University News
For Immediate Release: 
Sep 21 2005

Appalachian Stereotypes Can Affect Youth Says Concord Professor

Athens, W.Va. – Concord University Professor of Geography, Dr. George Towers had an article published in the March/April, 2005 edition of the “Journal of Geography.” The article was entitled “West Virginia’s Lost Youth: Appalachian Stereotypes and Residential Preferences.”

Appalachian stereotypes ascribe deviant behavior and fatalistic attitudes to mountain culture. These stereotypes are implied in slurs like “hillbilly” and “redneck.” Towers said, “Stereotypes are unfair and inaccurate. I think they are wrong, but people are exposed to them so much that they become accepted by many.”

Dr. Towers has lived all over the country including the Midwest, East Coast, and Southwest. He has lived in West Virginia for 13 years, which is the longest he has lived in one place. Dr. Towers received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University in 1983 and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1991.

The work on his article began in the fall of 2003, and he spent about six months gathering the information, distributing and compiling the survey, and writing the article. His work with the West Virginia Geographic Alliance helped him write this article. The Geographic Alliance is a network of K-12 teachers in the state of West Virginia. He realized he could use the network to study Appalachian stereotypes.

Dr. Towers designed a survey and mailed it to participating high school teachers. The teachers then administered the survey to their classrooms and mailed them back to Dr. Towers. Although the survey did not ask the students to discuss West Virginia stereotypes, many students who do not intend to stay in the state included Appalachian stereotypes in their reasons for leaving.

“Stereotypes are a minor influence on why young people are leaving West Virginia. The major reasons are lack of jobs and opportunities, but enough students agree with the stereotypes that it lends support to the idea that the stereotypes are a factor,” Towers said.

Dr. Towers also points out in his article that not only does West Virginia youth believe in the Appalachian stereotype, but also upper-level government officials. He said that he does not personally agree with the stereotypes discussed in his article.

He has written a number of articles on a variety of topics including environmental politics, technology and society, and immigrant communities.

“The point of writing this article was to point out that those images and stereotypes really do have an effect. The faster and farther we get away from these stereotypes the better off we will be,” Towers said.

For more information, contact Dr. Towers at 1-304-384-6040 or georget@concord.edu.

-CU-

Stephanie Harmon, a senior majoring in communication arts wrote this news release. Her hometown is Princeton, W.Va.

PO BOX 1000, VERMILLION ST., ATHENS, WV 24712.