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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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Chapter I: Opening the Field: Deliberating over ‘Discipline’ - Zsuzsa Millei, Tom G. Griffiths and Robert John Parkes 1


1Chapter I Chapter I [I]f power was never anything but repressive, if it never did anything but say no, do you really believe that we should manage to obey it? (Foucault, 1979c, p. 36) Discipline in education is both central and peripheral in this book. While discipline in education is the focus of investigation, this book deliberately avoids offering any notions of ‘best’ theories, methods and practices. We invite readers instead to a discussion on discipline in education that moves between focusing on, and de-centring from, its topic in order to bring new insights into ‘traditional’ and somewhat exhausted and highly loaded understandings of the concept. Such an approach requires us to pose questions, offer new frameworks to think about discipline in education, and so to complicate its understanding, rather than provide explicit and ‘easy-to-apply’ answers to perceived problems. We do this with a deliberate aim to shake up our well-established routines and ideas on this important subject in contemporary schooling. Problems with school discipline have been ranked as the most serious problem with schools according to the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll public opinion survey in the past 38 years (Rose & Gallup, 2005 in Edwards, 2008, p. 15). Driven by this importance and triggered by critical events and media reporting, governments around the world have commissioned numerous inquiries into school discipline directly, such as the historical Elton Report (1989) Enquiry into Discipline in Schools or indirectly, such as The National Inquiry into Children and the Legal Process (1995)1...

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