Brain Drain: The “Strip-mining” of Orange’s young people?

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

By Zac Blanchard

I am a 2011 Little Cypress-Mauriceville graduate, and though I haven’t returned since I left for the Naval Academy, I still come home once or twice a year, and my heart is still in Orange. Unfortunately, over the last several years I have noticed how few of my college-educated classmates are returning to Orange. This brain drain is not just affecting Orange, but is a nationwide epidemic. Patrick Deneen’s 2017 book Why Liberalism Failed, compares the ‘brain drain’ process to the strip-mining of coal, where:

“Elite students are culled from every corner of the globe so that they may prepare for lives of [uprooted] vagabondage, majoring only in…‘upward mobility.’ Elite universities engage in the educational equivalent of strip mining: identifying economically viable raw materials in every city, town, and hamlet, they strip off that valuable commodity, process it in a distant location, and render the products economically useful for productivity elsewhere. The places that supplied the raw materials are left much like depressed coal towns whose mineral wealth has been long since mined and exported.”

Note that college-educated Americans are more likely than non-college-educated Americans to attend church, vote, run for office, be entrepreneurs, and participate in sports, community organizations and clubs.[1] Of course, these are just averages, and I am not implying that any individual person is better than any other because of the pieces of paper on their wall. That said, it should be clear that a community cannot expect to survive, let alone thrive, independently without maintaining a large portion of its college-educated young people. The hospital’s failure and our economic dependence on the refining industry, for example, are not simply ‘bad luck’ – they are largely, if not primarily, due to loss of college graduates to Beaumont, Houston, and Dallas.

“Inspire 12” (the program promising free in-state tuition to any college student who returned to Orange for five years after graduation) was a very admirable effort, and a step in the right direction, but even had it succeeded, it was only based on an economic incentive, not a moral argument. We should fight this strip-mining, first and foremost, by instilling a sense of pride, community, and responsibility in our kids. They must think of Orange as their home, a place that they want to raise their children, even if it isn’t the most financially beneficial option.

As parents, neighbors, and individual citizens, we should teach our children by example – by spending less time online, on the TV, or on vacation, and more time in our churches, in our sports teams and community groups, at our fairs, in our outdoors, and in our businesses and restaurants. We should also hold our schools, churches, community organizations, and elected officials accountable for their ability to support our efforts to get our college-bound young people back after graduation. And those college-bound kids should use that college time not to maximize their personal financial prospects, but to prepare themselves to be leaders in their relationships, businesses, and community – either back home or elsewhere – after graduation. If they do, the communities in Orange will thrive. If they don’t, we will continue to grow into little more than an extended suburb of Beaumont.

Zac Blanchard is a 2011 LC-M graduate and holds degrees from the US Naval Academy and University of Cambridge. He is currently a 1st Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, and is stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he is a platoon commander. He can be reached at

These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the US Marine Corps or Department of Defense.


[1] Emma Green, March 2017, “The Death of Community…” in The Atlantic. Accessed at: