The town recently lost its school to consolidation, a dagger aimed at the heart of a small community, yet the authors mention it only in passing. Any revitalization of rural America must include deconsolidating its schools, breaking up the big education factories in favor of small academies in which each student matters. Numerous federal government policies—in education, national defense and transportation—subsidize hypermobility. Yet neither major political party shows the least inclination to change or even seriously rethink them.
“Hollowing Out the Middle” is a worthy contribution to a conversation we desperately need to have, but the language of policy (“invest more efficiently”) is inadequate to what is really a crisis of the soul. The solution to rural depopulation begins in relearning the value of that simple and underrated word: stay.