"It's Farcical!": Theories, Models, and Recommendations to Improve Public Consultations During Ontario School Closure Reviews
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School closure review processes in Ontario are highly contested and deeply divisive. Though schools are central to their host communities, the closure review process largely ignores the community impacts. Existing research largely agrees the public consultation component of school closure reviews is flawed and insufficient. The general research question of this thesis asks, Why is there a continuation of conflict in the consultation process for school closure reviews? The thesis aims to take the models and theories of consultation from the field of planning and elsewhere to understand the problems and provide viable recommendations, but ultimately finds that the conflicts continue because school reviews are practices of governmentality that severely constrain the effect public inputs have on final decisions. Interviews were conducted with nine people involved in the consultation process during two school closure reviews. These interviews reveal that much of the planning literature on consultations is only somewhat applicable. To help think through the deeply flawed and often hostile consultation process, this thesis presents a sustained engagement with the theories of Michel Foucault and to a lesser extent Jürgen Habermas. Habermas provides the foundation for the optimistic “communicative turn” of collaborative planning, which is a worthy if idealistic goal for planners. Foucault’s historical analysis allows us to see how planning and consultation are caught up in power, power-knowledge, governmentality, and biopolitics. While this thesis finds that planning and consultation are practices of governmentality and biopolitics, this is a critique, not a criticism. Understanding school closure reviews as a practice of governmentality allows us to identify what aspects of these reviews are predetermined and not open to consultation. It also allows us to see an area irreducible to the logic of governmentality, namely the meaning of a school to a community, and it is this aspect that should be subject to community consultation.
Cite this version of the work
Mark Jull (2018). "It's Farcical!": Theories, Models, and Recommendations to Improve Public Consultations During Ontario School Closure Reviews. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14280