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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 VI: Discipline and the Dojo - Robert John Parkes 76


76 Re-theorizing Discipline in Education Chapter VI This chapter is concerned with the productive nature of discipline. That is, with what subjection within and to a discipline ‘produces’. More specifically, I am concerned with the way a “subject comes into being…comes to mastery, comes into existence and agency, through subjection” (Petersen, 2007, p. 477, original emphasis). I use martial arts training as a case study for my investigation because it is so frequently depicted as a site of ‘serious’ discipline; a somewhat ‘inflexible’ discipline that practitioners more or less willingly subject themselves to in order to attain mastery of the art under study. My aim is to develop an understanding of the deliberate act of subjection that is implicated in the disciplining process by which the individual is transformed through the martial arts. Resting upon Michel Foucault’s (1980, 1982/1994) thesis on the ‘double nature’ of power, I argue in this chapter for both the constraining and enabling effects of discipline as it manifests in and through the martial arts and investigate the way discipline is central to the act of becoming in the dojo.1 Eric Paras (2006) has argued that we should distinguish Foucault’s position in the 1980s, that the individual “had the ability to pursue (or not pursue) techniques that would transform its subjectival modality”, from his earlier thesis that “no individual received the choice of whether or not to undergo discipline; and only through discipline did one become an individual” (p. 123). This contrast may...

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