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

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 01:09 authored by Michael Corbett, Helmer, L
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.


Publication title

Geographical Research








Faculty of Education


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia

Place of publication


Rights statement

© 2017 Institute of Australian Geographers

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in education

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