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ERIC Number: EJ1083044
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 17
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0002-4805
Small Schools in a Big World: Thinking about a Wicked Problem
Corbett, Michael; Tinkham, Jennifer
Alberta Journal of Educational Research, v60 n4 p691-707 Win 2014
The position of small rural schools is precarious in much of rural Canada today. What is to be done about small schools in rural communities which are often experiencing population decline and aging, economic restructuring, and the loss of employment and services? We argue this issue is a classic "wicked" policy problem. Small schools activists have a worldview that is focused on maintaining infrastructure and even community survival, while school boards are mandated to focus on the efficient provision of educational services across wider geographies. Is it even possible to mitigate the predictable conflict and zero-sum games that arise with the decision to close small schools? That is the subject of this paper, which draws on poststructural and actor network theory. We suggest that wicked problems cannot be addressed satisfactorily through formulas and data-driven technical-rational processes. They can only be addressed through flexible, dialogical policy spaces that allow people who have radically different worldviews to create dynamic, bridging conversations. Fundamentally, we argue that what is required are new spaces and modes of governance that are sufficiently networked, open, and flexible to manage the complexity and the mutability of genuinely participatory democracy.
University of Alberta, Faculty of Education. 845 Education Centre South, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G5, Canada. Tel: 780-492-7941; Fax: 780-492-0236; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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