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Page 7 of Mountain Life & Work vol. 15 no. 4 January 1940

Part of Mountain Life and Work

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Winter, 1940 'I' 1I N LIf~ L: on the subject and occasionally directs the thinking of the group. This procedure is in itself a contribution to the keeping alive of the democratic ideals. How is the study group related to the life of the Southern Mountains? The mountaineer loves his "rocks and rills," his "woods and templed hills." He may be poor and may live under physical conditions that do not compare with the home of the business or professional man living in the suburbs of a great city; but his standards of what constitutes the good life arc different, and who is to say that what he desires is not best for him? People are going to continue indefinitely to live in the coves and valleys of the Southern Mountains. The experience of some people there, as well as that of highlanders in other countries, indicates that a satisfying life can be attained in the hills of the Southland. The study group brings neighbors together primarily to study the problems of how to make the best of the existing conditions. The local groups examine their economic resources and study the possibilities of changing their agriculture so that a larger cash income may be obtained. They study the possibilities of developing special types of products for which there is outside demand and which arc adapted to the country. They study how, by working together toward standardized products, they may find ready sale at good prices for what is produced. They look into the possibilities of manufacturing local products that may find a market, or of bringing small industries to the community from elsewhere. The economic problems in many cases become the basis for cooperative action in production and also in the purchase of goods. The possibilities of the cooperative movement become known, and modestly organized buying clubs and cooperative stores begin to appear. These ventures are far more likely to be successful than were some earlier cooperative efforts, because they are built on understanding through study rather than on the emotional appeals of professional organizers. The study group realizes in advance that to operate a cooperative requires good business sense and adherence to fundamental principles of limitation of tendencies toward centralization of ownership and control; also good bookkeeping; cash business; one-man one-v ote determination of policies; and group loyalty. It also AND WORK Page 7 emphasizes that cooperation is a way of life rather than a fortune-making device, and thus prevents disappointment when large returns are not immediately forthcoming. But beyond the economic interests, the study club discovers that medical care is not so good as it might be; that the schools need vocational agriculture or home economics teachers, or some other improvements; that the roads here and there are not so good as they should be; that the young people do not have adequate recreational facilities; and that in many ways the life of the community may be improved. Study and action on these local problems inevitably lead into the larger problems of citizenship. The relation of the local community to the county and state tax system comes up for con sideration. Such problems as the draining of I I I I n young people and wealth from the country to the city and the influence of national conservation projects on the local community, offer abundant material for civic study. All these interests finally lead to thought about the large policies of the nation and the world as a whole. There is no limit to the field of informal discussion, nor to the possibilities of development of good citizenship and better communities through its use. Since group study is essentially a community affair, it leads to bringing many communities together from time to time for forums and general educational activities; in such gatherings ideas are exchanged and contacts made with thought from other sections of the country. Group study will through the years contribute to raising the level of general understanding of rural communities concerning those problems that are before us for solution. This is a real contribution to the task of making our popular institutions of government permanent and safe. The study group development by the Southern Mountain people, assisted by the Conference of Southern Mountain Workers, is one of the most important in the nation. Through such means, Rural America is trying to do its part in keeping our country safe for freedom of speech and of the press, and for the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The United States Department of Agriculture is glad to help in this movement as a significant part of a national rural civic educational movement.

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