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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Opinion | Rural students need comprehensive education and better classroom resources

Opinion+%7C+Rural+students+need+comprehensive+education+and+better+classroom+resources
Annika Esseku | Senior Staff Illustrator

My rural public high school experience was riddled with scandal and problematic scenarios straight out of a cheesy teen TV show. Racism, homophobia and xenophobia ran rampant in the halls. I hated every second of it.

At the time, I couldn’t fathom why my classmates said and did the things that they did. However, nearly two years later, I finally get it. It took a while, but I finally understand why they think the way that they do, and I recognize it isn’t necessarily their fault.

I am not going to be excusing their behavior by any means. The things certain students did at my high school were unbelievably ignorant and disgusting. Thinking back to some of the more gruesome stories makes it incredibly difficult to even write this column, to advocate for a community I once believed to be too far gone. I want to yell and complain about all the terrible things my classmates did, but it must be said that there are explanations for their behavior, not excuses. We cannot blame students, particularly the younger ones, for being a product of their community. Rather, it is time to work at breaking generational cycles of intolerance these communities foster.

The ignorance and intolerance that runs rampant in these communities cannot be excused. Rather than ignore the presence of these behaviors, as my school did, we can work to undo the cycles of prejudice from the bottom up — through education. Through comprehensive education on topics such as race, sex and sexuality, we can rectify these harmful patterns of thought.

The main reason that this kind of education is so important is because many rural Americans live in a confirmation bias bubble. Urban and suburban neighborhoods do as well, but many rural neighborhoods like the one I went to school in are particularly dangerous because they are marred by prejudice and intolerance with little consideration of outside perspectives.

In the mid-to-late 20th century, when minorities won more rights and were able to integrate into white urban communities, “white flight” resulted in droves of racist, white Americans leaving to rural or suburban areas. This created conglomerates of racist communities whose ideas stayed within themselves.

Very few were allowed to integrate into these communities, meaning that little outside thought was considered as valid. That is why, in today’s much more inclusive day of age, we still have communities with festering grudges against BIPOC communities and other hateful prejudices.

Now I introduce the compounded problem at hand — we not only have communities that foster intolerant ideas, but we also have a lack of proper education in these neighborhoods — which is key to stopping generational racism and other bigoted ideologies. Scholars agree that education “plays a powerful role in shaping worldviews, connecting members of a community who might have never met before, and imagining the world we want.” This is the goal that we should be aiming for in a learning environment — teaching children and adolescents to work together and not to hate one another.

Education is the foundation for an inclusive society — a society where everyone is accepted regardless of race, sexuality, origin and other factors. This building block is missing in rural schools, and without it, these communities cannot move beyond their bubbles. But to further worsen the problem, many rural schools are missing the resources needed to teach a comprehensive curriculum.

Rural school districts often receive budget cuts to allot for the suburban and urban districts, and they are much more likely to face teacher shortages, transportation issues and a lack of up-to-date technology. We are beginning to see rural students fall behind as they lack opportunity and classroom resources. One big setback is a lack of digital devices and access to the internet, which is another great tool to break students out of their rural bubbles and teach them about others’ lives and perspectives. Many rural students who may never experience diversity lack this basic fundamental resource.

I personally know what a lack of proper comprehensive education does to a community and to a public school. My high school was the smallest in the district and the most rural, yet we caused the most problems. There were dozens of instances of racism and homophobia displayed each semester. I knew individuals whose families had ties to the Ku Klux Klan and had queer friends who were called slurs and spat on each day. There have been a slew of problematic scandals including, but not limited to, taking down and ripping apart a pride flag and getting into physical altercations with the few black students who retaliated at being called the N-word.

What my classmates have done throughout the years is disgusting — and in many instances unforgivable — but we cannot give up on those younger than us who are growing up in rural towns or with a rural education. At a rural school, the graduation rate is much higher than in any other setting, but their college enrollment rate is much lower. Many go to trade school or enter other blue-collar jobs after graduation, and without the trades, this country will falter. We live in a society that pushes secondary education so much that the trades are beginning to experience shortages in newcomers. Rural populations are often the ones that enter these professions and therefore cannot be left behind as society advances in levels of acceptance and tolerance. 

It is imperative that rural students break out of the generational cycle of bigotry that is often promoted in these communities. Rural schools need adequate resources to teach comprehensive education on social issues. It is through this kind of education that they can begin the process of understanding outside perspectives and ideologies that were never welcomed into their communities. And with proper education, we will begin to see the confirmation bias bubbles begin to break down.

We need to work towards a society where we accept one another, and we cannot allow rural communities to continue to foster hatred. While there is no perfect solution to solving racism or exposing rural communities to diversity and outside perspectives, I believe the first step towards breaking these cycles of generational prejudice is through education.

Livia LaMarca is the Assistant Editor on the Opinions desk who misses using the oxford comma. She mostly writes about American political discourse, US pop culture and social movements. Write to her at [email protected] to share your own opinions!

About the Contributor
Livia LaMarca
Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor
Livia LaMarca is a senior political science and sociology student from outside of Chicago. You can often find her studying for the LSAT and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Her hobbies include singing, crocheting & knitting, Marvel movies, and hanging with her dog Leo (who she misses very much). She enjoys writing about American political discourse and U.S. pop culture with a particular passion for social justice and equitable social programs. Livia's email —  — is always open if you'd like to share your own opinions or respond to an opinion column of hers.