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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 XIII: Continuing the Conversation About Discipline as a Problem? A Conclusion - Zsuzsa Millei, Tom G. Griffiths and Robert John Parkes 175


175Chapter XIII Chapter XIII In his interview with Michel Foucault (1984/1994) shortly before the French philosopher- historian’s death, Paul Rabinow asked about the history of ‘problematics’ that Foucault claimed he had been exploring as an alternative to the history of ideas (or the analysis of systems of representation) and the history of mentalities (or the analysis of the attitudes motivating actions in particular times and places). Foucault’s answer is instructive for what we have attempted to do in this volume. According to Foucault (1984/1994), and we quote at length: What distinguishes thought is that it is something quite different from the set of representations that underlies a certain behaviour; it is also quite different from the domain of attitudes that can determine this behaviour. Thought is not what inhabits a certain conduct and gives it its meaning; rather, it is what allows one to step back from this way of acting or reacting, to present it to oneself as an object of thought and question it as to its meaning, its conditions and its goals. Thought is freedom in relation to what one does, the motion by which one detaches oneself from it, establishes it as an object, and reflects on it as a problem. (p. 117) In this book the various contributors have taken up ‘discipline’ in education as a ‘problem for thought’. According to Foucault (1984/1994), “for a domain of action…[such as discipline in education] to enter the field of thought, it is necessary for a...

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