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Rural America

Wednesdays 6-8pm

Instructor:  David Fontana

The conflict between rural and urban America is as old as the American Republic.  It was what divided Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton in the late eighteenth century, and it is what divides our country in the early twenty-first century.  We will consider this conflict from two different angles, one political and one economic.  First, we will look at the increasing political power that urban areas have started to exercise over rural areas, and the problems this causes.  For instance, seven metropolitan areas contribute more than two times than the rest of the country combined to electoral campaigns.  Second, we will look at the increasing economic power that urban areas have relative to rural areas, and the problems this causes.  For the first time in the history of the United States, rural America is losing population, and this is largely because rural America’s economic situation relative to urban America has never been worse.  We will discuss each of these dimensions of our geographical conflicts through a telescope by looking at America generally, and through a microscope by looking at the North Country specifically.  

In this three-week course, open to readers of all ages, we will discuss selected passages from one book that addresses these questions: J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.  We will also read several newspaper and magazine articles that delve into issues related to rural America, both around the country and then specifically in the North Country.

Course Fee:  $50  |  includes course materials and light snacks

Min. 5, Max. 12


David Fontana is an Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University School of Law in Washington. D.C.  He went to law school at Yale and graduate school at Oxford, and publishes in leading academic journals in both law and political science, as well as in newspapers and magazines such as The Washington Post and The Atlantic Monthly.  He regularly consults with Congress, presidential campaigns, and foreign constitution-drafters on issues of constitutional law.  

His writing and litigation trying to bridge the gaps between rural and urban America has led to a case currently before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit testing the constitutionality of jurisdictions limiting campaign contributions from outside of the jurisdiction, featured in these two stories:

He has also been working with members of Congress from both parties to move federal officials outside of Washington, featured here:

David was raised in Plattsburgh.  His father taught at SUNY-Plattsburgh and his mother at Clinton Community College and then at the University of Vermont.  He returns every summer—along with his wife Naomi and their two-year-old son Tobias—to spend time in the Adirondacks.