericksburg, and my capstone class we were for fear seniors for community sociology. also right here for the people like who are those strangers in
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the back. and i guess we haven't completely read the book yet but we have kind of skimmed through it, and i agree with a lot of what you're saying. i love small town on a lot, but because of opportunities as far as college, that kind of thing, had to leave. however, we were talking and were wondering the kind of implications of the labels you've given like the achievers and the stayers because of the point is to keep people in small-town iowa and to do that as far as people say now i want to be an achiever, isn't that pulling people out more than being a stayers? >> from the point of view of writing this stuff is an incredibly difficult line that you walk when you are trying to describe something. we tried very hard in this book to do several things.
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one, we had to absolutely respect the confidentiality of the people that spoke with us. so in some cases some of the details are a little ramadi to do just that. the other thing we tried very hard to do was to give voice to those people in such a way that made sense. and part of that was labeling them in an accurate sort of way. and i get your point that achiever is pejoratively different than above stayer but let me counter that by saying we asked a question very early on in the interviews which i think opened the door to a lot of this and the question it was a series of questions about where you live. and the responses to that, tell me a little bit about your sound and would you like about it, would you ever leave, would make you leave, would you miss a few left that kind of stuff? the answers of the people that left and stayed were so vastly
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different and what is very poignant about both sets is that leavers were very ambivalent about the process of leaving and the spoke -- the guys that went to college, there were a couple of moments for them the talked about. one was leaving home for the first time and that first night in the dormitory which you all right experience and that ah!, away from home, i have to wash my own socks. [laughter] well, that's right, or not. [laughter] hopefully not, if you've got roommates, please respect that. [laughter] at the second moment is then when you leave college and where do you go from there, and the feeling that you are getting for those guys ever further away and then speaking about what you've missed. and feeling bad about that, feeling bad that i am certain things but i will never go back.
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one person's book about there is just something taking me away. there is just this enforce. so, piled up against the stayers responses to the same questions. much less detail because the question of what you ever leave is almost why are you even asking me that? the decrease in question. of course i will never leave. this is where i'm from and there is an incredible sense of, rightful sense of pride and love and affection for the place that there are bad things about everyone, that things that annoyed us about our neighbors everywhere. although i can't imagine my neighbors ever and weighed by any ever because i'm just the perfect neighbor. over and above that the stayers
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think i can't even think of an answer because nothing would make me leave. one by talked about well, maybe if a bomb went off and the town was raced to the ground maybe i would leave the that's maybe, it's just one of those things. so i think you're right we are trying to be very careful. i don't think it is pejorative because of the way these guys spoke about the place. it was funny, it was almost media john mellencamp is more influential than i might have fought but people would echo the words of the small town that i was born in a small town, i live in a small town and that's where i'm going to die and this is a wonderful thing and i couldn't think of anything better. and then the last response to that, and i don't want to overdo this, is the highfliers we spoke with that came back and these are the people that want to attract the incentives and
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everything else it's about that effect of stuff, i want to be close to where i grew up, i want to be close to my family, i want to be in a place i can raise my kids the way i was raised. the one woman talked about that offer from des moines that would have paid me twice as much. so it's not about the money. something more important for her than the money. and so i think as a good sociologists i'm glad to see you are a class here. you are right to ask that question but i think it is not pejorative and that is the reason why. >> was there an age which the likelihood of the highfliers returning drastically cut off because you're saying the reasons for coming back are typically the heartfelt i want to raise my kids the way i was raised, you know. typically there is a point that is no longer an issue and then do you see a drop-off in the amount of people that would choose to come home?
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>> that's a great question. and it's funny because here's the thing. a lot small towns, we've heard this from other places, how do we get these guice? how we get the doctors and lawyers back? we don't really know, but we do know that everybody is trying. so there are two approaches and they are both -- the current different ages. the first approach is the sort of capture and release after graduation, right? so you basically stand at the graduation a big university and a sort of like okay, snag one of these people. i'm joking of course but it's kind of like that. can we get you just after graduation so that if you leave now you are gone. if you cross state lines it's like you are on the run from a state police and to get across the line that's it. the warrant doesn't apply or whatever. and it doesn't seem to work
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because let me give one instance. the state of michigan has a problem of losing their technology graduates. michigan, michigan state, western michigan, eastern michigan, the huge michigan state system produces around 70,000 college graduates a year. these are people working computer and information fields and so on. only 7,000 state in the state. so they lose 63,000 of those out of state and they have spent a lot of money educating these guys like what do we do. their idea was okay what we do we need to make the place kohler. so the state is cooler than people will stay because young people like cool stuff, right? ipod and cappuccino and bike paths and dance and music and whatever else. so they had this to will city initiative so every city was going to be equal city.
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i don't know what that means actually but they spend a lot of money on this and said okay. city number one, what is your -- we have a roller rink and it didn't work. for years and spending tens of millions of dollars on the initiative it didn't work because you are focusing on a group that seems to defy incentives that they are just not ready to listen to those things. on the further end of it is to focus on the young people in their 30s who are sort of selling into the professional lives and who are ready to start a family in many ways because people are having kids leader particularly if you go to college at the age of marriage and first child has gone up, up. and those seem to have a little bit more success and the come back to iowa please campaign they had a bunch of ads that focus on that and they would
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have actually this was -- a quite humorous way, iowa, the sixth safest state in the nation. [laughter] i didn't know that but it is apparently you live in the six safest state in the nation. i never walked my car when i am here. unlike iowa, the sixth safest in the nation. [laughter] iowa, where commuters can be measured in minutes instead of hours. i have yet to be in a traffic jam. i was going for fairbank today and almost got there. i was at a stoplight for 20 seconds. there were four cars that went by me and i was like uh-oh, this might be a traffic jam and fairbank. [laughter] the idea is when you are ready to have these wonderful examples. fell one guy was originally from iowa and he had gone to california of all places, bob hotbed of whenever it is and he
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was a realtor, even worse. no, no, no, i'm kidding of course. but here is a guy whose job is to know where he lives and he chooses aucilla and his whole sort of testimony was the same price i paid for my he left in hundred sq. feet box i lived in california i have like 10 acres, 4,000 square foot house, and it's true. the sort of different standards of living. so those seem to work a little better. so what we see it is almost like a curve on the new thing where it doesn't seem to work at a certain age but as they age there is an optimal time you can get them and then it declines afterwards that they have settled somewhere. so, one answer to a short question seems to be late 20s and early thirties to focus on.
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>> when you were doing your interviewing, did you get anything from the stayers as to their attitude about the people that left? >> that's a good question. q. no, no, i think they talk about the other groups another way. the way they spoke about each other is how they were in high school because high school is the sort of a crucial age at which, you know, i -- it's not that you only in toronto a pathway that or that you can't change or whatever, but it seems to resort itself out that by the time you finish high school you are pretty much in one of the groups. not that change doesn't happen but they're seems to be, you know, you have settled into a path. so i think one of the ways every group spoke about the other groups was to describe each
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other in high school. we ask them so, tell me about what it was like to go to high school and tell me about the different groups that were there and so on. so talk of it in terms of sometimes they talk about it in terms of what people did come as a the kind of activities they did. and one of the main dividing factors between the stayers and particularly the achievers and some of the returns the stayers and achievers because the book ends was the stayers worked during high school and worked early and worked a lot and that work was something we heard from them. one guy put it this way. you had your preppie types and mittal types and work types and i was a work type. and other people would talk about how working is something i was born to do. and this sort of pride in the work ethic. but the undoing of that or the
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great irony of that was one of the things that makes it so attractive to work for the stayers early is you can earn a decent wage at 16. work of 30 hours a week you can go to school and some of these guys did work 25, 30 hours a week and still went to school, which is totally lawless to kids in suburbs and cities would have no conception of that. the would be dead even thinking about working 30 hours and going to school. but again, it was normal guy but talked about how i get up at 4 o'clock and go and work your five hours before going to school and then after school i go to my other job and, you know, i would be busy even thinking about doing that. so, the allure is there to do that because you can learn at 16 with a 25-year-old is earning. that feels good. you feel like a man or woman during that. were taking home a big paycheck. what happens then when you are 25 and still learning what he
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learned when you were 16, that is where the rub comes in. so the answer to the question really is yes, they spoke about each other, what really in terms of the lens of the high school. the last thing i want to say on that is there was an acute awareness of the stayers of what they lack in terms of the skills they need to compete. for example one-man, we talked to him and he said look -- the question is how could high school better prepared you for life, he says look, we didn't do computers and high school. it wasn't done at the time. he graduated in the early 90's and when they're in the late 80's but he said nowadays, either you are a labor or you are behind a computer. and if you don't have a lot of skills like i don't then you better get them fast because
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that's when you need. and so he was very much aware that these were the kind of things his time over again that he would focus on. so there was that awareness in some ways we talk about some of the book and presentations how work sometimes betrays these guys because they buy into the idea work will save you. if you work hard you will make it. yes and no. you will make it but one other guy talked, this one sticks at me. he says you know, here i am, i earn the same four years later as when i came in. there's no benefits and he says it burns me we're the first generation that will do better than our parents. and that is, again, something very poignant. i hope that answers your question.
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in the front here. >> i'm curious if you did research or percentages on older people that we turned back to their hometown. >> we didn't. but a couple of responses to that. we didn't because of the way that the initial study was designed to focus. however, when we were writing the book one of the things we did find was of the mullen metro counties that had people migrated, more people coming in than leaving these were mainly retirement destinations. so these were places people were coming back to retire to and of the towns -- there's a wonderful report actually that i just read recently from the university of north carolina that basically focus is on i think it is about
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30 small towns that are making it and the divided into three groups. of those three towns one of the thing this that struck me only four were in the midwest. so a lot of these were towns in the north carolina area and the new heartland mountain west's of colorado. but in the midwest, focusing on the midwest is where we are, the counties that are actually gaining population, they're gaining population because people are coming back as retired aires. some places in western kansas this has actually been very beneficial at times. they want them to come back because there's wild life and hunting and fishing and so forth. here's the thing for the overall health of a small town we
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believe that's great but it has to be balanced with young people, and you need to have people who are going to have families, kids in the school who are going to be on the pta or volunteering at their local library like this wonderful place and so on. so, it is important because the retirees bring money, they bring expertise, they bring all of their capital with them but you need to balance it out as well by your right. there is a lot of research out there. >> thank you. >> why am a 1951 graduate of sumner high school. lifetime resident of sumner. any time i read or hear criticism of summer i have a tendency to be taking it
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somewhat personally. i came with a list of things i wanted to share with you. door presentation has blown most of the way. i compliment you on your presentation. i do still have two things -- [laughter] no, it's fine. i have two things. i'm assuming the book was based on your findings here in this town, not the entire midwest. fair statement? >> i can't speak about the town. they are based on the findings in a town called ellis. >> okay. that answers my question. based on that than in one paragraph in the article and the local paper, it quotes that the book gives an accurate review of all the heartland is committing suicide by sending the best and brightest away and neglecting its less gifted who are
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condemned to blue-collar jobs with stagnant wages or to poverty. i think that is overly critical. >> of this area. >> you are probably right. if you take just about one -- >> i appreciate that -- that's what i'm doing. i'm just taking bits and pieces. >> of wouldn't disagree with you. why don't you and i take it out -- no. [laughter] i'm irish after all. no, you're absolutely -- can i respond in a way that may be catches what we are trying to get at? one of the difficult things of doing this you're trying to get the conversation going about the issue. here's what i think about a listen ellis. it is a wonderful place. it is also a relatively healthy
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place. the young lady who wrote from colby kansas if we get on the research at colby kansas it would have been much more donner and bleak. but they're both on this continuum as i was talking about earlier we go from the healthiest small town that is thriving to the one that's finished, and i think one of the -- we use the research in ellis to speak to this issue and the passage that you quote speaks to that white issue. we do believe in the current socio-economic context where opportunities have shrunk where there just isn't a safety net and for those who are now going off to college. there isn't a viable safety net. think about when you were young and what opportunities there were for you when you graduated high school.
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they are very, very different now and they require different skills and they require that people be prepared. so, hour point was that if you are going to disproportionately allocate your resources, or precious resources and a time towards the kids who are going to go and not come back, then it's basically you are literally taking your money and checking it away because that is akin to what you're doing. and that we don't believe that you shouldn't help people achieve. you should but you also need to prepare the ones that are staying and the ones most likely to come back for the opportunities. in that context you are absolutely right. i would take the numbers you did and be much more polite about it probably but that's the wider context again of using the case study here to speak to the
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issue. ellis isn't a route health but it's healthy. one or two bad things happen and that process we talk about, you know, it's slow. it's like if read in your sweater. it unravels bit by bit and you have to address that or else you're in trouble. >> have one other comment of a critical nature. [laughter] it covers in the paper it covers a quote from richard zremski and the book states the best kids go while the ones with the biggest problems state, and then we have to do with their kids in the school and the next generation. i hope that very few people agree with that statement. enough said. i don't agree with it -- [inaudible] >> can i address that? >> yes. >> i think you're right.
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very few people did agree. he did say it, and one of the -- again, it is an extreme point of view. >> yes. >> but it is an extreme point of view that speaks to a deeper truth in some ways that there are people who hold that view, and again, you know, one of the reasons for including it, we thought about it. we thought long and hard. it's pretty harsh, not a lot of people feel that we affect most people don't feel that way. here is a person who is positioned at the school, a pivotal position, and went on the record what to say that and the was the reason we included it, and again, to speak to this -- you are absolutely right most people would not agree. >> in other words it's part of the conversation? >> part of the conversation. >> one final comment.
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>> your honor roll, keep going. [laughter] >> it's not addressed to you, it's addressed to the local summer residence. our local aquatics center, school system, hospital, a rest home, local industries, churches, parks and trails, ambulance service and fire department, etc., etc., we are not a dying town. in fact, i don't feel we are even sick. thank you. >> amen to that. [applause] >> just to reiterate i was in colby kansas this summer. we might have a little sniffle, but they have pneumonia. >> you're absolutely right.
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>> it's really sad, and i think things have happened here that have had a loss of looking inward, the potential closing of rockwell. you can't just say well, it won't make any difference. it will. it's part of the unraveling. >> right. and that, again is -- let me just share a fervor tidbit about colby. i feel like i am harsh on colby kansas but it is so much further down that line. and this woman, sarah, she shared with us while she was doing her project she went back to colby and it was christmas of 2007. and she stood on the main street on a saturday afternoon for three hours and she met one person in three hours. she said the bank had piped christmas music coming out on a loudspeaker and it was just kind of a cooling off the town. she said it was the curious thing she ever saw.
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again, a very poignant way of sort of giving you a window onto what can happen when you don't think about what the future can hold if you don't take action on what we are trying to get started here. >> i've got a question. on the research that you've done was basically on the group that graduated in the late 80's, early 90's. and that is when the computer age was just coming out out, when you were in high school, you did a little bit, but not a whole lot. really the big world wide web and the social networking haven't come around yet. do you see that changing things, and how for younger people now making the decision to stay or go? does the internet and bilmes connections make a difference? >> i think it does. i think


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