'Have not no more': educating for civic engagement at Atlantic Canadian universities
University of New Brunswick
Atlantic Canada is plagued by discourses of deficit that construct the region as deficient, dependent, and dying. The region is often maligned, mistreated, or ignored in the broader Canadian narrative, particularly narratives of political and civic engagement. Politicians and other stakeholders often lament the region’s apathy, and attempts at revitalization are often rooted in neoliberal discourse that fails to resonate with the civic experience of Atlantic Canadians, and ignore the region’s rich civic history and practice. This dissertation explores the potential for universities in Atlantic Canada to contribute to the civic engagement and education of their graduates in ways that are reflective of and responsive to the civic identities of Atlantic Canadians. Using appreciative inquiry as an epistemological and methodological framework, this research disrupts the discourses of deficit that plague our understanding of civic life in the region. Through the results of a multiple site case study my dissertation examines the work of three university programs – Renaissance College at the University of New Brunswick, the Bachelor of Arts Community Studies program at Cape Breton University, and the Career Development and Experiential Learning unit of Memorial University’s Student Affairs department. These sites share a commitment to civic education, but use a variety of approaches to structure their programs. This dissertation is made up of five academic articles, bookended by a prologue and epilogue that help to reconstruct Atlantic Canada’s civic story. Through case studies of each program, I explore critical place-conscious pedagogy (drawing on conscious raising, community-based, and critical approaches to teaching and learning); pedagogies of engagement (including interdisciplinary, collaborative, and project-based pedagogies); and co-curricular, experiential pedagogies and their implications for civic education at Atlantic Canadian universities. A final, cross-case analysis examines the frameworks of civic education that structure each program, drawing on Westheimer and Kahne’s (2004) typology, and explores the importance of justice-oriented approaches in rewriting an understanding of Atlantic Canadian civic engagement. This research demonstrates the importance of civic education that is grounded in the unique historical, social, political, and economic context of the Atlantic Canadian region.