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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 IV: The Intricacies of Power Relations in Discourses of Secondary School Disciplinary Strategies - Rebecca Raby 43


43Chapter IV Chapter IV Introduction Scholars such as Pongratz (2007), Millei (2007) and Fendler (2001) reflect on a shift in recommended school disciplinary procedures towards “softer” guidance approaches, which seek to act upon the very soul of the child. We also see a concomitant reinforcement of traditionally authoritarian techniques reflected through a reliance on suspensions, for example, particularly within ‘zero tolerance’ policies. This chapter draws on policy documents and interviews with teachers and administrators from Ontario, Canada, to provide a neo- Foucauldian exploration of how three specific disciplinary strategies, as well as students’ potential participation in the creation of school rules, are presented and discussed. The three discipline-related strategies under consideration are escalating consequences, suspension, and social responsibility assessments. How these are addressed both in policy, such as codes of conduct, and by staff suggests that escalating consequences and suspension are primarily understood as disciplinary strategies intended to foster obedience, safety, deterrence and self-discipline. In contrast, social responsibility assessments entail an alternative strategy presented in the language of self-discipline, sociality and, particularly where they overlap with student participation, citizenship development. Michel Foucault’s multifaceted analysis of power relations through sovereignty, disciplinarity, governmentality and ethics of the self provides a framework through which to examine tensions within this complexity of secondary schools’ disciplinary strategies as they reflect and produce various understandings of students and their relationship to the school. Through examining these strategies, I explore how forms of power relations interweave and how the resultant web is partly...

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