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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 III: Embodied Logic: Understanding Discipline through Constituting the Subjects of Discipline - Zsuzsa Millei and Rebecca Raby 27


27Chapter III Chapter III Introduction This chapter encounters the ways in which thinking about discipline in schools is connected to scientific and popular ideas of human nature, the ‘process’ of growing up, constitutions of ‘the child’ and ‘the adolescent’, and ideas of the modern subject and citizen. It examines some of the ideas that conjoin to inform theories, shape codes of conduct and create discourses of classroom discipline. One of the aims of this examination is to demonstrate the ‘polyvalent’ nature of classroom discipline discourses (Foucault, 1977). The other aim is to draw attention to their utilitarian use by individual teachers that produces embodied logics, that is, situation-specific, value-laden, shifting and diverse logics, to understand young persons as subjects of discipline and reasons for their disciplining. We will argue that to create this logic might be due to teachers’ desiring to be rational or to be looked upon as making rational decisions in regards to issues with indiscipline. In this way, it is possible that this desire for rationality is what makes teachers’ decisions sometimes illogical or contradictory. The vast literature on behavior management presents classroom discipline as governed by principles (theories) and practiced through techniques. Specific discipline theories are commonly composed from coherent sets of ideas that guide the understanding of disruption and disruptive students and are translated into practices of discipline to maintain order in the classroom (Porter, 1996). Here, we introduce ‘on the ground’ discipline as less principled and more complex. We highlight the...

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