Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2013


Great Plains Research 23.2 (Fall 2013), pp. 127-135.


Copyright © 2013 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


The Great Plains is facing a pending leadership crisis as rural depopulation decreases the number of residents who are available to serve in civic and government positions. This problem is compounded by the loss of youth populations in rural areas. In this essay, we offer a cross-disciplinary analysis of avenues for addressing the rural leadership crisis. We bring together work from rural demography, education policy, and civic studies to argue that civic education in rural areas needs to be reformed specifically to train and retain rural youth for leadership positions. We use Nebraska as a case study as it has suffered from rural decline, especially from youth depopulation; it has adopted new civic education standards as of December 2012; and Nebraska school districts have local control over the implementation of curricula. We review two competing trends in civic education, global civics and place-based education, and reflect on the impact each of these has on preparing students for leadership. We conclude that place-based education has the most potential for preparing students for leadership positions and should be used in rural schools even if that requires schools to sacrifice global civics.