Kansas kid gets dual diplomas; media misses the point

In May, a teen from Kansas will become the first student ever to graduate with a high school diploma and a Harvard bachelor’s degree at the same time. You might have seen the headlines last week. But they missed two important points: the student is from a rural small town, and the Harvard degree came by distance learning. 

The teen’s name is Braxton Moral, and he lives in Ulysses, a town of 6,000 in the remote and sparsely populated southwest corner of Kansas. He took his college classes through the Harvard Extension School. 

For reporters focused on all the small town negatives lately, here was a sparkling positive rural story they missed the point of. 

To me, the story is not really about how exceptional Braxton is. It’s about the opportunity for a student–any student–from a small town to develop their potential where they are. 

The Moral family didn’t have agonize over whether to move to Massachusetts so Braxton could take those Harvard classes and how being dropped into university life would affect him at middle-school age. They got to stay in Ulysses, with online classes and a local teacher acting as proctor. Braxton didn’t have to give up the grounding that a small town upbringing can provide. He’ll carry that with him for the rest of his life.

How many other rural teens and adults have benefited from distance learning? How many open courses have we taken? How many ebooks have we checked out of our small town libraries? How many SaveYour.Town videos have we watched? (10,000 or so, by the way)

The end of geographic limits. I talk about that a lot, because some people still think mostly about our limits. This story reminds us to look instead at our opportunities. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS – There’s a lot of Wabi-Sabi in #IdeaFriendly – it means embracing the perfectly imperfect