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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 XII: Utopia/Dystopia: Where Do We Go With ‘Discipline’? - Rob Imre, Zsuzsa Millei and Tom G. Griffiths 160


160 Re-theorizing Discipline in Education Chapter XII This chapter raises possible ways in which we imagine the future of discipline as a concept. This means that we are critically assessing how the concept of ‘discipline’ serves to represent a (possible) positive ideal, a model of perfection or its impossibility. As such we seek to examine the concept of discipline from utopian/dystopian, and world-systems inspired utopian perspectives. Here, we will use the idea of utopia, and its converse, dystopia, as a centralizing theme in order to take apart the notion of discipline in its modern institutional setting. This chapter seeks to provoke thinking about discipline in a meta-theoretical fashion so as to ask the grand questions about society as these questions might relate to what we seek to accomplish through a different approach to discipline. Rather than argue for a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’, or demonstrate a ‘better way’ to approach discipline, we seek to ask a series of questions about how modern people can organise themselves, and thus what we actually ‘do’ with the concept of ‘discipline’. Utopia The modern condition of theorizing about society was to present it as a utopia. This was the Enlightenment move to rip Heaven from the heavens and place it on earth, to be engineered by ‘man’. The means to do this was through institutions that arose as a direct result of the industrialization of the modern world. These institutions included hospitals, schools, modern prisons, and the like. Coupled with the perfectibility of the...

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