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Small schools in a big world: Thinking about a wicked problem


Corbett, M and Tinkham, J, Small schools in a big world: Thinking about a wicked problem, Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 60, (4) pp. 691-707. ISSN 0002-4805 (2014) [Refereed Article]

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2014 The Governors of the University of Alberta

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The position of small rural schools is precarious in much of rural Canada today. What is to be done about small schools in rural communities which are often experiencing population decline and aging, economic restructuring, and the loss of employment and services? We argue this issue is a classic "wicked" policy problem. Small schools activists have a worldview that is focused on maintaining infrastructure and even community survival, while school boards are mandated to focus on the efficient provision of educational services across wider geographies. Is it even possible to mitigate the predictable conflict and zero-sum games that arise with the decision to close small schools? That is the subject of this paper, which draws on poststructural and actor network theory. We suggest that wicked problems cannot be addressed satisfactorily through formulas and data-driven technical-rational processes. They can only be addressed through flexible, dialogical policy spaces that allow people who have radically different worldviews to create dynamic, bridging conversations. Fundamentally, we argue that what is required are new spaces and modes of governance that are sufficiently networked, open, and flexible to manage the complexity and the mutability of genuinely participatory democracy.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:rural education, small schools, deliberative democracy, community, activism
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Education systems
Research Field:Education systems not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in education
UTAS Author:Corbett, M (Professor Michael Corbett)
ID Code:105162
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2015-12-11
Last Modified:2017-11-20
Downloads:2 View Download Statistics

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