"My Little Town" became a 1975 hit for Simon and Garfunkel. Wiki tells that the song is not autobiographical - Simon has said that it is about someone who hates their little town. The lyrics are gritty, especially the lines, "Back in my little town, Nothing but the dead and dying," which are repeated frequently. The vocals, perhaps not as soaring as "Bridge Over Troubled Water", are moving, if not haunting.
Paul Simon was born in Newark, NJ, but his family immediately moved to New York City, where as a teenager, he would sing with Art Garfunkel. Doesn't sound like he would have much experience in a small town, does it? So why the disparaging lyrics?
How to Reverse Rural Brain Drain describes the plight of small town America: a) decline of family farms, b) loss of manufacturing jobs, c) flight of young people to urban centers. Husband and wife authors, Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas, have written a book, Hollowing Out in the Middle, which attempts to describe how the decline of rural population can be halted. The authors moved to "Ellis", Iowa, population 2000, to study and analyze the trends in rural America. (Unfortunately, the book is not on Kindle.)
The authors center on the brightest and the youngest leaving the small towns. Ironically, the local high schools encourage it - more attention and opportunity is provided to the upper tier of students who are destined to leave. From the author's website, we learn that one of five Americans live in a small town. There are now more deaths than births in one out of two rural communities. By pushing the brightest and the best to leave, and under-investing in the rest, the small towns themselves are contributing to the problem.
Gosh, I don't know. Having grown up in a small town, and now living in a major metropolitan area, I think the issue is incredibly complex. Unless you are born independently wealthy, you are dependent upon an income. With the demise of American factories, there are not many jobs left in small towns except for health care, banking, school system, and perhaps some farming. I don't believe that my rural high school pushed me away - I had very gifted and devoted teachers which wanted the very best for their students. My profession was not possible in that small town. But what about now?
If we had a better digital infrastructure that permitted high-resolution video conferencing, we might be able to have more telecommuting from the rural areas. Today, we don't even have adequate infrastructure in my metro area. But that is something that could be done - it would only require a handful of telecommuting professionals in every rural community to make a substantial difference.
The crisis facing rural communities is already affecting metro areas such as Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis. The root problem is identifying economic endeavors for the American worker. Mmm.