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ERIC Number: EJ1072607
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Feb
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1940-5847
The Atlee School Question: The Effects of School Consolidation in Rural Alberta
Boddington, Steven
Contemporary Issues in Education Research, v3 n2 p17-28 Feb 2010
In the mid-1960s, a bitter dispute broke out between parents in the Atlee-Jenner School District in Southern Alberta Canada, and the Medicine Hat School Board over the bussing of children for the first time to a new school a long distance away. The move was precipitated by the consolidation of several smaller school districts and the subsequent closing of the local school. The parents' argument was that the road by which the bus was to travel was in an unfinished state and was dangerous. However, the conflict is illustrative of a much deeper issue. An argument might be made that this dispute illuminated a much larger crisis in rural life on the prairies. It may represent, as a case study, the problems and difficulties involved in a shift from rural life, with its unique sorts of interpersonal relationships built on the strength of local community and co-operative spirit, to a much more urbanized and structured existence. As the Great Depression had shown, the myth that you could always go back to the farm for some measure of economic security had been dispelled. However, one's control over the education of one's children, and thus the inculcation of appropriate values and beliefs, after having been first of all, institutionalized with universal public schooling (both Protestant and Roman Catholic), had been, at least up to this point, largely a local concern, under a central authority (Ministry of Education). School divisions on the prairies had been relatively small and numerous, for practical reasons, such as transport and regular attendance. Gradually, these small divisions came to be replaced by larger administrative units, thus threatening the perceived control and familiarity of local communities. The other half of the equation in this dispute was the reaction of the Deputy Minister at the time, W.H. Swift. Swift could empathize with the basic issues in play, having strong rural roots himself. Deputy Minister of Education, W.H. Swift was also one of the last to hold that position rising up through the ranks of the education system, from teacher to school inspector to academic. Swift had earned a Ph.D. at an early age, and rose quickly through the ranks of the civil service, learning his job under the tutelage of G. F. McNally. Swift and McNally represented a tradition in the Department, having earned their positions through experience and hard work. As such, they might be viewed as self-made moral exemplars, leaders who could be viewed as role models by the rank and file. This article seeks not only to illustrate how Swift actually functioned in his role as Deputy Minister in times of crisis and high public visibility, but also to show how he reacted when confronted with moral decisions. The Atlee case, taking place between the years 1955 and 1965, serves as an example of the controversy which had developed in many areas as small rural schools were closed as a result of the divisional amalgamations begun by the Social Credit Government before the Second World War. On a wider scale the issues embodied in the dispute also reflect a changing rural landscape. Just as the small family farm was under corporate pressure, so it was with the local school. These economic and administrative transformations brought with them social and cultural changes as well. Although the case was one of the last examples of this kind, it was certainly one of the most bitterly contested.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A