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

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."

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