Thursday, February 21, 2019

Consider the Appalachians

The following is a rant. My position appears first, Don’s position follows.


Patrice’s position:

Yesterday Don stumbled upon what looked to be an academic paper published in a periodical called "Education and Culture," Spring 2002. The paper is titled "Culture, Poverty and Education in Appalachian Kentucky." Seldom have we read anything so breathtakingly condescending.

The Appalachian culture stretches back centuries. Ever since reading the Foxfire books (documenting Appalachian culture in the 1970s), I've admired the people for their self-sufficiency and rural skills.

But the author of this piece (Constance Elam) seems to think it an almost willful act of defiance that the Appalachian people like their culture and don't want to alter, change, or leave it behind.

Dr. Elam writes: Appalachian Kentucky has a long history of poverty and subsistence living that has permeated the social structure and culture, including public education. Consequently, poverty has actually postponed or delayed the development of public education, as well as contributed to nonparticipation in the education system by much of the population well into the 20th century. … "Livin's more important than schoolin'" is a powerful statement by one mountain woman that condenses a complex socio-economic situation into the priorities of mountain life.

The author cites reference literature which "describe a multi-faceted culture that includes geographic and social isolation; the relationship of the people to the land; the value of kinship ties; the relevance of schooling; a stagnant economy; distrust of outsiders and government; powerlessness and reluctance to change; fatalism; and the results of political and economic exploitation."

Elam notes: "Settling into wealth, comfort, and the benefits of a regulated society was not the mountaineer dream or preference. ... The settlers in the mountains were rugged, ingenious, and wanted to be left alone."

Speaking as a "mountaineer" (though in Idaho), I've got news for Dr. Elam: Not everybody wants your definition of wealth, comfort, or the "benefits" of a regulated society. Some of us like to live life on our own terms and – get this – be left alone, particularly by condescending liberal do-gooders who think they know best.

Elam seems insulted that the Appalachian people are "existence-oriented" rather than "improvement-oriented," without the least consideration that her types of "improvements" often result in destruction of family unity, church participation, the barter economy, ties to the land, and other indicators of self-reliance. In short, not everyone thinks it's a step up to live alone in a condo in New York City.

Elam continues: "This traditional status quo held a certain comfort, and change was undesirable. Fatalism and religious fundamentalism developed to deal with the harshness of the land, the consequences of poverty, and the physical isolation."

(Does this remind you of someone sayings how "bitterly" rural people cling to their guns and Bibles?)

Since this paper was published in an education periodical, Elam focuses on the shocking and frightful neglect of educational opportunities for the Appalachian people, particularly in public education (which, presumably, excludes the people from the possibility of employment at a Fortune 500 company, apparently a fate worse than death). Frankly, with the state of public education lately, maybe this "neglect" isn't such a bad thing.

Elam writes: "The mountains and hollows isolated the people from the rest of Kentucky and the rest of the country, creating a kinship system of shared work, support, and recreation. All family members were needed for tending crops and farm animals, hunting and fishing, and taking care of younger children, performing household duties, and providing continuity."

So in other words, everyone is valued and needed. Families take care of each other. Work is shared. No one’s shunted off to an Old Folk’s Home to rot away. Moms don’t dump their kids in daycare while pursuing high-powered careers. Dads don’t have an hour-long commute. And this is bad ... how?

Elam seems particularly affronted by the poverty of the region. She points, over and over, to poverty as the deciding influence in all things, from religious beliefs to the standard of living: "The close kinship ties prevented many from leaving the area to find work for fear of leaving the security of family and comfort of the mountain lifestyle. Thus, poverty persisted."

But here's the thing: Sure, by urban criteria, the Appalachian people are dirt-poor. But to cope, they've developed a rich culture, strong family ties, a strong faith, and the "rugged individualism" that seems to offend Ms. Elam so deeply. I dunno, it sounds to me like these people are wealthy beyond belief in everything but money.

Since the article focuses on education, I should remind Ms. Elam that not all education takes place within schools. Somehow, since the dawn of human civilization, children have managed to become educated enough to survive, learning skills at their parents' knees and applying them as adults. Appalachian culture clearly prefers this method of education, not that espoused by Ms. Elam.

This reminds me of conversations we had with our kids on the subject of animal intelligence during our homeschooling years. "How intelligent are animals?" they would ask, and I would reply, "As intelligent as they need to be to survive."

The same might be applied to Appalachian culture: "How educated are they?" "As educated as they need to be to survive."

I do find it interesting that a more recent article reprinted in Scientific American asks, "Are people in Appalachia deprived of the benefits of technology, or are they protecting themselves from harmful effects of its misuse? ... It’s unfair to brand Appalachian skepticism as ignorance – particularly when it questions the corporations who are selling full-time surveillance of the general population for a considerable profit. ... Resistance is not ignorance."

In NYC, you might need a Ph.D. in Victimology just to survive. In Appalachia, you don't. Deal with it.

I'm not claiming Appalachia is a flawless paradise without any problems. What I am saying is solutions offered by people like Ms. Elam are not what the people want – or need.

Elam concludes her paper by essentially hinting the Appalachian people are hopeless when it comes to modern standards of education, technology, and cultural benefits.

Good for them. I say, keep it up. Ms. Elam can go suck an egg.


Don’s position:

First off, let me say I think Patrice is a little hard on Dr. Elam. I say "Dr." because I came across a reference to Elam's doctoral dissertation from the University of Texas in Austin titled "That’s Just the Way It Was: Teacher Experiences in Appalachian Kentucky, 1930-1960." I'm assuming her dissertation committee found her work acceptable and granted her a Ph.D.

When I say I think Patrice is being a little tough on Dr. Elam, it’s because Dr. Elam is simply a product of her environment and her education. She says in her dissertation she is native to eastern Kentucky, and I've no reason to doubt her. In reference to her husband, Dr. Elam wrote: "We are both Kentuckians and share not only love for one another, but also a love for the Appalachian Mountains and the Appalachian people. Because he dreamed bigger than I, our journey took us out of Kentucky and into an exciting and wonderful world."

Into an exciting and wonderful world. Huh. Sucks to be you, Kentucky.

If there is a single word that I could use to describe Dr. Elam, that word would be "elitist." I don't mean to be insulting when I use that term, however. Most of us are elitist in one way or another. As an example, I'm a country-boy elitist. I fully believe the self-dependent rural lifestyle that Patrice and I share is superior to living in a Metroplex.

Now Dr. Elam doesn't exactly say she was one of those po’ folks living in the hollows of eastern Kentucky, so I don't really know whether she has ever really shared the life experiences of the hillbillies she writes about so condescendingly.

But I have. True, I've never lived in Kentucky; but I've lived in large cities, small cities, large towns, small towns, and far enough back in the sticks that the nearest small town was hours away. And it should be telling of my own elitist preferences that, at 61 years of life, I'm back in the sticks.

In the above-referenced article, Dr. Elam seems to be truly confused. She simply cannot understand why, with all the Golden Opportunities modern society presents, the people who inhabit the Appalachian region don't really seem interested in reaching out to grab the ring. But I do. During the urban phases of my life, I've lived in places where I didn't know the names of the people in the apartment next to me, one door down. I've lived in cities were making eye contact could be dangerous. I've lived in places where you needed to check out the park grass before you sat down to make sure you avoided the used needles.

Conversely, today I can walk down any street – at midnight – of the largest nearby town without any trepidation whatsoever. My daughters could (and did) go for all-day hikes in the woods and fields that surround our home with no fear of the two-legged predators that infest cities like New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Dr. Elam quotes one country woman who says,"Livin's more important than schoolin'," and she is obviously horrified at that opinion. But here's the thing: Livin' IS schoolin'.

Both Patrice and I have advanced degrees. However, our many years of college education made absolutely no difference in the life we've come to lead. Quite truthfully, we both wasted a lot of time in higher academia (except of course that I met her while going to college, so there's that going for it).

Dr. Elam's biggest sin, in both her article and her dissertation, seems to be she cannot recognize that being happy with one's life is far more important than whatever letters you can stack behind your name. She lists concepts and beliefs shared by the people of the Appalachia (such as pride of place, strong family relationships, religious beliefs – which she refers to as fundamentalism – and a work ethic), but she fails to recognize what she's actually listing are the ingredients for a happy life. I know this because I’ve seen far too many people who have none of these things … and they are rarely happy. Living is far more important than schooling.

As I said earlier, elitism is common. I'm a true elitist when it comes to country living. But there is a difference between Dr. Elam and myself. Dr. Elam would want to find some way to change my life, the lives of my children, my friends and my neighbors; but I have no interest in changing hers. She's welcome to live in the cities. Her urban preferences – no matter how vapid, shallow, and soul-killing – are none of my business.

Dr. Elam does seem rather disheartened near the end of her article. One gets the impression she feels like her enlightened words are mostly falling on deaf (and dumb) ears. She laments the Appalachian people are a "culture evolved from both the physical and social isolation of the people, which led to such cultural characteristics as strong family ties, reluctance to change, distrust for outsiders, acceptance of poverty, and little need for schooling."

Could be. But as one of those hill folk, let me leave this with Dr. Elam, a quote from a portion of a song from my youth, sort of an anthem for us hillbillies:
'Cause I ain't askin' nobody for nothin'
If I can't get it on my own.
If you don't like the way I'm livin'
You just leave this long haired country boy alone.


  1. My wife has a masters degree and I have a BS degree. We were country kids and after a successful business life have retired back to the country life in a poor NE Texas county. We are very happy with our lot and hope that we have finally out run the Dallas metro mess's reach. At or age this has to only last for about 5 or 10 years so I think we will be alright. I can not say the same for or son as I fear he is screwed.

  2. Great article Patrice. Going to share with my family tonight over dinner.

    This may not have anything to do with it...but it's on my mind. Just read that my county doesn't meet budget requirements for "Alice Survival Budget"...and it's made me a little sick. If anyone gets a chance to research the numbers in it - I'd love to hear your opinion.

    Basically says a family of 4 can't live under $54K a year. I'm afraid that is discouraging families, especially one income earners; as well as preaching to our younger generation that they need so much more to live on. Will they seek it in entitlements?

    I'm in Central Texas, but live more like the people in your article - Give me my independence!

  3. In my younger years I went to a two-year college in a small town located on the border of VA and WVA. As a part of a sociology course, students went into a mountain community to repair the local one-room school house and interview the locals who would talk with us. Even though I had lived in some of the poorest countries of the world, I had never seen such living conditions. No electricity or running water, no toilets or bathrooms, fireplace barrel cookstoves provided all the heat in drafty one room cabins with sleeping lofts. A table and benches, one rocking chair and one sitting chair with some small rag rugs was all that furnished the home. However, families seemed content with their lives, everyone could read and write, but their local dialect was difficult to understand. Their lives consisted of hunting, fishing, gardening, cooking, sewing (by hand or treadle machine), various building projects (a new church building) and some schooling in between using all their subsistence skills. I came away humbled by what I observed but I learned they were content and happy to be apart of their community and were satisfied with their lives.

    Now, after years of higher education and traveling much of the world, I have settled in an out-of-the-way location and practice being more self-reliant just like the hillbillys of WVA. The chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs and other livestock don't care about my advanced education, awards or writing skills. I've picked up the community dialect and accent and I help where I can if invited to do so. Funny how life changes over time.

  4. "Distrust of outsiders?" You betcha...after the Interstate moved through - 80 in NE PA They found cheap living and could commute 90 minutes one way into NYC. After twenty years got control by the numbers of them into all facets of government.
    Zoning, Central sewage, Sizes of Houses, no modular or trailers, so on and so on. Taj Mahal schools... nothing was too good for their kiddies... Soon the drugs, crime...
    And our 400 acre piece of heaven we had lived on for 6 generations came to a halt. Taxes out the roof, and the lovely stream taxed by the foot.
    They brought their cesspool with them. Don't get me started.

  5. You and Don are both correct. It's the cities and what they offer that entices people to abandon their self sufficient roots. The Appalachian life style is what America was founded upon, and independent thinking is what made America. I applaud them for not conforming and staying with what to them has turned out to be true. Life isn't about gathering wealth, it's about living a useful and happy life. Most wealthy people I have had the displeasure of knowing have turned out to be the most miserable controlling people ever met, and definitely not worth my time.....

  6. Don is entirely too kind! - lol - I have to wonder if, now that the woman has ESCAPED that horrible place that she loathes and loves, she now calls the place Apple-LAYSHA, instead of its proper name. Most ignorant liberals do.

  7. I lived in the gorgeous mountains of Appalachia....and I miss the beauty of that region! My heart NEEDS the mountains. No, I'm not Appalachian by birth, but by choice, and the call to that area is soooo strong within me. I moved away at 19, and nearly 26 yrs later....I still cry when we leave the mountains after a visit. It's not family or friends that I cry for, but the stark beauty, the changing of the sky and the views from moment to moment, the ability to see God's creation. I feel Him more strongly in those mountains.

    My husband's family came from a different part of the Appalachians. Most are still there. And most of them have struggled. But I don't blame them one bit for wanting to stay.'s Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana in the lowest parts of the US's education system. We live in the state ranked 50th for education. I don't see the author fussing at these deep southern states for everyone who stays.... It seems she would.... (And homeschooling in our state is HUGE, imagine that, and VERY loosely regulated, lol.) I guarantee that most people down here have zero desire to live among the "well educated" masses in large cities. We love our lack of traffic, our quiet lifestyle, and that the hands of big brother stays out of our business much more than in other states!! We also love that most people in our area have a huge sense of God still....whether He is Who they choose or not, their value system is still largely Judeo-Christian.

  8. I'm half in your camp, and half in Dr. Elam's. I have kin living in the hills, and you never saw a more hard-headed bunch in your life. Now don't get me wrong, there are wonderful people, hard working and smart there. But there are those who are intentionally dumber than their dogs and their lives are a misery that just doesn't have to be.

    A neighbor lived in the house built by her great grandfather. Three generations ago it was a good sturdy house, but it was made with unfinished home-sawn boards, unpainted and untreated all these years. By the time I saw it, it was dry old porous wood that had been soaking up every dog or toddler pee, spill, bleeding wound, slop and germ of four generations. You can't clean that kind of wood.

    The children (six of them when I knew them) each had only one set of clothes. They huddled near the woodstove in naught but their underpants and a blanket on wash day. A ten year old had an infected tooth that had never seen a doctor or dentist for two years, and he was stupid and nonfunctional from pain. Through all this the parents stood up and proclaimed themselves proudly self sufficient and they wouldn't take charity.

    The county had to step in whether the parents wanted it or not, and I'm not agreeing that was a bad thing.

    Not every one in the hills is this way, by any means, but some degree of it is too prevalent. When my own father moved back to the old stomping grounds after I was an adult I remember my aunt arguing with him about it. He said it wasn't a bad place, if you weren't trying to live in the abject poverty they'd endured as children. She insisted the physical poverty was problem enough but those people lived with an corresponding mental poverty she wanted nothing to do with.

  9. Born and raised in western PA, I pronounce it App-a-lay-cha. Only folks I know who pronounce it App-a-Latcha are elitist liberals trying to show off how much they 'resonate' with the under-privileged.

  10. I was born and raised in a coal camp in southern WV. I have a master's degree in education and spent 40 years teaching those Appalachian kids as best I could. BTW, we were not a government school; if an edict came from on high, we faked it and taught real school. A number of my ex-students are doctors, pharmacist, and, god help us, lawyers, in addition to nurses, teachers, ministers, and hard-working coal miners. Yes, some died of opiode abuse, alcohol, and suicide, but a far-lower percentage than in the elite cities. The people of Appalachia are clannish, hard-headed, and clueless about political correctness, but they are the ones I chose to live with, not the elites like Ms. Elam. BTW, I also learned how to write an academic paper like the one she wrote: total bs. I taught my students to tell the truth.

  11. This partially stems from the belief that all progress is good and therefore must be embraced and engaged in. In point of fact, there is no evidence this is a universal law. Progress does not always equal happiness, joy, or even true life satisfaction. Case in point: If I live in the modern conveniences of a city but have to spend two hours in traffic going to and from work and 30 minutes to get anywhere and measure my life in terms of an apartment, am I truly better off?

  12. Ignorance comes in all degrees...but the ignorant can learn again, hopefully... this is my favorite Appalachian You Tube person.. I watch him often..he's brilliant. Thanks for your blog.

  13. My dad was from Kentucky: I got over apologizing for that a long, long, time ago. My dad wanted an education and he made sure that he got it. He graduated from MIT and became a nuclear scientist. His brothers and sisters got through high school and that was enough for them. People like Constance Elam exist everywhere and they are convinced that they are far superior to the rest of us. She is in Fresno, Boise, and 40,000 other places where those people don't meet her "standards". What she doesn't understand is 98% percent of the population could care less about her exhualted opinion.
    -Stealth Spaniel

  14. Education comes up often as a topic lately: first over at Captain Capitalism, and now here. So perhaps it's time to talk about the "invisible philosophers" behind some of this.

    This will be long but worth it ...

    Two books come to mind: Jacques Ranciere's "The Ignorant School Master" and Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". You could (accurately) accuse both of smuggling in large amounts of Marxist theory, but once you strip that away, there are things worth noticing.

    Ranciere believes that the ideal school master should be a "master of nothing", and that the students are "free" to learn from these people as facilitators. In doing this, he makes little room for "subject matter experts" who write books and who organise courses of study for schools as part of what could be considered a "basic education".

    The ignorant school master is meant to be a vehicle for a "basic education", and Ranciere shows that it's possible to teach things that teachers themselves do not know well. But it's not possible for these teachers to teach these things at a high level of excellence without domain-specific knowledge, and so Ranciere's theory brings about dominance by generalist teachers who cannot teach in-depth.

    That's where Freire comes in: learning comes from pursuing a project with meaningful stakes, such as learning something for an intended career or for personal improvement.

    Luckily, books can transmit that domain-specific knowledge better than ignorant school masters.

    We now get to the failing of the "Gary Schools" in America: they focus on basic education first, but then when that's mostly done, they continue training in academic careers to excess.

    People in Appalachia aren't averse to learning, they're just very selective about knowledge. How to repair machinery, how to grow crops more effectively, how to practise hunter safety -- these are all non-academic things that are very much needed by these people.

    This leads to the real problem: the well-meaning and well-educated professional educator actually becomes an even bigger problem.

    Once you've reached a point of basic education, it's a matter of drive and discipline to pursue the projects you want to complete.

    What has happened with "university education" is that drive to complete projects and to achieve meaningful ends with education has been replaced by a system in which goal-seekers alter the ends of their projects and their production toward satisfying the needs of that system.

    Many people with "university education" backgrounds produce things that are of use only to those systems, without so much as a thought toward the domain-specific knowledge that those with basic educations need to achieve their advanced goals.

    This is why many in Appalachia avoid the "academic track" by going to community colleges where they can learn the additional skills they need to be successful at those goals. The "vocational track" addresses their needs much better in skills they can use such as electrical wiring, plumbing, auto mechanics, and so on.

    The bottom line: the people of Appalachia have access to most of the technology they need to solve their problems in the ways they need, but individuals may not know of it because of an over-focus on material knowledge that has no use by these people.

    Instead of addressing that as well as follow-on problems, this person of a "university education" appellation demands that these people solve their problems by first accepting that the would-be "students" are ignorant rather than the "teachers".

    That is why Mizz Elam is an "ignorant school master" and will likely remain one for the rest of her years -- she has at a minimum succeeded in educating herself out of any future employment by these people, because what she offers does not really help them.

    1. Very nice analysis! It expresses much more clearly what I've been complaining about in 'education'.

  15. I’m a native Kentuckian transplanted to various spots in KY, including the Appalachian mountains of southeastern KY. My husband was born & raised there, and we still have close kin living there. We left our home for the northern area of our state 30 years ago for work opportunities.
    MANY people from KY have grown up and gone on to accomplish many great things in life. Southeastern KY people sometimes choose college, trade school, apprenticeships, etc. depending on their goals & interests. Thank goodness some of these same people choose to stay or return home after obtaining their educational training to serve their communities through work, living, and volunteer/charitable work.
    As for being leery of outsiders, we have good reason to be that way. Down through the last century many company representatives acquired mineral rights and proceeded to rape the land for sheer profit, to the detriment of the inhabitants thereof. Many government officials visited and promised to fight poverty, but their solutions created an increasingly dependent welfare state caused by “boom & bust” cycles of the aforementioned companies & corporations.
    Despite our region’s problems, most of us have persevered through tough times & have managed to learn valuable lessons from them. We miss our mountain home even after all these years.
    (I find it extremely telling that some years after this woman’s article, many of our children are eagerly embracing the culture that she criticized.

  16. Long time reader, first time commenter. I'd like to point out that the map you've included omits areas long recognized as Appalachia.

  17. SIGH!!! As me and my kin here in Middle TN - incidentally, culturally part of Greater Appalachia - would say, "I'm plumb wore out!"

    As you and Brother Don, say, Miss Patrice, just leave us alone!

    But the elites the Elams and their ilk represent, simply can't . . . or won't!

    David Smith

  18. I have two graduate degrees and will retire in May. My choice of careers (teaching in a small, rural, public school) has not given me a large income, but it has helped put one child through college and two others through trade school. Many friends from high school have moved away from "podunkville," as one calls our little town, and have "successful" lives in big cities. One couldn't wait to have our last class reunion to "see how successful everyone is." Guess what? Those of us who stayed in our little town are very successful. I have a church that I love, eat food that I've grown or raised, have friends who are there for me, three kids, grandchild number six on the way, and a husband of thirty-six years who loves me. Mrs. Success has had twelve "perfect" jobs and was too busy working to have children. Keep chasing the perfect job. I found mine. I wear my green rubber boots to the barn where I'm greeted by my new LGD puppy, pregnant goats, and chickens. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt and plant the seeds I ordered last fall. I get to bake cupcakes with my sweet granddaughter, snuggle the baby, play board games with the older grandkids, and have Sunday dinner with the entire family every week after church. I don't envy the wealthy city cousin. Don't pity this country gal. To each his own.

  19. This was very interesting. It is refreshing to see liberty work. Both Dr.Elam and the people of Appalachia are living where and how they wish.

    Appalachia has put Dr. Elam behind them. She might consider putting them behind her and moving on.

    Montana Guy

  20. While I get the argument “Dr. Elam is a product of her environment therefore gets a bit of a pass”, it’s no excuse...I’m fully on board with Patrice. Urban areas desire expansion in order to gather more into the group-think, often products of too much higher education, looking down their noses at rural folks as backwards. My rancher neighbors just give them the “knowing smile”, thinking, “I’ll speak slow so the PhD’s can understand.”

  21. And now we read an article stating Oregon is introducing legislation requiring multiple visits by a nurse to your home after the birth of a child to make sure you will do things the "right" (read "government") way to raise your child.

    I don't think that would play well in Appalachia or in the households of most who read here. Natokadn

  22. Reminds me of a story about an old woman in Appalachia, tending her garden. Some chickens around and a pig in a pen. A visitor from a city asked her--What would you do with a lot of money?
    She replies-- Give it to the poor!

  23. I would like to offer another point of view.

    I grew up in a very rural area of N Florida where the population held the same mindsets attributed to the Appalachian community. In the last 25 years I’ve personally observed this “self sufficient” competency evaporate. Personally; I blame the welfare state. When a family is not obliged to labor for sustenance then every other evil seems move in to fill in that gap. Idle hands and all of that.

    A.Jones Florida

  24. Thank you so much for mentioning FOXFIRE. Came across some of their stuff years ago and a big fat O since.

  25. I have several of their books. Received them as gifts from my mother-in-law 36 years ago. My father's family was from the Appalachia area. I need to go dig them out and re-read them.

  26. What about Appalachian poverty and drug addiction? Worst in the nation

  27. Patrice, I know this has nothing to do with your article, but I'm desperate for prayer for my best friend's little two year old granddaughter. She's in a major children's hospital and will be tested for cancer tomorrow. I ask that your and your readers pray for little A. Thank you.

    1. Will do. My husband's cousin was born with a handicap and eventually had brain surgery at age 6. And chemo. Her family thought they would lose her so many times. She is now a grown women who called us this weekend to invite us to her wedding. I will pray and I hope little A's future will be as bright as our cousin. The Doctors can do so much more now than they could 25 years ago. Natokadn

  28. I suggest you read Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a family and Culture in Crisis. By J.D. Vance He's a native who discusses some of the real problems with Rural Appalachia. In some instances, I think he'd agree with Elam. In other's, he'd disagree. It's a good read.

  29. Congratulations Patrice and Don, your article is featured on today's 'Survivalist’s Odds ‘n Sods'.
    Montana Guy

  30. I was born in Bristol, TN in Appalachia. I went to college in Johnson City (ETSU), then my career took me all over the world. I have been to over 40 countries, lived in 5 NFL cities including DC. I have been a senior executive in a Fortune 100 company, hold US and international patents, so not all of us are stupid / uninformed as measured by the world’s version of success.

    We finally moved back 9 years ago after the light went on for me during the 2008 financial crisis. Now we grow most of our own food, live a low stress lifestyle, breath fresh air, have good solid friends, great church, beautiful scenery, no traffic. I will never leave again.

    Yes, Appalachia can be “poor” as judged by costal elites, but it is how you measure poor. Many of us consider someone that lives a stressful city life, spends hours every day in the car, breathes polluted air, drinks lead tainted water, works in a job they hate, have now true friends - to be poor.

    Yes, we are a fiercely independent bunch of folks, libertarian before there was such a label. Stubborn Scots-Irish heritage mostly, i.e. Braveheart descendants. But I will tell you that Appalachia is becoming the Eastern Redoubt with lots and lots of preppers moving here from all over the US. Cheap land, plenty of rainfall, very light government taxes and regulation, and big time 2nd Amendment supporters - including virtually all local sheriffs.

    Come join us.


    I wasn't sure how to get this article to you, so I am posting it here. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I looked up the National Coalition for Men and am not sure what to think of them. They sound like a group who is reacting to the feminist movement.

  32. A few points:

    1. This is actually a rather pedestrian paper. She hews closely to prior published works, and limits herself to citing only those with broad acceptance in the field. Consequently most of what is in the paper represents views and research that are not hers, but rather represents the mainstream of Appalachian Studies.

    2. The condescension, to the extent that it can be read into her work, is therefore not necessarily her own. Could she have chosen to buck consensus in the field and to ignore the corpus of accepted work on Appalachia? Sure, but such academics do not make it through grad school or get published.

    3. Her main point, that Appalachians are an ethnic group with a distinct culture, is not an attack on the people of Appalachia. I think it is true that we are. I also think that her paper added next to nothing to an understanding of this fact because she lacked the courage to venture, intellectually or in terms of research, beyond the established corpus that she cites (this is typical of modern academics in my opinion). Consequently, she did not add anything to the discussion.

    As a 10th generation Appalachian on my mother's side, and having grown up in a trailer in one of those hollows, I think I can say that Appalachians do suffer from an excess of anti-intellectualism. I also think that much of Appalachian religion lacks introspection and seldom imagines that Christianity has a history beyond the dark hollows and forests of this land. Appalachians are often parochial.

    We are also underestimated, not so much for our intelligence, unfortunately, but rather for our strength and adaptability. There is a reason why we make such good soldiers, and that our soldiers are one of the reasons why American military might is preeminent. There is also a reason why we are not similarly represented among Nobel laureates.

    So, yes, the truth can hurt. I, personally, hope that Appalachians will come to realize that not all "book learning" is bad. Not beating up kids who like to read would be a start (yes, personal sour grapes). But, failing that, at least the people of the region can take comfort that, while the rest of country looks down on them, to the extent that Appalachians can feed and clothe themselves, they do not need the approval of outsiders.

  33. These are both great observations. My roots are in the Appalachians and I was impressed by the responses by both you and Don. There is a lot of difference in being 'educated' and 'smart' and you presented that nicely. All the best from rural, wonderful, southern Indiana! Charles Sanders

  34. My roots are in West Virginia, all the way back to 1774. I guess I'm self-aggrandizing to consider Appalachians "my people," since I left and I probably couldn't keep my backside dry in a barn.

    If we're inclined to be skeptical of intellectualism, it's primarily because intellectuals and other people out to "improve our lives" have been trying to exploit us or kill us for the last hundred years (at least).

    They couldn't kill us with poverty. They couldn't kill us with shame. They couldn't kill us by pulling our kids away.

    Heroin, methamphetamine, cultural destruction, and the welfare check just might be the end of us.

  35. Neither you nor Don said it, but I will. When TSHTF, those folks in Applachia will fare far better than those "educated" people in the big cities. Not that I wish them ill, but THEY are the ones not preparing for the Real World.

    Just an observation.

  36. I meant to add, that the attitude of the mountain folk remind me of the opening scene of the movie "Serenity." A teacher is describing how Earth had gotten crowded and the humans went out to colonize other planets, with a group of them forming the "Alliance," trying to force all the other planets to conform, leading to a civil war, with the Alliance winning.

    One of the students asked why the other planets didn't want to join and be "civilized."

    River Tamm, one of the primary characters is shown as a student. She says, "People don't want to be told what to do." She elaborates on it, but that's the gist of what she says. The people of Appalachia come across as the same way. THEY JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE.

    As do most of us who frequent this blog.