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Contested geographies: competing constructions of community and efficiency in small school debates


Corbett, M and Helmer, L, Contested geographies: competing constructions of community and efficiency in small school debates, Geographical Research, 55, (1) pp. 47-57. ISSN 1745-5871 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2017 Institute of Australian Geographers

DOI: doi:10.1111/1745-5871.12209


The history of rural education in North America can be understood as a history of school closure, amalgamation, and consolidation of schools. Typically, historical and geographical arguments have converged in debates about whether or not to close small community schools, which are positioned as the victims of the march of time and reconfiguration of space. In this paper, we analyse the archetypical positioning of rural parents in the ‘school wars’ as emotional and irrational participants who want to turn back time and who fail or refuse to understand and accept what is alleged to be the inevitable transformation of rural space. We then analyse the political strategy and tactics engaged in by school governance officials and community agents in these struggles over the meaning and future of rural space. We argue that the confrontational politics that ensues do not support strong rural development conversations and that the unilateral search for what we call ‘trump cards’ to settle arguments with data and rational or emotional ‘appeals’ has led to ongoing tension in rural communities.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:rural education, policy, politics, community
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Education systems
Research Field:Continuing and community education
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in education
UTAS Author:Corbett, M (Professor Michael Corbett)
ID Code:113891
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2017-01-25
Last Modified:2018-05-29

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