Politics, Pedagogy and Power

Bullying in Faculties of Education

by Eelco B. Buitenhuis (Author)
©2016 Textbook 186 Pages
Series: Critical Qualitative Research, Volume 25


Politics, Pedagogy and Power: Bullying in Faculties of Education is the result of research seeking to find explanations for bullying between faculty members in faculties of education around the world. The frank and devastating revelations of professors are shocking and painful, screaming for interrogation. Bullying in faculties of education is a strange phenomenon because anti-bullying programs abound while the behavior occurs at a significant number of faculties of education. The research finds that factors in leadership and neoliberal politics cause this odd phenomenon. Other causes were found in the problematic position of education in the academic world. The underdog position academics in education find themselves in works both ways: notions of being of less importance than any other science are mirrored in feelings people working in education have about themselves. In this research a bricolage is executed, the methodology that intelligently joins research methods driven by the growing understanding of the problem of bullying between professors in education. This makes Politics, Pedagogy and Power a useful guide in methodology classes. This book is a perfect textbook for leadership programs in higher education, because it deals with good and bad leadership and issues of power.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1 What? Teachers Are Bullying Teachers?
  • Chapter 2 Educational Leadership—Safe Space—Dichotomy
  • Chapter 3 The Bullied Speak
  • Chapter 4 Break
  • Chapter 5 Bullying and How It Works; Making Meaning
  • Chapter 6 Neoliberal Politics Ruining Academia
  • Chapter 7 Who Is Responsible?
  • References
  • Series Index


This book would not have been possible without the support of all who have inspired me throughout the research. In alphabetical order:

Deborah Britzman, for your wisdom and suggestions;

Antonia Darder, for your initial suggestions to embark on this research;

Gerard Den Dubbelden, for being an inspiration and a dear colleague and friend for many years;

Kenneth Fasching-Varner, for your priceless support;

Kees Freriks, for your transformative leadership;

Hans Jansen, for your inspiration and boundless energy;

Ria Kragten, for your loving leadership;

Mairi McDermott, for your support and valuable suggestions;

Jackie Seidel, for your loving support;

Shirley Steinberg, for being my constant inspiration and trusted companion;

Tom Van Zuuren, for being my critical friend.

A special thank you to Deborah Bradley (debbradley42@gmail.com), who turned my writings as a second language speaker into proper English.

The respondents who were so generous in sharing their often-horrible stories cannot be named, but you know who you are, and I owe you my deep gratitude.← ix | x →

← x | 1 →· 1 ·


It’s a bit like Hamlet’s father. One is constantly haunted by the experience. And one is constantly looking over the shoulder to see if it is going to happen again. So therefore, one’s everyday job becomes contoured and coloured by those experiences. You don’t do the job in the same way. You don’t do the job with the same fierce passion or with the joie de vivre, like you should realize that somebody out there who can take a potshot so you become a hyper vigilant. It’s what Foucault talks about or Bentham talks about as the Panopticon. You start to self-surveil as a form of protection.


About twenty years ago, before documentaries about animal behavior permeated YouTube, I visited the local zoo with my children. At some point, we came across the cage with the little capuchin monkeys. Our attention was drawn to the cage because screaming burst from it. Arriving at the scene, we saw that one monkey was being chased by a few of the others. After a long race over the fences, branches, and even the ceiling of the cage, the victim found refuge in the water pool. This was apparently a good spot because the others did not follow him there. The chasers were three in number, but the rest of the flock encouraged them, or helped by trying to hit the monkey on the run whenever he passed them. We had a good view of him as he sat shivering in the water. He had obviously been bitten: blood was on his fur, streaming from several wounds on his head and body. He looked terrified. One of the more daring ← 1 | 2 →chasers tried to come closer to him. He grabbed the monkey by the sides of his head and forced him to perform oral sex on him.

I was deeply affected by this scene. I felt incompetent and cowardly. I did not know how to talk about it to my children, other than by saying that I found it disgusting. We called the crew and they isolated the victim in a net. We did not witness what happened after that.

The scene kept coming back in my thoughts for days and even now, twenty years later, it still bothers me: the one and the many, the seeming unjustness, the powerlessness of the witnesses (us), the meanness, terrifying to me still. I have eased my mind for a bit with thoughts about the possible preceding scenes: had he been evil to a mother’s child, had he tried to seize power, had he threatened the group or its rules? I have philosophized about the differences between humans and monkeys, that humans are more civilized than these animals. I could understand that their captivity (by civilized humans) could have caused the stress in the first place. I felt guilty about visiting such an institution where injustice happens. I felt ashamed and powerless.

The reason this incident had such an impact on me can be found in my awareness of bullying. I have seen many situations in my youth and at the schools in which I have worked. I have always chosen sides for the weak. Or did I always? In my heart I have, but how did it show in my actions? I am not convinced that I succeeded in getting my voice out at all times.

Have I bullied? I have chosen wrong sides at times and feel bad about that. I know this because the situations where that occurred keep coming back to mind.

Have I been bullied? I am not sure. As a child I may have experienced people laughing at me, or attempts to hurt me. I recall frolicking in the playgrounds, including scenes where I was lying on my back with some kid sitting on me, his knees on my biceps; but apart from that, in my memory, I have not suffered much. I know that other kids have suffered. I recall an incident when I was a Boy Scout, when after seeing a violent soldier movie, as soon as we got outside into the dark evening, a group of our fellows teamed up against my buddy, who wore glasses and was not “cool.” I became frightened and went back inside to get help.

I have chosen sides and I have been aware of what was happening, even when I chose the “wrong” side. At times like that I wanted to belong, I think. I tried to be part of a group that appealed to me.

Years later, this has made me aware of the implications of bullying and mobbing. Recently I have discovered that there is mobbing in workplaces too, ← 2 | 3 →even in pedagogical or educational fields. People have shared their stories of bullying with me, and over the past two decades, I have experienced it myself. When I stated earlier that I do not know whether I have been bullied, I meant that it may have happened but I was not aware of it—but as I re-read my journals, a pattern began to appear. Seemingly loose incidents became meaningful when connected. What I did not initially remember as bullying, I now understand as exactly that. After placing the incidents in context, the discomforting feelings that I had after the incidents now show me that there was consistency in the events.

Over my career of thirty years in education, I have noticed that workplace bullying occurs in an unexpected place: in faculties of education. Teacher education programs provide and promote anti-bullying programs and strategies for schools, but faculty members do not seem able to free themselves from their own bullies.

I take the position that bullying is harmful and unnecessary, costly and damaging to both victims and the faculty as a whole. After examining the existing literature, I have concluded that little has been written about this specific phenomenon. Nowhere has the situation in faculties of education been addressed in a satisfying manner. The literature on bullying is vast, from self-help books and management literature to extensive studies, both quantitative and qualitative in nature, covering the past few decades of mostly North American and Northern European situations. The situation in higher education is addressed often, but not the specific situation in faculties of education. Through this doctoral research I sought to understand bullying: the culture, the structure, and the societal influences that maintain bullying in faculties of education. When one expects pedagogy in higher education to be excellent, the existence of bullying represents a contradiction; therefore, not only do organizational aspects need to be uncovered, but the very core of pedagogy must be addressed as well. The obvious (and no less unjust) bullying against underprivileged, marginalized professors seems to be a symptom of a systemic problem, genetically embedded in pedagogy. This research represents a philosophical engagement that seeks to unravel and identify the powers at play in reported bullying among professors at faculties of education, and what the causes may be.

In the past few years, I have experienced several occasions where my colleagues and friends in faculties of education in North America, Europe, and Australia have been bullied. Professors of education have approached me from the above geographic areas with personal narratives of bullying.

← 3 | 4 →At first I was hesitant to do research in this subject; although significant in a humanitarian and social justice sense, it also appeared to me to be a problem of the weak, or of a faculty that already had problems. I worried about being identified as a weak academic by engaging in a study dealing with matters like victims and uncivil behavior. Who wants to be the bully doctor? As I can see now, the subject bullied me. After discussions with a number of academics from diverse locales, it became clear to me that the phenomenon needed to be interrogated and that I was the one to take that upon myself.

Although I searched for specific literature on the problem of bullying in faculties of education between peer professors, I was not able to find any appropriate discussion of the topic. Some publications are obliquely related, but I did not see the sort of in-depth study I desired. I queried why that was the case, as so many professors whom I have met at conferences and through friendship have come to me with their stories, loaded with complaints, with painful recollections of horrific situations, and all within faculties of education.

Research on bullying recounts the atrocities that people have endured, and quite often, points the finger at the bully. Tables, figures, and graphs illustrate structures and explanations. I did not find research that delves into deeper layers of the problems. The philosophical dimension of the bully—the system that leaves the bully in place, the abusive cultures—seem to be overlooked thus far, and through my research, I determined to uncover and find answers to the question of why.

After determining the locus of my research, I took a closer look at the works of the scholars who have addressed the problem of bullying. It is not just victims who can inform us here. I felt I needed to look into the situation in which the victims are located: the faculty, its structure, its culture and subsequent rituals, its leadership, its place in society and in the culture of the country and county in which the faculty is situated.


ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Bullying Mobbing Teacher
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 186 pp.

Biographical notes

Eelco B. Buitenhuis (Author)

Eelco Buitenhuis is lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland and holds a PhD from the University of Calgary. He has taught in the Netherlands, Canada, Mexico and Scotland and has done research on youth, social justice and bullying.


Title: Politics, Pedagogy and Power
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