What do you think about Kansans?
September 19, 2008 4:38 AM   Subscribe

What do you think about Kansans? What are the stereotypes?

I teach a public speaking gen ed at a state university in Kansas, and at 9:30 I'm going to lecture about how some in the country perceive them and why that is motivation to learn to communicate well. I want to show them the consequences of not being informed about their opinions as well as not being able to argue for them. In the process of motivating them to represent their opinions well, I hope they begin to question where they got their ideas and why they have them. So, using the outrage/indignation they'll likely have when hearing the stereotypes of Kansans will hopefully drive them to become better informed and more reflective.

Obviously one potential problem is perpetuating a Midwestern distrust of the coasts, so I will be taking care to emphasize how it's only some people. But since I've identified myself as a Democrat, I am aiming to avoid the GOP v. Dems/conservative v. liberal trope.

I have found in the past semesters pushing them to voice their opinions on social issues and making them research and write good arguments leads them to a healthy reflection period they rarely have. The class is definitly focused on audience analysis, thus forcing them to connect their opinions with how others will understand and feel about them. It's a very valuable process I think avoids judgments about the student's opinions, but rather repeatedly asks "why?" and "what does it mean for others?"

So anyway, I'm basically asking fire fuel, but any other constructive comments about the above is welcome. I also like hearing about other people's experiences in public speaking classes, especially considering how many people loath it. My students think discussing politics or social issues almost always leads to fighting, and I think it's terribly important to help with that fear. We need constructive dialogue in this country, and we can't do that if everyone is afraid.
posted by metricfan to Education (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
dumb farmers in straw hats, living in a flyover state, praying to jesus to lower gas prices.
posted by Mach5 at 4:48 AM on September 19, 2008

1. Poor. 2. Ineffective educational institutions. 3. Republican. 4. Rural. 5. Politically dominated by wealthy and therefore corrupt.

Why not ask - who moves out of Kansas? They know who leaves. What does this say about who stays?
posted by ewkpates at 4:57 AM on September 19, 2008

not happy with the news coming out from there after a read yesterday. hell in a handbasket comes to mind.
posted by watercarrier at 4:59 AM on September 19, 2008

To be honest, from an East Coaster:

I hear about Kansas mostly due to the fuckups in your Board of Education. It's not to say that all Kansans are Bible-thumping loonies, but it's kind of frightening that people want to replace real science (or supplement I guess) with thinly veiled religion.

Other than that, honestly Kansas seems pretty cool. I imagine it's a lot slower there, with a lot of agriculture, not much of city life (the bigger Kansas City is in Missouri, right?). A nice place to live if you know the people there, but perhaps wary of outsiders, whether they be Americans from the coasts, or immigrants.

Ruminating for a while on it, I know there are booming industries like wind power that are happening more out there than in Boston, but my first thoughts never hit that.
posted by explosion at 5:03 AM on September 19, 2008

I don't really have any particular image come to mind about the people in Kansas. Except maybe that they're farmers. And wear blue gingham dresses and braids.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:11 AM on September 19, 2008

i think kansas happens to be a brain-drain state. that is, the people who are intelligent enough to get a good education generally leave, due to lack of opportunity. the remainder tend to become more and more insular, and feel resentful of those who have left to better themselves.
posted by camdan at 5:13 AM on September 19, 2008

Relatively few people in Kansas are farmers - nearly three quarters of the state lives in urban / surburban areas. In fact, rural Kansas is pretty much dying and there are fewer people in small towns than there were more than 100 years ago.

And most Kansans aren't poor, but enjoy a better standard of living (in many ways) than their coastal peers - less than $200,000 can buy you a nice house nearly anywhere, the schools are generally good, the commute times very low.

That's the good news. The bad news is that people are what I call "stupid" conservatives. Which is to say, their conservatism seems based less in vaguely understandable things like religion and more on just hoggish-Americanness. For instance, I'm very pro-choice, but I do have some small respect for someone whose religious conviction is that abortion is "bad." I have very little respect for someone whose conviction that abortion is "bad" is based on the fact that it's "icky" and that it would be embarrassing - so you shouldn't be able to get one.

Similarly, I have no respect for racism, but I have a lot less respect for someone who claims not to have a problem with "ethnic" people (a phrase I heard endless in Kansas), but doesn't want them living next door because the neighbors are racist and will move and so property values go down than for someone who at least admits to just plain being racist.

It's a close-minded place where citizens try to disguise their fundamental narrowness rather than trying to change it. I was super happy when I left, have never looked back and can't think of a single reason ever to pass through the state again.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:23 AM on September 19, 2008

The black and white bits of The Wizard of Oz.
posted by rongorongo at 5:25 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Narrow minded Bible thumping right wingers with very little intellectual curiosity.

Having lived all of my life on the east coast, I've only ever known one Kansan who wasn't this way, but all of the others I've known have fit the mold perfectly.
posted by imjustsaying at 5:41 AM on September 19, 2008

I appreciate the comments, and keep them coming!

I agree with Dee that the quality of living is pretty good out here. We may be poor by coastal standards, but it is way cheaper to live here. I have a two bedroom basement apartment with a fenced in backyard that allows big dogs, all for 450/month. We also have some of the cheapest gas in the country, like Missouri.

I just moved here last year from Missouri, my hometown is St Louis. It was a bit of a culture shock, but I got used to rural Midwest in undergrad. It really is beautiful here, the flint hills especially. And there is a rich anti-slavery history, like the inspiration for the KU mascot. Kansas also, weirdly enough, has very lax abortion laws and a Democrat governor. On the whole, an interesting place to say the least. Of course, I'm totally voting absentee, at least MO has a chance of going for Obama.

I would also mention the divide between eastern and western Kansas. Western Kansas, I just learned, strongly affiliates with Colorado, and tends to resent eastern Kansans. Western KS is very rural, a lot of cattle ranches and stuff. Eastern Kansas is where all the major cities are: Kansas City, KS, Topeka, Wichita, Lawrence, etc. And yes, KCMO is far bigger than KCK and has all the sports teams and such. KCK is more a subburb of KCMO it seems. I'd probably say Lawrence has the most culture in the state.

But stereotypes are partly based in fact, and of course the first/only tornado I've been through was here.

Thanks for the answers, I hope I get more.
posted by metricfan at 5:46 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I moved to Kansas a few years ago:

I think Kansas is vastly understood simply because most people don't care about it. Check out the kansas.gov family of sites, who would've expected them to be so well produced and phenomenally useful? Everything from insurance info to business law to voter registration is covered in excellent detail.

Sure there aren't any huge cities to draw enormous arts/culture performances but KU and K State have brought some amazing performers not only to play for their students but for the community as a whole. Hell, Jenny Lewis performed in Lawrence (not Topeka, not Kansas City) last night at the opening of her new tour.

Yeah we've got some problems with social conservatives, but a few years ago a speaker from Project Steve came through and made some great points I hadn't considered. In the Eastern part of the state (suburb of KC) and in the suburbs of Topeka and Wichita there was a powerful demand to move to the right on the evolution/creationism debate. These were classically social conservative people. However in the Western part of the state where the population was truly rural and very conservative there was a strong demand NOT to teach creationism in schools. Why? Because they didn't want anyone teaching their children about God except themselves. Teach whatever science is most accepted in science class, and they'd teach their children religion. There simply weren't enough people with this mentality to overrule a vote by the suburban social conservatives.

That's just one example of how much of a land of contradictions it is. People like to think that it's a state of personal rights. You can carry a concealed gun, and open carry in some areas, but you can't buy anything stronger than 3.2% beer in grocery stores and you can't buy booze before noon on Sundays.

It's a total red state, but the turn out for the Democratic primary was so huge that one location was moved from a barn to a much larger barn. Other places were closed by the fire marshals, not out of politics but because too many people were cramming into facilities that could not accommodate them.

Yeah and those farmers in Western Kansas/Eastern Colorado are not doing well. You can still pick up free land in many counties if you agree to build a house or business on it. But have you ever listened to High Plains Public Radio? Awesome network of stations.
posted by Science! at 5:46 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I got pulled over and put in the pokey for eight hours after driving 70 in a 70 in central Kansas. I had a tan and two weeks' beard. So my personal view (beyond, "Fuck kansas.") is very whitebread, insular, and under-the-counter racist.

And the guys in the county jail, well: there were two, maybe more town drunks. One unrepentant wife-beater. One i-didn't-do-it,not-like-my-previous-convictions wife beater. A *lot* of meth-mouth. And one really nice black guy from Jersey who played a mean game of chess and was the only one in there that could hold a more than a two-sentence conversation, who was picked up with a dimebag and was serving a couple months for it.
posted by notsnot at 5:50 AM on September 19, 2008

When I visited Kansas a few years ago, the stereotype I brought with me was of innocent, wide-eyed, white men with no clue of what was going on outside the US (I'm Irish). Unfortunately it was more or less confirmed.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:57 AM on September 19, 2008

Greensburg, Kansas; gets leveled by an F-5 tornado. Kansas turns it into the biggest economic opportunity to ever happen. That is one example of Kansas.

Heaven knows why a Kansas might think L.A., NOLA, or N.Y.C. to be falling short of potential.

Wichita Kansas, lowest gas prices in the nation. Aircraft, grains, oil, natural gas, rivers, seas of gold (that would be wheat [the stuff that makes bread]), cattle (steak, hamburger). Hard men, attractive and fit women. Folks that want to keep their hard earned money. Antique shops, where you can buy an American made product in lieu of an imported POS product. Good schools, KU, FU, KSU, .... Toto, and girls that look like Dorothy. Real V-8s from the 60's. A Profound lack of racism, sweat does seem to bind man together as a team. Affordable housing. Yards. Seasons. Bike paths. Old Testament faith, New Testament redemption.

Last but not least, my Grandmother; a WAV and patriot.
posted by buzzman at 5:58 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

off the top of my head? (I'm not American so please disregard):

strong agriculture, polite people, religious people, not a lot of Jews there, John Brown/Pottawatomie Massacre, Eisenhower, Dodge City, Gunsmoke, Bob Doie, Thomas Frank's book.

hope that helps.
posted by matteo at 6:01 AM on September 19, 2008

Bob Dole obviously
posted by matteo at 6:02 AM on September 19, 2008

(oh, yeah, and now that I've read the thread -- I hadn't, not to get influenced by it -- I have to add Wizard of Oz, too)
posted by matteo at 6:08 AM on September 19, 2008

Militantly anti-abortion, right-wing, religious, rural. (I grew up in Colorado and we generally thought of Kansas as the long, boring, flat part you had to drive through to get to the eastern US. The scenery is so monotonous.)
posted by jrichards at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2008

European here, so my knowledge of Kansas is very limited.

That said, my stereotype of Kansans would be: predominately white, heavily Christian, anti-abortion, conservative, creationist, farmers.

also, Superman.
posted by spockette at 6:38 AM on September 19, 2008

I've lived in both west and east Kansas (and only left a couple of years ago) and taught at a State U, so from both perspectives I think you might want to take a different approach. Try asking them what stereotypes they've heard or reactions they've got elsewhere when saying where they are from. They will have plenty to say. If the comments all come from you, I could see this backfiring in a big way -- a lot of them may feel you are being condescending.

If you really want to use comments as a springboard to get them started talking, they should be as articulate and convincing as what you are hoping to elicit from them. (I'm thinking of Thomas Frank, less the straight-up politics than when he's talking about popular perceptions of Kansas, both good and bad. Also, he's from the state -- he grew up in Mission Hills.) Using comments from a bunch of people casually posting online will give you a lot of material that is easy to dismiss as not worthy of response -- why should they have to answer to insulting stereotypes? "You have to be articulate to convince people you aren't the backwards hayseed they automatically assume you are" is not a convincing argument. In fact, I've known more than a few Kansans who deliberately hayseed it up around such people just because, you know, if you can't persuade someone that you're not stupid, you may as well have some fun at their expense.

Obviously one potential problem is perpetuating a Midwestern distrust of the coasts, so I will be taking care to emphasize how it's only some people.

Yes, but what they'll remember is the sting. I feel a little like Lisa Simpson here, answering a question you didn't ask, but I honestly think if you take the "fire fuel" approach you'll inflame them more than convince them of the importance of constructive argument.
posted by melissa may at 6:49 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a stereotype in mind, but it is not a stereotype of Kansans as such -- it's the one I have of "rural small town Americana." Which is: insular, conservative, not too knowledgeable about what's happening outside the state line and also not interested in findnig out what's happening, fundamental in their religious outlook -- but also, more likely than their city brethren to help people on an individual basis.

I've only been in Kansas once -- drove through on my way across country. I ran into both fire-and-brimstone signs posted on the edges of farmers' fields if they bordered the highway, and a group of waitresses in a chicken restaurant in the middle of nowhere who overheard my panicked collect call to a friend wailing that "I'm lost and I'm sick of driving and I want my mommy" and all came over to give me a pep talk and draw me a map to Wichita.

The thing is, I also ran into people like that in Missouri, in the South, and in my small hometown in Connecticut. So I think this is more a small-town stereotype than a Kansas-specific stereotype.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2008

Went to a wedding in Kansas a few years ago. I came away from it with the impression that like the rest of the midwest it is misunderstood. I live in the midwest now. I am still digesting. But what I have noticed from my life on the coasts is this, not saying much is appreciated more in the midwest. There are accepted and acceptable topics for chit chat but general conversation is more pithy and non-commital.

The main thing I remember about Kansas -- it had awesome biscuits. But I am still looking for the platonic ideal of chicken fried steak.
posted by jadepearl at 7:12 AM on September 19, 2008

People famously known for voting against their interests to tow the GOP line. Anti-skeptic, anti-secular, rabid conservatism, anti-enlightenment. Another depressing red state that can only exist economically through the subsidies of the federal government.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:29 AM on September 19, 2008

You know, I took public speaking at KSU, and like 80% of the people in my class were from Johnson County (which, one hopes you realize by now, is the affluent county on the Kansas side of KC).

Point being, quite a lot of the people at KSU are from a top 30 population metro area. Not as big as St. Louis, admittedly, but not a podunk place. That is, mostly these are not the hicks you seem to believe they are, just because they happened to go to an Ag school. Also, all these silly sterotypes you think you're introducing to them? They already think that about western Kansans.

Now, you'll probably see some rural types in your class too. But imagining that they don't know what people think of them? Makes me wonder who has the sterotypes.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:47 AM on September 19, 2008

I know absolutely nothing about Kansas other than the basic premise of What's the Matter with Kansas - they don't do what is in their best interest.

Although the same could be said for myriad Americans.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:04 AM on September 19, 2008

My (large) extended family is from Kansas, though I grew up in the South. Many of my relatives went to either KU or K-State. They are almost all intelligent, funny, and among the kindest people I've met. (And a lot of them are really pretty; not sure that's relevant, but I feel compelled to mention it.)

They're a bit more wide-eyed, a bit less cosmopolitan than what I'm used to, but they're not hicks and they don't dress 10 years behind whatever the city kids are wearing. More cowboy hats and more country music and more Wal-Mart, but not freakishly so. (I was at a cousin's wedding a few years ago and the DJ started playing "Redneck Woman," and my cousins were shocked that I'd never heard it.) There are doctors and lawyers and published authors in addition to a couple of teen moms.

Some of them are quite conservative. Some of them are hardcore Catholic and truly believe that the earth was created in seven days. The cousin nearest my age had a job with, I think, the Kansas Abstinence Education Program - if not that specific organization then something very similar. Nearly all of my cousins are married with children, some with four or five.

But some of my relatives are quite liberal. Before my small-town grandmother died, she changed her voter registration from Democratic to Republican so she could vote for someone she liked in a primary. Someone asked her, "But what if you die a Republican?" She replied, "Better one of them die than one of us." She also used to heavily hint to my mother that, you know, if I wanted to bring a girlfriend to a family reunion one day, that was all right with her. I think she really, really wanted a gay grandbaby.

Get all my relatives together with a few liters of whiskey and there will be debates, sure, but they don't shove their opinions down your throat. They're not perfect and some of them might occasionally say some stuff that I think is stupid, but they're not stupid, and on the whole they're lovely people.

I can't say the same thing for the random Westboro jerks holding the GOD HATES FAGS signs that I've seen driving from the Holiday Inn to an aunt's house.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:06 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lifetime Kansan here. I think one of the fascinating things about my state is the history of radicalism that is just under the surface. At the turn of the last century, Southeastern Kansas was one of the world hotbeds of socialism. Before that we perfected populism. Before that, we were a hotbed of abolitionism.

My family came here from Russia in the 1870's as hardcore Mennonites. I personally am an atheist and have strong sympathies for radical left politics, but see many around me who lean radical to the religious / right wing direction. I perceive Kansans (including myself) to be passionate and willing to hold more extreme positions (for good or bad) than perhaps other "peoples".

I am involved with a statewide coalition of a progressive non-profits. There are a lot of good people fighting for justice and doing damn good work. I have a sense that our biggest ideological enemies are not the bible-thumpers, but the Chamber of Commerce and over zealous developers. Right now in Kansas the "free market all costs" is the dominant political position and it leads to horrible public policy (our state minimum wage is $2.65 per hour - the lowest in the nation)

In a way the bible-thumpers and creationists are a blessing in disguise for Kansas progressives, because it causes a major rift inside the Kansas Republican Party, which is strongly divided between the conservatives and moderates. That presents some real opportunities for Kansas Democrats and other progressives to build some interesting coalitions.

I think overall Kansans are not highly educated, but also not rampantly ignorant either. We have very few toothless yahoos like some of neighboring bordering states. (I'm talking to you Arkansas, with your Wal-Mart's and dry counties.. Good hiking though!)

I grew up in a small town and the only bad part was the relative lack of culture. Quality of living is fantastic. Clean air, short commutes, big yards, cheap living, good schools. I have moved to Lawrence (college town) and feel surrounded now by interesting and culturally stimulating things all around me. I have lived for short periods of time in big east coast cities, and I never could feel at home with how rushed everything is. I like the pace of the Kansas. I love the drive through the Flint hills between NE Kansas and Emporia.

I feel great about raising a family here. Overall, I really love my home state.

On preview - Sorry this doesn't answer the OP's question at all. I just felt compelled to defend Kansas.
posted by jlowen at 8:12 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't have direct experirence with the people, but I can say something about the landscape: BORING. From that I extrapolate that people who stay there aren't very bright or diverse. The bright and interesting people must escape to bigger cities. I base this extrapolation on my direct knowledge of (eastern) Montana. I imagine Kansas as having the same culture as North Dakota; either dullards who couldn't make it in a city, or fiercely attached to the land they grew up on.

I hope this isn't harsh; there are plenty of negative stereotypes about where I come from (Wisconsin).
posted by desjardins at 8:13 AM on September 19, 2008

I should also mention that western Kansas is much different than central and eastern Kansas. As I said, I grew up in a very small central Kansas town and even I have been creeped out by some small towns in Western Kansas..

Case in point: Once while on a business trip my rental car broke down along I-70 and I was towed into the closest town to stay at the only hotel while the rental car company sent me a new car. The next morning I walked across the street to a greasy spoon and was a little creeped out when my waitress (Horn-rimmed glasses, probably named Flo) said "You must be that guy whose car broke down last night" It was a surreal and very twilight zone moment.
posted by jlowen at 8:22 AM on September 19, 2008

Some of them are hardcore Catholic and truly believe that the earth was created in seven days.

This statement seems at odds with itself, in my experience. Perhaps some sort of hybrid religiousity?
posted by speedo at 8:24 AM on September 19, 2008

I have to say that going to KC changed a lot of my pre-conceived notions about Kansas. I was there on business and I had a chance to drive around the Overland Park area. I was blown away by how clean, new, relatively wealthy, and just plain nice the area was. It reminded me a lot of the San Diego suburbs I grew up in.

BTW, when can we do a thread on midwesterner's stereotypes of the coastal elites? That ought to be at least as entertaining! ;-)
posted by jluce50 at 8:44 AM on September 19, 2008

Speaking as someone who has lived in both coasts and currently lives in Ohio:
I think overly judgmental people who do not live in the Midwest will have the same point of view towards Kansas as they do towards the rest of us. Religious, intolerant, frumpy, simple, small-town, we don't "get it."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:54 AM on September 19, 2008

one potential problem is perpetuating a Midwestern distrust of the coasts, so I will be taking care to emphasize how it's only some people

Emphasize that it's not the coasts - the religious interference with science in Kansas schools, for example, has been so shocking as to make headlines around the world! Unless Kansas also manages positive headlines some other way that are so amazing as to grab the attention of the world (I can't think of any offhand), the lasting perception worldwide of Kansas, is... not flattering.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2008

Kansas... grew up in the south US, lived in Arizona and California and New Mexico (and the south). Kansas was the most racist place ever. Oh they're nice, especially if you're white. But they're racist fucks. (and I'm white). Only place ever that some redneck shouted out in the mall that my hat was ugly. Fred Phelps... I made friends with the fags and went to the gay bar to dance. Hellhole. (sorry you good Kansians). Never go there. Don't live there. They're bastards. I've traveled a lot, only Kansas sticks in my mind as OMG bastards.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2008

Also re my comment about "perpetuating a Midwestern distrust of the coasts" when some of the issue are global, it might mend the fence with the coasts a little (or at least reduce the acceleration of distrust) if you note their perception that they feel America is globally tarred when Kansas makes the news globally for the wrong reasons - sort of as if Kansas was letting down the team, but emphasis being that there is a team, and they want Kansas to be hitting home runs just as much Kansas wants to. There might be a lot of disagreement on a lot of issues, but the coasts are on Kansas' side.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:29 AM on September 19, 2008

I'm going to lecture about how some in the country perceive them and why that is motivation to learn to communicate well

I don't really see that turning out the way you think it would, personally. I go to a state school on the east coast, and I imagine if a professor said "everybody thinks XYZ about you" it would make the class defensive rather than motivated.

Just my two cents.

Otherwise, I have the standard stereotypes about the rural midwest, never having been there. Nice people, but as a whole insular, conservative, homogeneous, etc.
posted by lullaby at 11:22 AM on September 19, 2008

Wow. I live in KCMO, and have toyed with the idea of asking this for a while. Thanks for asking this. But wow.
posted by piedmont at 11:43 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

No real negative stereotypes but my dad knew a guy who moved from Kansas to Washington and had no sense of perspective--that is, he couldn't tell Mount Rainier was a good hour or so, by car, from where he was. "I think I'll walk to the mountain on my lunch break!" I guess all that flatness (and I do assume Kansas is flat, though I've never been there) can phunk with one's ability to judge distance when it comes to big crazy things poking up from the horizon.

And I do have to agree with lullaby that this tactic might backfire; I'd be kind of offended by it (especially if I was from out-of-state...I'd feel like you were implying no one but the local yokels who couldn't escape to anywhere better would want to go to this school.)
posted by Neofelis at 1:49 PM on September 19, 2008

People I met in Kansas were, and of course I'm generalizing, polite, courteous, leaned towards the conservative (in the small c sense), somewhat reserved and cognizant of tradition.
They had no fear of radical change, if it presented a clear advantage. They had no interest in change for the sake of change.
Most I met were not well-traveled, having only been to perhaps the neighboring states or one major city(Chicago being the usual).
They were fierce believers in local independence, and resented the state or Federal govt. telling them what to do.
They were mostly white, but welcoming of other so long as those others "learned to get along"

Most Kansans I've met didn't really care what the rest of the country thought about them.
They knew the stereotypes and knew the stereotypes were wrong.

In my experience, and I say this having attended a large Kansas state school, telling Kansans that out-of-staters think they're a bunch of hicks is _not_ the way to start a dialogue.
Maybe I'm wrong, and you've found a very inoffensive way to say that, somehow I doubt it.
posted by madajb at 2:40 PM on September 19, 2008

Now we know another thing about Kansas: No interest in managing their public image.
posted by ewkpates at 6:03 AM on September 22, 2008

Growing up in San Diego I had always heard about "coastal elitism" but it didn't mean much to me. I was aware of the negative stereotypes of the midwest/south but I didn't think much of it since we had the same issues, albeit in different proportions. I also probably bought into some level of elitism without realizing it.

Then three years ago I moved to Oklahoma and my eyes were really opened. Of course I saw many things that confirmed all the worst stereotypes but I also saw many more things that really surprised me. People here are well aware of how they are viewed by the those on the coasts. Mostly they just shrug those people off as being as out of touch as they accuse midwesterners of being. Having lived in both places, I find myself shocked at the kinds of bias otherwise intelligent people allow themselves to hold onto.

IMO, many of the comments in this thread say FAR more about the commenter than they do about Kansas.
posted by jluce50 at 12:14 PM on September 25, 2008

jluce50 has put a finger on one of the central problems: confirming "all the worst stereotypes" while simultaneously suggesting that our concerns about them say more about us than about Kansas.

Everything you think is true, but shame on you for thinking it?
posted by ewkpates at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2008

I'm late to this, so I hope your talk went well. What school (this is important, especially in Kansas) do you teach at*? Was it Fort Hays State or KU? Because there's a big difference in the student population of those schools.

As for the rest, Jayhawks aren't really that important, but the fact that the Civil War essentially started in Lawrence is, especially since you can still go to Mass. St. and see some of the buildings that made it through Quantrill's Raid. What's the Matter With Kansas is a great book about conservatism and how it swept America, but Frank's best writing (and editing) was with The Baffler, one of the best zines/mags of the 80s/90s. Kansas had the nation's largest circulation socialist newspaper, back when socialism was in vogue. Most Kansas farmers had to sell their farm or sell out to Monsanto/Sohigro in the 80s. There are no "family" farms there anymore. Kansas was "the west" in the late 1800s and most people who turned around and went back east on the Oregon Trail and others decided to do it in Kansas (or after traveling in the western half). Laura Ingalls Wilder has a great bit about her mother going insane in Kansas (that my wife likes to talk about) because they could travel for days and still see the same tree in the distance. Most Kansans would rather you go jump in a lake than hear about what you think of Kansas. You learn, in Kansas, not to care about what most people think of you because human nature is such that when faced with wide open spaces, you try to kill anyone who may usurp your little bit of it.

Also, this thread is as full of idiots as any diner I've ever been to in the midwest, there just seems to be a lot more staring in diners. And Pizza Huts (originated in Kansas, by the way, so if you hate the state for anything, hate them for that).

If you want to learn more about Kansas, go through some of my posts and comments, or look up amyms' stuff on the state or reread melissa may's comment (I'm pretty sure I'm one of those Kansans she warned you about) or just look at the tag "Kansas." I'm not a typical Kansan**, but I swear I've met hundreds of people in Portland, OR, who would fit the mold of the typical Kansan better than most natives.

Last, it seems as if all I've done on MeFi for the last month is yell about someone else's comment. I'm sorry if you feel this is more of the same, but, honestly, I'm not sure what you would expect from someone that actually lived in the state that you asked (in a condescending manner) about. Good luck on the teaching gig, though. I really and truly mean that. I taught college classes in a small state school in Kansas and it's tough.

*That was on purpose and if you don't get the joke, you won't get the rest of what I'm saying. Actually, as someone who spent a lot of their life in the state, here's a favorite anecdote: One night while on tour with a band (from KS--Lawrence, specifically; and it doesn't matter where this took place because it happend everywhere from Boston to San Luis Obispo) the door man looked at our IDs and asked, "Hey, where's Toto?" to which I replied, "Oh, man, a tornado hit us on the way out of town so we had to eat the thing. It was a stupid fucking dog anyway. Quite tasty." Doorman (or whatever the person was doing for a living) just stared. Not angry, just didn't know what to say. That's Kansas and most of the midwest, actually. I've got friends who grew up in St. Louis and could relate the stereotypes of that place, but stereotypes are stupid and not based in fact, just lazy and myopic assumptions.

**I'm pretty sure I'm not a typical American, either. However, after spending a weekend with my father-in-law and an old buddy of his, both Kansans--one who lived in the East Village in the 60s and the other who became the epitome of a west coast hippy in the 60s--I'm not really sure there is a typical Kansan.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:34 PM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

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