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Revisiting Classroom Authority: Theory and Ideology Meet Practice


by Judith L. Pace — 2003

What kinds of authority relations exist in today's high schools? Throughout the last century, educational thinkers from different ideological camps have strongly advocated particular kinds of authority to promote educational aims. However, in the last few decades, sociologists of education have not adequately studied classroom authority (Hurn, 1985). Drawing on an interpretive study of classroom authority relations in a U.S. metropolitan high school, this article describes and analyzes the character of these relations, and their connection to social theory and educational ideologies. It reveals that conservative, bureaucratic, progressive, and radical positions all contribute to commonsense understandings, or taken for granted notions, that produce confused and shifting enactments of authority in classrooms. While they facilitate teachers' and students' modus vivendi, these ambiguous, hybridized versions (Kliebard, 1986; Page, 1999) of authority may not adequately serve educational purposes.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 8, 2003, p. 1559-1585
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11556, Date Accessed: 6/26/2017 6:22:23 AM

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About the Author
  • Judith Pace
    University of San Francisco
    E-mail Author
    JUDITH L. PACE is an assistant professor at the School of Education, University of San Francisco. Her research interests include teaching and learning, authority, and curriculum; influences of culture and policy on classroom and school practices; and moral and political dimensions of education. Her most recent publications are ‘‘Using Ambiguity and Entertainment to Win Compliance in a Lower-Level U.S. History Class’’ (2003) and ‘‘Managing the Dilemmas of Professional and Bureaucratic Authority in a High School English Class’’ (2003). She is currently coediting a book of qualitative studies on classroom authority.
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