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Vanishing Schools, Threatened Communities: The Contested Schoolhouse in Maritime Canada, 1850 -2010

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... Situated on a hill overlooking the town, the school had a long history and proud tradition that little more than a decade previously included a high school, competitive sports teams, and a culture of academic achievement. The school was, from its beginnings as an "academy," a symbol of the importance of education in the community (Bennett, 2011). The community itself was a vibrant service center for the surrounding rural, coastal, and agricultural region that sent generations of students to secondary education. ...
... Since the late 1980s, each of these provinces has confronted the full force of dramatic social changes affecting teaching and has faced growing public demands for teacher accountability, for not only the safety and protection of children and youth but also for improved student performance results. Throughout the one-room schoolhouse era from the 1820s until the 1950s, teachers in Canadian schools prized their autonomy and settled for an occupation with modest professional status and relatively meagre salaries (Bennett, 2011). Teacher advocacy for better salaries and working conditions achieved a real breakthrough in 1944 with the passage of the Ontario Teaching Profession Act, which established compulsory federation membership and required the paying of dues to teacher organizations (Gidney, 1999, 21-22). ...
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Why should teacher candidates examine of the history of education? In what way is the educational past relevant to the problems and issues they will face as they enter twenty-first century classrooms? Do they not have urgent, present educational dilemmas that need to be addressed through understanding of present research, study and reflection? Historian and philosopher R.G. Collingwood developed a conception of history and an epistemological approach that I propose are helpful in answering questions about the relevancy of teacher candidates studying the educational past. He argues that we cannot see clearly into our present situation, with all its problems and complexities, and work towards better solutions, unless we understand the past. But Collingwood’s response to the relevancy question does rely upon a particular conception of history. He argued that the past is not dead and gone, but rather that remnants of it are still alive in our present because ideas circulating in the past (ideas about education, for example) interpenetrate our present ideas – that past notions are the precursors or ‘determining conditions’2 of our present ideas. In the following discussion, I will take a Collingwoodian approach to addressing questions about the role that history of education should play in Canadian pre-service teacher education and to the discussion of where we have been, where we are now, and where we could/should go in the future. I will first outline Collingwood’s conception and methodology of history in more detail as these ideas are foundational to my arguments as to why history of education should play a role in Canadian pre-service teacher education. Next, I will use a Collingwoodian point of view to outline where we have been with respect to the history of education in teacher education and where I think we are now. Finally, I will explain why I think a Collingwoodian approach could underpin where we are going in the future education of teachers in the history of education, including how his approach can help teacher candidates (1) see more clearly into their present situation and (2) develop critical and reflective ‘habits of mind’.
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The concept of community has been central to the discourse of rural education for generations. At the same time, community has been, and continues to be, a deeply problematic concept. This paper will interrogate the idea of community and look at the way it has been used historically in rural education. In fact, rurality and community are sometimes conflated as the rural imagery and place attachment is often held up as an example of the kind of solidarity that once existed before the advent of modernity and ubiquitous strangerhood described in the writings of many contemporary social theorists. Community is, in rural education discourse, a well-worn trope that connects pedagogical, curricular and political arguments to Deweyan pragmatism and the idea that a proper education begins with experience. What has followed is generations of rural education in defense of community, in resistance to urban-generated standardization, and support for local forms of educational practice which connect to and hopefully enrich local lifeways. I argue that this rather simplistic place-based thinking tends to lend only partial support to cultural, social and economic development in rural areas for many reasons, but particularly because it is typically somewhat ignorant of wider global connections and contemporary theorizations of rural social space. I will argue that effective rural educational leadership needs to problematize the idea of community and develop it in ways that avoid playing into nostalgic and retrogressive notions of the rural. This argument is based on a conception of place that keeps in focus multiple and complex understandings of emerging postproductivist globalized rural spaces.
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