While many rural communities consider themselves a part of something other than an agriculturally-oriented economy, most are nevertheless deeply affected by agricultural policy and practice. Other long-standing rural occupa-tions, such as logging, mining, and fishing, share with agriculture the finite nature of the resource base involved. Historically, this circumstance led to the development of resource stewardship in rural communities and to the resulting evolution of cultural practices tending to sustain the extractive nature of these occupations. In this regard, all of these types of communities are similar. They are similar, too, in that during this century, all have witnessed the distant corporate takeover of their local economies, resulting in the gradual loss of local stewardly wisdom and a clear trend toward unsustainable production practices. Although we focus on agriculture in this essay, by far the most prevalent economic orientation for rural communities in this country, the dynamics discussed are readily transferable to other types of communities.

We will be operating on an important premise that already may be apparent from what has been said; that is, we believe it is impossible to separate the concerns of rural schools from their larger social, economic, and political milieu. Because we believe this is the case, it seems that questions concerning rural education must go hand-in-hand with questions about rural community. The goal of this essay, therefore, is to identify contextual obstacles that inhibit both rural school and community renewal and to begin to chart a course others may find useful in their attempts to maneuver around these obstacles.