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Re-Theorizing Discipline in Education

Problems, Politics, and Possibilities


Edited By Zsuzsanna Millei, Tom G. Griffiths and Robert John Parkes

For over a century, teachers, parents, and school leaders have lamented a loss of ‘discipline’ in classrooms. Caught between guidance approaches on the one hand and a call for zero tolerance on the other, current debates rarely venture beyond the terrain of implementation strategies. This book aims to reinvigorate thinking on ‘discipline’ in education by challenging the notions, foundations, and paradigms that underpin its use in policy and practice. It confronts the understanding of ‘discipline’ as purely repressive, and raises the possibility of enabling forms and conceptualizations of ‘discipline’ that challenge tokenistic avenues for students’ liberation and enhance students’ capacity for agency. This book is an essential resource for university lecturers, pre-service and in-service teachers, policymakers, and educational administrators who want to re-think ‘discipline’ in education in ways that move beyond a concern with managing disorder, to generate alternative understandings that can make a difference in students’ lives.


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Preface - Shirley R. Steinberg ix


ixPreface Preface If I had been told thirty years ago that I would be associated with schools and writing a preface for discipline in schools…I wouldn’t have believed it. Discipline was always a word that was about me when I was in school; then became a word pertaining to some of my kids when I became a mother. It was a word that meant there was a disconnect between the expectations of the school and the expectations of either me, or my own children. Most of the time, I was quite sure that the school was the party with the inappropriate expectations. As a daughter, I was in trouble most of the time. A very literal mother, one who did not understand nuance, or negotiate, raised me. My mother had many rules: most were absolutely ridiculous. Indeed, my own mothering was formed in becoming everything my mother was not. Mom also had an uncanny ability to choose a punishment, which never fit the crime (sort of like school teachers and administrators). I muse at the fact that the two institutions, which are known for punishment and discipline: parents/caregivers and schools, often delegate a consequence, which has nothing to do with a rule infraction. Possibly my mother was a frustrated educator. I went away to school at 17, and I knew that I would not have to follow arbitrary rules. As a student, I was in trouble a lot of the time, for interrupting in class, for arguing, or for...

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