Learning to Leave

The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community

By Michael Corbett  

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It has been argued that if education is to be democratic and serve the purpose of social and cultural elevation, then it must be generic and transcend the specificity of the locale. Corbett’s case study of Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, which shows continuing rates of highschool drop-out among youth in rural and coastal communities, particularly among young men, illustrates the failure of this approach.

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  • Introduction:  A Protracted Struggle: An Analysis of Rural Resistance and Normalization in Canadian Educational Policy
  • Reconceptualizing Resistance: Habitus, Discourse and Place
  • Study Area and Methodology
  • Who Stays, Who Goes and Where: Education and Migration on Digby Neck 1963-1998
  • Parallel Education Systems: the Classes of 1963-1974
  • The Boom Years: The Classes of 1975-1986
  • Surviving the Crisis: The Classes of 1987-1998
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index


  • Michael Corbett

    Acadia University

    Mike Corbett teaches in the School of Education at Acadia University following a nineteen year career as a public school teacher in Manitoba and in Nova Scotia. His research focuses on the dynamic and ambivalent relationship between life in rural communities and the structures and processes of schooling and adult education. Mike received his early education in Amherst, NS and holds degrees from Acadia University, Mount Saint Vincent University and the University of British Columbia.

    Mike has published in scholarly journals including: Rural Studies, The McGill Journal of Education, Journal of Research in Rural Education, The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, Historical Studies in Education, trans/forms, Teachers College Record, The Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and The Canadian Journal of Education. Mike also does editorial work and adjudication for several academic journals including The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, The Canadian Journal of Education, The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, and The Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy. Mike has been principal investigator on two grants (1998-2001 and 2004-2007) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). He has also adjudicated research grant applications for SSHRC since 2005. Mike is currently undertaking a three year study of outmigration, formal and informal learning and educational decision-making among youth in a coastal community in southwest Nova Scotia. Mike’s book entitled Learning to Leave: The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community was published in 2007 by Fernwood Press.

    Outside the academy, Mike’s poetry has been published in The English Journal and in The Antigonish Review. He has worked as a performing musician, and has exhibited his art in three galleries over the years. Lately he has turned his hand to film-making and has produced several short features along with a longer piece entitled The Reluctant Millionaire. Mike also contributes regularly to the popular press and other media with editorials, interviews and opinion piece in the areas of educational governance, policy, accountability and rural education. He has also consulted for various levels of government, professional bodies and public interest groups and is the author of numerous research reports. Mike is also a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and a member of the editorial board of Our Schools/Ourselves.

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