- Delineating a Regional Education Research Agenda
If one wants to advance the argument that the Great Plains, as a region, matters— and the very existence of Great Plains Research and the Center for Great Plains Studies that publishes it suggest significant support for the idea—then one can ask, How did we learn that they matter? How do they matter? Can we live on them ethically, with a regard for each other and sense of stewardship and responsibility? Education research in, of, for, and with a region allows us to pursue each of these questions, plus more.
Here we do so, informed by the two central notions that Greenwood (2011, 634) suggests are the core of place-based education: critical geography and bioregionalism. Critical geography asks us to view spaces as expressions of ideologically laden power relations—who counts as of a place? Who gets excluded? Whose acts of naming prevail? Whose efforts get lost or rejected? And so on. Bioregionalism has a more explicit link to ecology, and bioregionalists "seek to revive, preserve, and develop cultural patterns in specific bioregions that are suited to the climate, life zones, landforms, and resources of those regions" (634). As one nod to bioregionalism, we "bound" the Great Plains the same way that Michael Forsberg (2009) did with his map in Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild as extending from the northern grasslands of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada, and continuously south, until crossing the Rio Grande into the grasslands of Mexico's Tamaulipas state. Like Forsberg, whose sandhill cranes (see Forsberg ) are clearly of the Great Plains but not always in them, we note that those who study education in the Great Plains are not always in them, nor are those who attend formal education programs there. One's ties to the Plains do not need to be constant, nor 100%, to be salient.
This introductory article looks across four very different recently completed manuscripts that each broached the question "What does, or should, an education research agenda for the Great Plains entail?" Because of the diverse perspectives and circumstances of the authors, even though the number of compared manuscripts is relatively small (i.e., four), collectively they offer a comprehensive and sweeping take on what a region-based educational research agenda can entail, which this introduction proposes to synthesize or summarize. It is our contention that "region" is a crucial but often neglected conceptual category with which to think about education (as well as other issues). Region is larger than a village, school district, city, or state, but smaller than and not necessarily fully residing within the geopolitical boundaries of a nation-state. (Consider Anzaldua's  identification as the region on both sides of the US-Mexican border as "La Frontera.") While both amorphous and heterogeneously populated, regions nonetheless have identifiable patterns of linguistic, historical, ecological, and economic coherence. They are viable as an object of inquiry, and that is the work here.
The juxtaposed manuscripts intentionally offer varied theoretical perspectives even as they attend to the same regional geography. It is the stance of this introduction that different perspectives illuminate different data, different possibilities, and different challenges, and thus any effort that attempts to be encompassing, if geographically particular, gains from affirming and including that diversity of perspectives. That said, all these works share consistent attention to the concept of place and place-based education (Greenwood 2011). Phrased another way, they each ask how place matters.
Here that inquiry is collectively interdisciplinary, drawing from both the social sciences and the humanities. Regarding the former, one of the reviewed pieces, by Marjorie Kostelnik, comes from a former dean of a college of education who describes a scenario-driven planning process that involved 40 of her faculty. A second paper, by Amanda Morales, which appears last, adapts the funds of knowledge theoretical framework (González, Moll, and Amanti 2005) to illuminate how [End Page ix] education of rural children could but usually does not intentionally draw on the routine outside-of-school experiences and social network–embedded wisdom that these children bring with them to classrooms that, unfortunately, are often narrowly concerned with national curricula...