BIDWELL — Retired Gallia County Local Schools teacher Cindy Graham led discussion Wednesday morning with area educators, the Field of Hope and state officials at the Field of Hope Campus surrounding the potential for bringing Appalachian-tailored advanced placement style courses to the area, starting with a course at the Field of Hope Campus.
Individuals partaking in the conversation hailed from Gallipolis City Schools, Gallia County Local Schools, the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College. Director John Carey with the Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia, a part of the Ohio Development Services Agency, and the Ohio Department of Education’s Liaison for Rural Schools Dr. David Cloud were also present for the conversation.
According to conversation leader Graham, the goal of the discussion was to explore the idea of putting an advanced placement language arts course equivalent into Field of Hope for its clients to participate in which would incorporate Appalachian literature and themes as well as teach the use of formal register language and thinking. Formal register language and thinking is recognized as standard business and educational language. Casual register is recognized by slang, broken sentences and non-verbal cues. Formal register is noted for succinctness and directness, as described by Dr. Ruby Payne.
Graham said a lot of what was discussed during the meeting could be credited to Payne’s work in studying poverty and its effects in the behaviors of cultures and individuals living among it. She also credited some of the topics discussed to personal observation by area educators.
“There are a lot of things that we have to be proud of as Appalachians and we shouldn’t make apologies for it,” said Graham.
Graham noted that among the Appalachian values of independence, hard work, spirituality, family and hospitality, such values were often shared with other southern communities of the US.
Guests and Graham said that while Appalachians should be proud of their heritage, they must also learn to change from within their own communities. Criticism from outside Appalachia, while it may be useful in some respects, could also be harmful due to outside communities potentially seeing negative stereotypes associated with Appalachians.
“Our change must come from within,” said Graham. She quoted colleague Aaron Walker, teacher at River Valley High School, “If we don’t define our culture, our culture will define us.”
She encouraged the potential for Appalachian cultures from across the region to come together and support each other as like-minded individuals in the pursuit of education.
“Nobody will do it for us, so we must do it ourselves,” said Graham.
Graham said that Appalachians were like a form of minority in the U.S. due to their shared heritage, regardless of race, and shared challenges in regional poverty.
“Anybody that comes from Appalachia and has gone to work or college outside this area may be able to tell you of a time they weren’t looked at as equal, maybe just for their accent,” said Graham.
Graham and supporters seek to make a model for education to be utilized in others areas of Appalachia.
She pointed to the Providence Regular Missionary Baptist Association as a potential organization to be emulated for such a system and asked area educator and Paint Creek Baptist Church Pastor Christian Scott to discuss the organization. Scott described the group as having started in 1834, where African American faith-based groups banded together in difficult times to support one another’s spirituality, learning and community. Support was found across the tri-state area with those part of the institution.
“I’ve always said that education is your ticket out, whether that’s a ticket out of poverty or whatever,” said Scott. “Education for education’s sake is important.”
Field of Hope is noted for being a faith-based addiction recovery center as well as a community outreach program.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.