Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Rural Schooling in Mobile Modernity: Returning to the Places I've Been

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Rural Schooling in Mobile Modernity: Returning to the Places I've Been

Article excerpt

In my book Learning to Leave: The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community (Corbett, 2007) I make the claim that there is a deep and established connection between formal education and mobility out of rural areas. The book reports on a study undertaken in a coastal community in Atlantic Canada focusing on the educational and life experiences of those who persisted and those who left the community during the economic and social changes from the late 1950s to the late 1990s. The book argues that place matters in a multitude of ways despite persistent attempts to erase and neutralize its influence in educational thought, policy, pedagogical practice and curriculum. Because I want to resist the abstract academic conventions also resisted by my informants, and because I want to argue that place should occupy a more central place in the way we think about and deliver education, this article situates my own analysis of what I think the book means in the actual places that grounded its conception.

Learning to Leave: A Brief Introduction

Learning to Leave: The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community (Corbett, 2007) presents the results of a multi-method research project I conducted between 1998 and 2000 in southwestern Nova Scotia in coastal fishing villages. The central problem the book tackles is the troubled and complex relationship between rural education and the sustainability of rural communities. The data upon which the analysis is founded include a two year period of field work, fifty in-depth interviews and an extensive quantitative socio-spatial analysis of educational trajectories and work histories of more than 750 people representing virtually everyone who grew up in one Canadian coastal community from the time of elementary school consolidation in 1956 to the late 1990s. The analysis looks at the complex relationship between the history of the fishery in the community and the way school was understood and experienced by parents, educators and students.

In the book I argue four things. First, formal education has been and continues to be what Anthony Giddens (1990) calls a key institution of "disembedding," loosening ties to particular locales and promoting out-migration from rural places. I argue that this process generates ambivalence about the value and outcomes of formal education within rural communities, and crucially, that formal education is designed for those who leave. Throughout the 36-year study period this analysis explores, I found a stable population of approximately 60% of residents who remained within 50 kilometers of where they were born. Those who remained within the 50 kilometer circle tended to have less formal education compared to those living "outside" the circle.

Second, this ambivalence is experienced in different ways by differently positioned social actors in the rural community (in terms of social class and gender particularly), and these differently positioned individuals come to develop specific socio-spatial identities connected to their access to resources and position in the social structure of the community. These place-specific identity constructions represent a complex set of resistances and accommodations.

Third, the particular social class structure and gendered labor market of a resource-based coastal community creates a variety of informal "education systems" that work to integrate young men into resource industry employment and into cultural and family traditions and practices. The result is that the particular features of the local labor market, coupled with local cultural codes, compete directly and often successfully with the dubious promise of schooling. For women, this restricted labor market creates the conditions for more successful careers in formal education as well as for mass outmigration. As a consequence, women were approximately three times more likely to leave their home villages and schooling was largely equated with femininity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.