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Learning to leave : the irony of schooling in a coastal community Corbett, Michael John 2000

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LEARNING TO L E A V E : THE IRONY OF SCHOOLING IN A COASTAL C O M M U N I T Y by MICHAEL J O H N COKBKTT B.A, (hons.), Acadia Univcisity, 1981 B.Ed., Acadia University, 1983 M.A., Acadia University, 1990 M.Ed., Mount Saint Vincent University, 1994 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TOE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE F A C U L T Y OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Educational Studies) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A November 2000 © Michael John Corbett, 2000 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of £D TtOiJVrV The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date / O May. 3LOOO> DE-6 (2/88) Abstract The connection between education and migration from rural areas is one that has been made since Western democracies began keeping statistics. While there has been considerable work done on the migration experiences of rural Canadians, there has been little research done on how the educational experience of rural people actually figures in migration decisions and experience. Education is typically understood as a modernising and a disembedding force facilitating the transition of societies and individuals from rural to urban communities, but there is as yet, little evidence about how this process is understood and enacted by the people who experience the process. The study combines quantitaitve and qualitative methods to explore the both the broad contours and lived experience of the problem of learning and leaving in an Atlantic Canadian coastal community. The purpose of this work is to investigate the contours of the question: how do some young people in coastal communities come to learn, in the course of their schooling, that the places in which they have been raised are best abandoned and forgotten. In other words, how do many rural youth learn to leave? Conversely, the study also investigates the dynamics of the decision to stay on in the community and make a life there, foregoing, if not resisting formal education. The study is an investigation of educational and work history data from more than 750 individuals who left grade 6 in an elementary school serving nine fishing villages on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia between 1957 and 1992. The study includes an analysis of out-migration patterns historically from the early 1960s until the late 1990s, as well as a series of ethnographic educational and work history interviews drawn from samples of educators, "stayers" and "leavers." ii Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables vi List of Figures viii Acknowledgements ix Chapter 1 Introduction 1.1 The problem 1 1.2 Migration and regional dependency 7 1.3 The migration imperative in rural education 12 1.4 Challenges to the migration imperative in rural schooling 16 1.5 Why would young people stay? 22 1.6 Schooling and Migration in Atlantic Canada 27 1.7 Structure of the study 31 Chapter 2 A protracted struggle: An analysis of rural resistance and normalization in Canadian educational history 32 2.1 Normalisation 33 2.2 Resistance in historical analysis of Canadian rural schools 35 2.3 Rurality in resistance 37 2.4 Rurality as resistance 2.4.1 Canada West/Ontario:The establishment of public schooling 40 2.4.2 British Columbia: Agricultural education and "the rural problem" in the early decades of the 20th century 44 2.4.3 Quebec and co-integration and Newfoundland and the fishing economy: Societies in transition, 1930-1970 48 2.5. Conclusion 54 Chapter 3 Reconceptualising resistance: Habitus, discourse and place 3.1 Resistance theory in the sociology of education 57 3.2 Bourdieu's logic of practice 60 3.3 Poststructural resistance theory 67 3.4 Resistance and place 72 3.5 The organised rural community as a resistant site 78 3.6 Conclusion 85 iii Chapter 4 Study area and methodological concerns 4.1 Digby Neck 88 4.2 Schooling and the Atlantic Coastal Community 100 4.3 Methodology 103 4.3.1 Participant observation 104 4.3.2 The Basic Data Bank and the Community, Schooling and Migration Survey 107 4.3.3 Ethnographic interviews 109 4.4 Integrated validity 113 4.5 Max Van Manen's Researching Lived Experience 116 Chapter 5 Who stays, who goes, and where: Education and migration on Digby Neck 1963-1998 5.1 Education and migration: Demographics 120 5.2.1 The nature of the Digby Neck economy 120 5.2.2 Educational levels on Digby Neck 126 5.2.3 Mobility on Digby Neck 129 5.2.4 The education-mobility connection 133 5.2 Summary 140 Chapter 6 There was lots of work: The classes of 1963-1974 146 6.1 Family and work: Learning to stay 148 6.2 The hand on the shoulder: socialisation for leaving 156 6.3 Education and mobility: Learning to leave in the 1960s and early 1970s 161 6.4 Multiple practical skills: The construction of intelligence and identity in a coastal community 169 6.5 They wanted me to go to school: Schooling, identity and family 173 6.6 Homesickness, security and survival 181 6.7 I didn't want to end up 186 6.8 Shovels around the root: The contemporary community and the crisis in the fishery 192 6.9 Conclusion 195 Chapter 7 The boom years: The classes of 1975-1986 : 203 7.1 Gender, work and schooling on Digby Neck, 1975-1986 205 7.2 Defining security: Education, identity and work 217 7.3 What's that going to get you?: The educational tunnel 227 7.4 Family/class 233 7.5 The mobile family 239 7.6 The privilege of becoming a stranger 243 7.7 Conclusion 247 iv Chapter 8 Surviving the crisis: the classes of 1987-1998 254 8.1 There's nothing for the younger ones ... is there? 254 8.2 Quitting in the 1990s: Finding something to do when there's nothing to do... 264 8.3 The new reserve army of labour 270 8.4 Getting out: Class, gender and education 274 8.5 Survival and family 282 8.6 Back to the future: Surviving in the new economy 285 8.7 Resistance 289 8.8 Conclusion: The mobile discourse of schooling 300 Chapter9 Conclusion 9.1 Resistant rural spaces 306 9.2 Mobility and ambivalence 312 9.3 Resistances 321 9.4 So what? 327 References 333 Appendices 353 Appendix A Community, Schooling and Migration: Stayers' Interview Schedule and Consent Form 353 Appendix B Community, Schooling and Migration: Leavers' Interview Schedule 356 Appendix C Educators' Interview Schedule 359 Appendix D Community, Schooling and Migration Survey 361 v List of tables Table 1 Pre-1951 census counts for Digby Neck communities 93 Table 2 Population of Digby Neck communities - 1951-1991 94 Table 3 Sample composition: Community, Schooling and Migration survey 108 Table 4 Interview subjects by place of current residence and gender 109 Table 5 Interview subjects by community of origin and cohort 110 Table 6 Interview subjects by year of potential graduation I l l Table 7 Percentage of labour force working in fishing and trapping, 1996 120 Table 8 Principal occupations of Digby Neck "stayers" by gender, Community, Schooling and Migration survey 121 Table 9 Income levels (in dollars) for Canada, Nova Scotia and the Municipality of Digby, 1971-1996 123 Table 10 Unemployment rates, Census Canada microdata 1996 124 Table 11 Average family income as a percentage of the Canadian average, 1996 125 Table 12 Average income by sex, Census Canada microdata, 1996 126 Table 13 Highest degree achieved expressed as a percentage of the population 15+ for Canada, Nova Scotia and Digby Neck census enumeration areas, 1996 127 Table 14 Historic Graduates of DNCS Remaining on Digby Neck by percentage, Basic Data Bank 130 Table 15 Out-migration rates from Digby Neck by cohort and destination, potential graduating classes of 1963-1998, Basic Data Bank 130 Table 16: Out-migration from Digby Neck by cohort, community of origin and present location, potential graduating classes of 1963-1998, Basic Data Bank 131 Table 17: Out-migration rates from Digby Neck by gender and present location potential graduating classes of 1963-1998, Basic Data Bank 132 vi Table 18: Highest level of educational attainment and out-migration from Digby Neck, "stayers" and "away" migrants, Community Schooling and Migration Survey 135 Table 19: Highest level of educational attainment by present location and gender, Community Schooling and Migration Survey 136 Table 20: Highest level of educational attainment by age cohort and gender, Community Schooling and Migration Survey 137 Table 21: Highest level of educationa; attainment by age cohort, and gender for "stayers" and "around here,"Community Schooling and Migration Survey 139 Table 22: Highest level of educational attainment by age cohort, and gender for "not far" and "away migrants,"Community Schooling and Migration Survey 139 Table 23: Migration by gender, age cohort and present location 143 vii List of figures Figure 1 Map of Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy 88 Figure 2 Map showing Digby Neck and southwest Nova Scotia 89 Figure 3 Map of the communities of Digby Neck 90 Figure 4 Ferry landing in East Ferry with Long Island in the background 90 Figure 5 Three generations of men from one Digby Neck family setting traps on the first day of the lobster season, 1999 91 Figure 6 A cape island boat on the slip at Whale Cove 92 Figure 7 Father and son fishing partnerships are common on Digby Neck 93 Figure 8 One of the few remaining fisherman-operated small farms on Digby Neck 95 Figure 9 The village of Sandy Cove looking toward St. Mary's Bay 97 Figure 10 The future?: An aquaculture salmon hatchery in Mink Cove 99 viii Acknowledgements A project like this one involves the hard work of a lot of people, most of them friends who volunteered to help me gather and organise the information necessary to complete this study. Undoubtedly I will miss many of those who have contributed to this work in some way and for this I apologise. Because I must protect their anonymity, I can not mention by name the more than fifty informants who agreed to formal interviews for this project. I owe these people a great debt; their words form the framework for Chapters 6, 7 and 8. In the end, this is a story I am telling about a way of life and the way formal education has meshed with that life, but without the input, cooperation, trust and friendship of a great many Digby Neck people, this project could never have been completed. I hope I have represented us all in a way that challenges some assumptions and contributes to positive change. In the early stages of the project a number of people assisted with the Basic Data Bank Survey reported in Chapter 5. Elizabeth McCullough and Margaret Titus generously gave me access to their personal archives and school records. Deanna Frost, Donna Tidd, Susan O'Neil and Pam Frost did a great deal of legwork which facilitated the project immensely. Karen Mosher also worked with me as a research assistant on the Community, Schooling and Migration Survey. Mark Pease and Noelle Lucas provided technical assistance in a timely fashion. A number of people read drafts of different versions of the chapters in this dissertation. My colleague Tony Kelly offered critical feedback from the very early stages of the project. Tony's insights are always fresh, humorous and critical. More than anyone else Tony helps me understand the limitations of this (or any) research. Arthur and Ruth Bull, Fred Horner, Donna Tidd, Cindy Graham also read sections of this work as it neared its final form. Discussions with Stephane Levesque, Martin Bailey, Tarn Donnelly and Cliff Falk also helped me make sense of the ideas I was working with. While their feedback is not reflected in this text, I would also like to mention the contribution of university examiners Ralph Matthews and Brian Elliot. They helped to make the stressful experience of the thesis defence a pleasurable and productive critical conversation. External reader Dianne Looker contributed to this conversation with a careful analysis of the text and critical commentary. Their contributions will be important when I take sections of this work to publication. My supervisory committee provided me with outstanding support, wisdom and encouragement throughout the entire process of my doctoral work. This support continued when I left UBC to undertake fieldwork in Nova Scotia and I appreciate it greatly. Kjell Rubenson's insight, good fellowship, unflagging encouragement and sense of humour helped to keep me afloat in the dark days in the middle of this project. Don Wilson's in-depth and careful reading of this text was critical to its readability and Chapter 2 developed directly out of our formal and informal conversations in 1997 and 1998. My advisor Don Fisher's careful guidance forced me, from the earliest stages of the project, to think clearly about the research question. Without Don's gentle good humour, kindness, and consistent critical support I can not imagine how I would have survived this ordeal. I also hope I have been able to maintained the standard of academic rigour Don demands. My research was also supported by the a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada doctoral fellowship, a University of British Columbia university graduate fellowship and by a research grant from Nova Scotia Teacher's Union. I would also like to acknowledge the Southwest Regional School Board for granting me sabbatical leave to help complete this project. My family have had to live with me throughout this project. Suffice it to say that I realise that this has not always been easy. Perhaps this is an understatement. My thanks and my love to Audrey, Nathan, Jenny, Kathleen. Thanks also to Helen, Axel and Galen for their hospitality in Victoria. i i x Learning to leave: The irony of schooling in a coastal community Chapter 1 Introduction On the first day of May the boats raced out as they had always done, laden down almost to the gunwales with their heavy cargoes of traps. They were almost like living things as they plunged through the waters of the spring and manoeuvred between the still floating icebergs of crystal white and emerald green on their way to the traditional grounds that they sought out every May. And those of us who sat that day in the high school on the hill, discussing the water imagery in Tennyson, watched them as they passed back and forth beneath us until by afternoon the piles of traps which had been stacked on the wharf were no longer visible but were spread about the bottom of the sea ... And the spring wore on and the summer came and school ended in the third week of June and the lobster season on July first and I wished that the two things I loved so dearly did not exclude each other in a manner that was so blunt and too clear (MacLeod, 1976:143-145). In the spring they can't wait to go fishing. They can't wait to be out on the water. They're all down there on the wharf... in their pickup trucks, and they're just on needles and pins. They're that excited. Maybe it's in their blood (David Weale in Bruce, 1988:138). The problem Paul Willis' (1977) ethnographic study of working class life and schooling in an English industrial city is introduced with the direct and poignant subtitle: "how working class kids get working class jobs." Indeed, one of the central questions for the sociology of education has been, and continues to be, the role that schools play in reproducing class structure. Willis' question is central to understanding the relationship between schooling and class in urban communities.1 A similar yet seldom analysed problem confronts rural educational researchers. Alistair MacLeod's fiction (cited above) works with similar kinds of questions. If Willis' "lads" learned to enact a working 1 Questions of schooling and class have a long history in the sociology of education in Britain. Stuart Hall and his colleagues (Hall & Jefferson, 1976) also used ethnographic methods to investigate the lived experience of class and schooling in urban Britain inspiring many similar studies throughout Europe and North America. 1 class identity which rubs hard against the urban, middle class norms of school, Nova Scotia rural novelist Alistair MacLeod's male characters wrestle with both how and where to construct their identities. In rural communities school serves a number of functions including the reproduction of labour in traditional local industries, and paradoxically, migration away from life in the communities to urban centres. This study is an attempt to understand and explain how it is that certain people remain in Atlantic Canadian coastal communities while others leave. In other words, how do some rural youth "learn to leave," while others "learn to stay?" A central theme in the sociology of education in Atlantic Canada is geographic mobility. This theme articulates with larger problems of the development of the Canadian state and the underdevelopment of Atlantic Canada. Mobility is very often presented as the solution to the region's problems (George, 1970; Courchene, 1974). But coastal communities in Nova Scotia not only have a history of sustainable resource extraction, they remain attractive to a large number of rural youth. These people are typically cast as the losers in the educational drama; they are the "drop-outs," the ones who cannot read the "writing on the wall," and make the "obvious" choice which is to use one's education as the social capital needed to buy the passage to sustainable places. Post-secondary education presents most rural youth with a choice between community and elsewhere, usually an urban environment, or a small town in a more prosperous region of the country.2 Like Willis' "lads," many rural youth resist formal education. Whether the "resistance" of rural students to the project of education represents what Willis called a "penetration" of the false promise of the educational system is an interesting question in this project. The fact that resistance exists is well established, but what it means to those rural youth who enact it has not been well explored. Indeed, the idea of resistance assumes the hegemony of a particular set of values. Rural life itself may simply be resistant to the juggernaut of industrialisation and urbanisation, an 2 Referring to the work of Father Jimmy Tompkins one of the founders of the Antigonish Movement Lotz and Welton write: His own university Saint FX, took the brightest of the local youth, educated them in traditional academic ways, and gave them credentials, then saw many of them leave the region. This out-migration increased as times became tougher in eastern Nova Scotia after the first world war. Father Jimmie believed that educated ordinary people who stay were the key to revitalising the region and creating prosperity for all (1997: 6). 2 experiential base for resistance to modernity and to a set of "rational" values (Bonner, 1997; Creed and Cheng, 1997; Theobald, 1997). I wish to investigate how economic opportunity, place attachment and local culture in a rural coastal community in Nova Scotia may itself constitute the basis for resistance to extended formal schooling. In order to exploit fish stocks "efficiently" capital has required a flexible and relatively immobile work force in coastal communities, a work force sufficiently adaptable and responsive to survive boom and bust in the industry and respond to the ebb and flow of fish stocks in particular areas. Educational decisions are always made in a context. The industrialization of the fishery after World War Two provided youth with certain community-based opportunities which stood beside opportunities offered individuals by formal education. The decision to continue an education and move out of the community is significantly more problematic than simple "choice." Many frustrated teachers and guidance counsellors in coastal communities and other rural places are community "outsiders, "cultural bridge" workers and "gatekeepers," who have adopted placeless urban values (DeYoung, 1995; Haas and Nachtigal, 1998). The nature of professionalism among teachers has tended to privilege placeless, generic and technocratic ideas about what counts as education. If education is to be democratic, then it must be generic so the story goes. The nature of place attachment and the influence of the local economy on schooling in rural communities has been precisely what many rural educators struggle to subvert in the interests of democracy, and what is often called "broadening the horizons" of rural children and youth. Any analysis of schooling in Atlantic Canadian coastal communities must be situated within the context of the economy and the sociology of the fishery. In the case of Digby Neck, place attachment has related to a concentrated, labour intensive fishery and the support services often provided by unpaid family members (notably women and children) which undergirded it. Rural Nova Scotians forged their identities and honed multiple skills and strength working in the industrialization and capitalist development of the fishing industry which has slowly but surely undermined the viability of coastal communities. This is not an idyllic Helen Creighton folk song. As Ian MacKay argues, contrary to the "folk" stereotypes of the slow moving primitive rustic, Nova Scotians survived through, "(G)eographic mobility (moving from place to place in search of waged work or better access to fish stocks), occupational pluralism, and from the mid-nineteenth century on, widespread out-migration to cope with diminishing 3 opportunities in the region ..." (1994: 28). The connection between formal education and this migration is by now iconic and enshrined in 20th century Atlantic Canadian literature (Kristiensen, 1995)3 Atlantic Canadian coastal communities are places that people learned to leave. Foucault's concept of normalisation (1979), opens up an analysis of schooling as part of the coordinated, professionally mediated regime of truth. In this analysis, schooling is part of a larger state project of social control designed to create self monitoring social agents. Educational historians have documented the rise of the state and its growth out of urban centres and into the rural periphery. The historical process