Two Small Rural Schools Under Seige: An Oral History 1969-2012

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Cartee, Deborah Costlow
ETD; Classism; Critical Theory; Desegregation; Marginalization; Oral History; Ownership Society; Rural Schools; School Consolidation; Schwab’s Four Commonplaces; Social Bias; Curriculum and Instruction; Education; Elementary Education and Teaching; Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies, Electronic Theses & Dissertations, ETDs, Student Research
thesis / dissertation description
This study is an oral history of the small rural community of Portal, Georgia, its two local schools, and its residents’ successful fight to keep these community schools. Guided by the theoretical framework of critical theory and the works of critical researchers, namely Paulo Freire (1998), Michael Apple (2006), Jean Anyon (2005), and Henry Giroux (2001), one purpose of this study was to discover what we can learn from the experiences of citizens in one small rural community who have been affected by consolidation. Since the account of the relationship between the Portal community and its hometown schools remains untold, another purpose was to produce a written record of some of the events from 1969, the year desegregation was enforced in Bulloch County, Georgia, to 2012, two years after the new Portal Middle High School was completed.The residents of Portal, Georgia, have struggled for nearly four decades to retain their neighborhood public schools citing these institutions as vital members in a partnership with this community. The recommended elimination of these schools was partly due to the small enrollment, limited funds, and perceived isolation from other schools in the Bulloch County district. It is how and why these schools, over time, came to be the disfavored, under-enrolled, and under-subsidized institutions they are today that was explored. The concepts of small size, closeness, and the experience of knowing members of their community were repeatedly stressed by the participants as crucial positive characteristics of the schools and community. The analysis of contention between the Portal community and the members in the more influential areas of Bulloch County revealed an ownership attitude and a manner of condescension toward this community with a chief bias being economic discrimination that essentially linked the Portal children’s education to their parents’ income-tax brackets.The majority of the data was gathered through interviews with five women and three men, all key members of the community whose ages range from their early 30s through their early 70s: Sarah Greene, Ellen Hodges, Tracy Kirkland, Kate Mitchell, Jamie Young, Richard Emerson, William Etheridge, and Gerald Johnson (all names are pseudonyms). The stories were analyzed through a critical lens that examines power relationships and the influence of classism in society.