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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.

Americans are both attracted to and repulsed by authority. Contradictory concerns about authority as an oppressive, abusive force and about abdication of authority and moral standards have pervaded the American sociological imagination (Selznick, 1992). Ideological positions on authority have been particularly conflicting in schooling - an institution, theoretically, of both social control and liberation (Franklin, 1986). How do social theory and ideology inform the character of authority in today’s high school classrooms? And how do contemporary authority relations shed light on theory and ideology? Contrary to the conventional conception of authority as a possession of certain people who are able to dictate to others, authority is a relationship that takes different forms, each of these espoused by a different educational ideology. But, although a subject of heated debate, especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, authority relations in the classrooms I studied were not driven by ideological commitments. Authority relations were hybridized enactments, shaped by the competing purposes of educational engagement and control (McNeil, 1986; Metz, 1978; Page, 1991). Although employment of various claims to legitimacy is not unexpected (Weber, 1947), teachers used a contradictory mix of approaches to gain cooperation, including denial of their superordinate status, and, generally, students accepted and in some ways encouraged these arrangements. Using concepts from the sociology of culture, this paper shows that distinct ideological orientations have been translated into taken-for-granted, commonsense notions (Swidler, 2001) of authority. Common sense informs classroom negotiations that appear to work but may not promote deep learning.


Often confused with authoritarianism, classroom authority expresses the legitimacy of teachers’ directives and their connection to the school’s responsibility to educate students for individual and social good. Despite the fundamental role of authority, theoretically grounded empirical studies on school authority are few. Two systematic investigations were conducted during the rebellions of the late 1960s and early 1970s (Metz, 1978; Swidler, 1979). Since then, social conditions in schools and society have significantly changed (Grant, 1988; Hurn, 1985). Research on high schools from the 1980s illuminates the treaties, bargains, and compromises negotiated by teachers and students as they manage the demands of schooling (Powell et al., 1985; Sedlak et al., 1986; Sizer 1984). Other studies inform how classroom authority is influenced by race (Delpit, 1988), social class (Anyon, 1980), track level (Oakes, 1985; Page, 1991), and the cultural, political, and legal contexts of schooling (Grant, 1988). More recently, scholars have studied authority in higher education classes (Ellsworth, 1989; Luke, 1996; Fishman & McCarthy, 1995). But little recent research systematically analyzes the social construction of authority.

In 1997 I conducted an interpretive study of authority in four classes located in a well-regarded metropolitan high school. The study follows from Metz’s (1978) research on authority as negotiated through face-to-face interactions, shaped by local and larger cultural knowledge. Metz examined the crisis of school authority in the late 1960s as influenced by the greater social crisis generated by various groups’ struggles for freedom and equality. She observed that most teachers, in the face of constant challenges from students, adopted distinct roles. For example, incorporative teachers, those who viewed teaching as filling empty vessels with knowledge, played the role of parent, boss, or professional expert. Developmental teachers, who built the curriculum around students’ prior knowledge and interests, acted as facilitators or professional experts. Although teachers in Metz’s study expressed differing views of how the moral order (educational purposes) should be accomplished, that order was clear. Consent to authority rested on teachers’ abilities to promote students’ attachments to schooling.

Thirty years later, I found that overt exercise and questioning of authority had given way to indirect assertions and covert challenges (Pace, 2003a, 2003b). Authority relationships were more complex and ambiguous; students’ acquiescence sometimes veiled manipulative strategies, such as cheating on homework and quizzes or creating a false impression. Teachers used a broad array of strategies, such as politeness, humor, flexibility, and grade inflation, to maintain generally cooperative relationships and offset the impositions of schooling. But they did so at the cost of shifting the relationship from one of clear authority based on legitimized educational purposes to an ambiguous one, blurred by uncertain standards. Although classes were more orderly than the classes Metz studied, both teachers and students demonstrated ambivalence toward educational purposes.1

Unlike Metz, I did not find that teachers clearly enacted particular roles, such as parents, professional experts, or bosses. The complicated dynamics I witnessed did not fit authority constructs described in the sociological literature; thus, they demanded new explanations. Kliebard’s (1986) history of conflicting curricular ideologies in the early 1900s and the resulting hybridized curriculum, combined with Swidler’s (1986, 2001) discussion of ideology and common sense, provided tools to understand this complexity (Page, 1999).2

This article juxtaposes typologies of authority (see Table 1) with observational and interview data and analysis from two of the four classes I studied to illuminate ambivalence and uncertainty in authority relations. I argue that social constructions of authority are ambiguous hybrids of traditional, bureaucratic, professional, and egalitarian relations. They are shaped by commonsense responses to the paradoxical cultures of schooling and society, rather than well-articulated, jointly held understandings of educational means and ends.

Weber (1947) defined authority as the probability that a person with the legitimate right to command will be granted obedience. He formulated three sources of legitimacy: traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational. Later, sociologists identified professional expertise as a fourth basis

Table 1. Social theory, educational ideologies, and American culture

Social Theory on Authority

Educational Ideology on Authority

Curriculum Model






Social Efficiency

Expert Professional



Absence of Authority



Social Meliorist

(Bidwell, 1970; Parsons, 1947). Classroom authority is defined by sociologists as a hierarchical relationship of command and consent based on teachers’ legitimacy and teachers’ and students’ attachment to a moral order consisting of educational purposes, values, and norms (Metz, 1978).

Hurn’s (1985) article on changes in school authority offers a useful introduction to ideological stances and their links to social theory (see Table 1). From 1960 to 1980, an unprecedented shift in authority relations in U.S. high schools took place that emerged from social and political transformation. Americans questioned all forms of authority, demanded equal rights for marginalized groups, protested the Vietnam War, and rejected conventional mores. The courts granted students new rights to freedom of expression (Tinker v. Des Moines in 1969) and due process (Goss v. Lopez in 1975). As a result, disciplinary procedures in high schools and classrooms were restricted.

Although the extent to which school practices significantly changed is debatable, especially on the high school level, according to Hurn (1985), these social, political, and legal changes led to a freer, more relaxed school climate. Authority shifted from traditional, in loco parentis relations toward a progressive, professional model. Educationists in the 1960s such as Silberman (1969), Kohl (1967), and Featherstone (1971) advocated limiting the scope of authority to educational matters and claimed teachers’ professional expertise, namely the ability to educate youth, as its source of legitimacy. Students were granted some freedom of choice and the right to know the reasons behind directives. The progressives rejected traditional authority because it inhibited the ‘‘intellectual and moral autonomy’’ of students (Hurn, 1985, p. 45) and perpetrated discrimination against students different from the mainstream, for example, poor, Black (Leacock, 1969).

Professional authority fit developmental curriculum, which focused on the self-actualization of the individual child (Kliebard, 1986; Metz 1978). The teacher’s role was to guide students’ discovery and growth, by designing an environment and activities and making judicious interventions to support these processes. The elimination of authority touted by A. S. Neill’s Summerhill and attempted by some free schools in the 1960s and 1970s (Swidler, 1979) was considered misguided by most progressive educators (Silberman, 1970).

Hurn (1985) explains that radical neo-Marxist thinkers in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Bowles & Gintis, 1976) asserted that schooling was controlled by economic interests. Classroom relations corresponded to the same types of disparate treatment on the basis of race, class, and gender seen in the workplace. Authority socialized the majority of students to fulfill subordinate workplace roles. Radicals claimed that adjustments brought about by progressive education were superficial and perpetuated an unjust hierarchical social order (Bowles & Gintis, 1976).

The radical position advocated a social meliorist curriculum (Kliebard, 1986), for students to learn about and fight against social injustice. More recently, critical theorists, strongly influenced by Foucault, have analyzed classroom relations as instantiations of dominance, in which claims to knowledge used to legitimize authority marginalize subordinated groups (Foucault, 1980). Critical pedagogues have developed conceptions of egalitarian, or relational authority, in which students and teacher share governance (Burbules, 1995; Shor, 1986). But feminists have argued that female teachers need to reclaim professional authority, while critically examining with students both power and authority in light of race, class, and gender (Ellsworth, 1989; Luke, 1996).

In the wake of the 1970s, the conservative position called for a return to traditional, in loco parentis authority, in which teachers’ legitimacy was based on their adult position in the school (Hurn, 1985). It blamed decreased achievement and increased deviance in high schools on a collapse of authority (Adelson, 1981; Ravitch, 1985, 2000; Wynne, 1981). According to this view, the influence of progressive thinkers, large bureaucratic schools, and judicial interventions encouraged teachers to accommodate diverse students rather than uphold standards, facilitate rather than direct learning, and replace norms with written procedures. Conservatives touted national standards and strict discipline as the solution to school disorder (Thernstrom, 1999). This view was aligned with the humanist model of curriculum, which aims to transmit the great traditions of Western civilization to a unified citizenry (Kliebard, 1986).

A fourth, prevalent position on authority is bureaucratic. Bureaucratic authority accompanies increasing size and diversity in schools and intensification of individualistic values in a consumeristic and legalistic society (Grant, 1981, 1988). This model has ideological roots in the early 20th century social efficiency model of curriculum, adapted from industry’s scientific management (Callahan, 1962; Kliebard, 1986, 1992; McNeil, 1986). Scientific management, developed by Frederick Taylor, was an impersonal system that used wages to reward and punish the labor force as a means to maximize production and efficiency. Cast in moral terms, scientific calculations determined what constituted an ‘‘honest day’s work,’’ and thus ‘‘industry could be rewarded and sloth punished’’ (Kliebard, 1992, p. 118).

According to the social efficiency model, knowledge had to be practical (rather than intellectual) for the masses. A standardized curriculum was broken down into discrete objectives, and students were drilled and tested on their acquisition of skills, knowledge, and habits. Teachers used sanctions, such as grades, as extrinsic incentives to persuade students to fulfill their obligations. The current emphasis on accountability through standardized testing instantiates the social efficiency model.

Taken as a whole, progressive, radical, traditional, and bureaucratic ideological positions express deep ambivalence toward authority in U.S. culture. This ambivalence may be linked to our contradictory values of community and individualism (Franklin, 1986; Page, 1991). Individualism; grows out of the premium placed on liberty and engenders opposition to authority (Bellah et al., 1985, p. 142). However, competition and expertise are also features of individualism. Authority linked with attainment of high standards and individual accomplishment is compatible with these aims.

Along with individual freedom, Americans value community. Concern with creating a productive, harmonious society in the face of economic and demographic change has driven an emphasis on schools as instruments of social control since the end of the 19th century (Franklin, 1986). The need to belong to a unified group promotes conformity and acceptance of authority (Grant, 1988; Varenne, 1977). But egalitarianism, vital to the concept of democratic community, works against authority, a hierarchical relationship within an established social order.

As it reflects paradoxical preoccupations of American culture, school authority has long been the site of conflicted concerns. Much has been written about struggles over authority inherent in a system of compulsory schooling ( Jackson, 1968; Metz, 1978; Powell, 1996; Waller, 1932/1961). But until the 1960s, teachers’ claim to traditional authority was largely unquestioned, at least in the wider society (Hurn, 1985).

Hurn (1985) argues that in the late 1960s and early 1970s conflicting ideologies about educational values, roles, and relationships contributed to uncertain authority. In combination with the growth of large, diverse, bureaucratic high schools, this uncertainty led to increased alienation of students and decline in academic achievement reported in A Nation at Risk in 1983 and elsewhere. Other factors have contributed to a crisis in the legitimacy of schooling, notably, the backfiring of credentialing in the face of insufficient jobs to employ all graduates (McNeil, 1986) and the continued failure to promote socioeconomic success for all students (Ogbu, 1991). But, importantly, Hurn asserts that sociologists stopped examining school authority, due to their alignment with progressive ideology, or to the dismissal of authority as a mask for power by neo-Marxist scholars. My study begins to address this gap in research.



This article is drawn from a study on the social construction of authority located in a metropolitan, multiethnic, college preparatory high school I call Hillsdale High.3 An English teacher and a social studies teacher participated in the study.4 Using a double comparison design, I observed each teacher with two classes, one designated as higher track and the other lower track.

Data were collected over a spring semester. I observed each of the four classes two to three times per week,5 wrote detailed field notes, and audiotaped several lessons. I held four, hour-long, semistructured, audiotaped interviews with each teacher, which were supplemented by informal conversations, and two 30–45 minute, semistructured, individual, audiotaped interviews with four to six students from each class. Student interviewees were selected to represent gender and sociocultural diversity as well as the range of students’ demonstrated involvement in class, for example whether they tended to withdraw or participate. I also conducted informal interviews with other teachers and administrators in the school, gathered classroom-, school- and district-related documents, and observed in the hallways, cafeteria, and staff rooms.

My analysis followed the methodology of qualitative sociology. I developed a ‘‘deep understanding of insiders’ views … including the tacit assumptions and patterns’’ of which they were not aware (Metz, 2000, p. 62) and applied theoretical lenses to the data (p. 63). Through microanalysis of participants’ words and actions, and macroanalysis of contextual factors (Erickson, 1986; Metz, 2000), I developed explanations of how classroom authority relations were negotiated and influenced by the teacher’s approach, the track level of the class,6 and the culture of American schools and the wider society. Over the course of rereading and interpreting field notes and interview transcripts; analyzing discourse; examining my own biases; revisiting scholarship on authority, ideologies, and purposes of American schooling and the sociology of culture; writing case studies; and receiving feedback from colleagues, my analysis of classroom interactions evolved. Although the limited scope of my data collection prevents generalizable claims about authority in U.S. classrooms, it contributes new knowledge about classroom authority that may be applied to similar settings.


Constructions of classroom authority are shaped by school and community cultures (Lightfoot, 1983; Schwartz, 1987). Hillsdale High School (HHS) was located in a metropolitan community distinguished by a large, well-educated, professional population. The town was socioeconomically and ethnically diverse, with a majority of White, middle- to upper middle class residents. The student body of 1,700 was 70% White, 14% Asian, 11% Black, and 5% Hispanic but represented many different countries and language groups.

Historically, Hillsdale High School was known for educational excellence, with almost 85% of the graduates accepted to 4-year colleges or universities. The faculty had a reputation as highly qualified, accomplished, and dedicated professionals able to relate successfully to adolescents.

As with other cosmopolitan communities (Schwartz, 1987), the values of utilitarian individualism (Bellah et al., 1985) prevailed in Hillsdale. Most teachers, parents, and students were focused on instrumental goals - getting good grades, higher track placement, and college admission - to secure access to economic success. Well-educated and well-to-do parents expected the school to stimulate their children and prepare them to succeed at prestigious universities.

Like many other U. S. high schools, Hillsdale’s reputation for intellectual rigor had weakened in the last 20 years; this was attributed to increased demographic diversity and experiments with curriculum and student governance. Still known for its highly qualified faculty, in part, Hillsdale High’s popularity rested on its huge array of extracurricular offerings and its college campus atmosphere. Liberal sensibilities evidenced by an open campus and friendly relations among students, faculty, and administrators signaled an attachment to an egalitarian expressive order. These policies and norms not only engendered allegiance to the institution (Goffman, 1961) but also allowed ambivalent students to slip through the cracks and left it up to individual teachers to enforce standards. Members of the school community stated differing attitudes about this relaxed ethos but in general expressed very positive feelings about the school.

At the same time, conflicting attitudes toward academic standards persisted and had erupted in controversy between conservative and progressive camps several years before my study. Tension over educational goals was evident. The principal wanted to renew the school’s focus on the ‘‘intellectual development of kids.’’ He was especially concerned about low educational quality in lower level classes. In contrast, a guidance counselor said there was still too much academic competition and an unhealthy notion that ‘‘if you don’t go to [a nationally prestigious university] you won’t amount to anything.’’

HHS, with its complex set of values, purposes, and norms, presented an ambiguous educational order. Granted ample autonomy, teachers and students translated this order in differing ways as they managed contra- dictions in the simultaneous press for standards, competition, individual choice, and egalitarian relations.


The following vignettes from two classes provide explicit examples of the complex, hybridized authority relations that I observed in all four classes that I studied.

Mr. Clark’s ninth-grade honors world history class is composed of 24 students, 14 female and 10 male. According to the teacher, who is White, 18 students are White; one of them is from Russia. Three students are Chinese, and two others are biracial (Chinese and Haitian, and Black and White). One student is Jewish with parents from India and Pakistan. Several of the White students are Jewish.

Mr. Clark makes a charismatic impression: youthful, attractive, outgoing, knowledgeable, interesting, and multitalented. Paradoxically, Mr. Clark simultaneously exercises and gives up authority. He assumes the traditional role of the teacher who controls class activities and student evaluation. He enacts bureaucratic authority in covering the mandated curriculum, assigning homework based on the textbook or alternative readings from the social studies department, and giving quizzes regularly. His lessons are mostly lectures mixed with recitation. The teacher is the main source of knowledge in the class. Yet Mr. Clark makes minimal demands of students, with loose standards for classroom behavior and schoolwork. Students are permitted expressive control: They may bring food and drink (this is technically against school rules), sit where they like, socialize with their friends, swear occasionally, and so on. The teacher makes the class entertaining and fun, filling his lectures with jokes, trivia, and personal anecdotes. Students see him as more of a knowledgeable peer than as a formal teacher.

These honors students are concerned with getting good grades and showing off their intelligence without appearing overly intellectual or anxious. It is a vocal, sociable group that enjoys the opportunity to banter with a lively, egalitarian teacher. Students are compliant - they arrive on time, do what the teacher asks, get good grades - but they also challenge authority for both expressive and utilitarian purposes. Their challenges are superficial; for example, they question the clarity of questions on Mr. Clark’s quizzes. But they do not question his complicated report card grading system or that he controls the curriculum and assignments. Interestingly, earlier in the year, students had requested that rather than distributing outlines of his lectures, the teacher make note taking a student responsibility because it helped them to learn more.7 They accept the privilege of using their notes during quizzes on the teacher’s rationale that this permits him to ask harder questions.

The following vignette reveals the mix of orientations that constitute authority relationships in world history. Mr. Clark announces an upcoming quiz, and a few students respond by complaining about the last quiz, on Islam, which, to their surprise, required that they remember information from a prior unit on Judaism. The teacher allows students to express themselves and engages with them over the issue of competitive (dis)advantage. It is unclear whether either the students or the teacher are serious or whether this is just a game. The discussion is ironic, given that those complaining are entitled, both socioeconomically and academically. In the end the teacher maintains his legal-rational prerogative to determine student evaluation but by indulging the students’ right to protest preserves friendly relations and cooperation.

Mr. Clark announces there will be an open-note quiz on Friday. Eric complains about the last quiz:

Eric: You’re asking these crazy questions like …

Mr. Clark: You’re offended by my high expectations.

Eric: No, no, no. All right, you asked us a question on the last quiz what the parallel [is] to Judea. We don’t have notes on that.

Mr. Clark: If you are just passing off what goes on the board, no you don’t. Why was it though that so many people got ‘em all right?

Matt: Cause I’m Jewish!

Eric: Yeah! They’re all Jewish! But me.

Zoe, who is Jewish, angrily asserts that those students who go to Hebrew

School are at an advantage. Mr. Clark takes control by agreeing.

Mr. Clark: This is in jest, but there’s a serious issue at stake here. … Zoe said that okay, we do a Hebrew unit the kids that go to Sunday school, Hebrew school, Sunday night school, whenever night school it is, they have an advantage in social studies during that unit.

Matt: Damn right.

Mr. Clark: That’s true.

Jade: What about people who aren’t religious? Or religious in a different way and it’s a thing that we don’t study?

Mr. Clark: That’s true.

Student: Tough luck for you then.

Students break out in chatter, and Mr. Clark poses a hypothetical example of a 10th grader taking a Monday night U. S. history course, which would give him an advantage in 11th grade. Zoe protests Mr. Clark’s framing of her case and then accuses, ‘‘I think you expect us to know a lot of stuff that we don’t know.’’ Mr. Clark counters, ‘‘That’s called - education.’’ Zoe argues back: ‘‘No it’s not. If you expect us to know stuff before you teach it to us that’s not education.’’ Mr. Clark patiently replies that he tries to test them only on what’s been presented and explains that everyone makes assumptions about the common knowledge people have. He acknowledges that kids who go to Hebrew School are going to have more knowledge going into a unit on the Hebrews, while kids going to catechism will have more knowledge going into the Christianity unit. Mr. Clark continues, ‘‘As my mother would say, ‘Life’s not fair.’’’

Then he piques their curiosity and derails the opposition in the following conversation:

Mr. Clark: I believe my son has an unfair advantage in school.

Student: Why?

Mr. Clark: We don’t have a TV. That’s not fair. He oughta be wasting more of his time.

Matt: I don’t have a TV either.

Mr. Clark: You have an unfair advantage. That’s why you’re so smart. Student: There are a lot of other ways to waste time besides watching TV.

Mr. Clark: Oh sure, I’m a pro at that.

Student: Do you have a telephone?

Mr. Clark : I do. Don’t have an answering machine.

Robin: Indoor plumbing?

People chuckle, and Mr. Clark moves ahead with his agenda for the day.

Mr. Clark begins class with a show of legal-rational authority as he holds students accountable for learning through quizzes. Students, concerned about grades, challenge the fairness of the last quiz. In the spirit of professional authority, he shows that he is willing to respond to individuals’ complaints and acknowledges their assertions. If taken seriously, the situation speaks to equality and competition - deeply rooted values in American society - and to the questioning of authority. But the complaint is tacitly recognized as a parody of a protest. Mr. Clark’s response is ambiguous in its simultaneous framing of the challenge as a serious issue and as a joke. He mollifies democratic sensibilities, agreeing with the complaint, and uses humor and platitudes to win the competition between students and teacher. Although the conflict is skillfully smoothed over, it reveals confusion around the legitimacy and educational purposes on which authority rests. The implication is that the ultimate aim of schooling is getting good grades, rather than learning to make connections between world religions. The teacher’s wit preserves his control of the class, but the absence of clear reasons for expecting students to demonstrate understanding undercuts serious involvement in learning.

Perspectives in Literature is a ninth-grade English course taught by Ms. Goodman, a White woman. Of the 24 students, 16 are female and 8 are male. There are 11 White, three Asian American, and 10 Black students, the latter being an unusually disproportionately large number for the school, given that 11% of the overall student body is Black. Ms. Goodman describes the group as demanding, with eight students diagnosed with mild to moderate special needs and on Individualized Educational Plans.

Ms. Goodman’s utilitarian approach provides a stabilizing counterpoint to the loose, open campus environment at Hillsdale High. She insists that students be punctual, assigns seats, maximizes time on task, and asserts standards for classroom behavior such as prohibition of food and drink. She defines herself as more controlling and teacher centered than other faculty and believes her style is well suited to lower track classes. She manages class time efficiently, using established routines and a business-like though personable demeanor. She smoothes over adolescent antics and sets limits on off-task peer interactions. She gives students individual attention and encouragement. Students in the class describe her as both more helpful and more imposing with her demands than other teachers at HHS.

Initially Ms. Goodman tells me she is pleased with the way these students have bought in to her expectations and have become a model class that did whatever she asked them to do. I observe a high level of group cooperation with the teacher’s directives. Almost everyone arrives on time. With few exceptions, they seem to complete assigned material and participate in discussions. Although certain students exhibit distractibility, apathy, and hostility at various times, challenges to the teacher are limited. However, as the quarter proceeds, it becomes evident that a significant number of students are not doing homework, which involves reading one of two assigned books and writing journal entries.

In the following scenario, the teacher faces a classic quandary: How can she persuade students to fulfill their responsibilities? She is distraught to discover that a number of students have not being doing their work. Because a teacher’s success is dependent on the consent and performance of her students (Lortie, 1975; Metz, 1993), Ms. Goodman is clearly agitated. She draws on the age-old strategy of rewards and punishments to prompt the desired response.

Ms. Goodman begins class by reminding students that their second journal entry is due the next day. Apparently, a number of people have still not handed in Journal Entry #1. She admonishes, ‘‘You always have a choice … but to not do a journal entry leaves you with a poor grade.’’ A couple of students walk in late, and the class as a whole is still somewhat noisy and distracted. Ms. Goodman intervenes: ‘‘Okay, ladies and gentlemen here we go. Shh. Let’s try to settle down and I will tell you what I think I’m right about.’’ She calmly reminds Doreen, who has a plastic bottle on her desk, that she can’t have juice in class. Suddenly she loses patience and harshly announces that whoever is humming needs to stop. The group quickly becomes silent.

Ms. Goodman continues by reading aloud the list of students who still need to turn in Journal Entry #1. She says sternly, ‘‘Will it count as late? Yes. It’s your responsibility to get it into my possession. You have a choice. … You may do or not do. You have a choice. This is the work designed to help you improve your skills y if you don’t do it it’s your problem.’’ No one answers back, and she hands out a small slip of paper with the next journal assignment.

The next day, Ms. Goodman collects the journal entries and informs the class that she’ll accept the assignment the following day. Someone asks, ‘‘For how much credit?’’ Ms. Goodman says matter-of-factly that it would be worth 10 today, and she’ll give them 5 if it comes in tomorrow. She continues stridently, ‘‘There’s no excuse … this is March … you will be sophomores next year … some have asked to go up a level. … I was very clear on your homework … if you don’t do it that’s a choice you’ve made … but there are consequences.’’

A close look at Ms. Goodman’s language reveals paradoxical imperatives underlying her effort to win students’ cooperation. The teacher’s appeal to the class revolves around the tension between choice and consequences. She oscillates between acknowledging that students have free will to decide whether or not they will do their homework and warning them that depending on what they decide, they will be either rewarded or punished, and it was their problem. The message is both moral and therapeutic: Growing up involves taking responsibility for your own actions, and the choice to do or not do homework has repercussions. She uses the limited available resources to apply pressure.

Ms. Goodman’s sternly delivered message is offset by her willingness to compromise by giving students second chances. Students enter into a bargaining stance. Completion of work seems to depend on a calculation of what it is worth in terms of grades, rather than the intrinsic value of reading and writing.

At one point, the teacher begins to assert the legitimacy of her assignments when she says, ‘‘This is the work designed to help you improve your skills.’’ But she pulls back from educational justifications, leaning on exchange and coercion instead. Her tone is far from nonchalant; she expresses an emotional investment in the problem of getting students to complete the assigned work and earn grades that would show they had become successful high school students.

While communicating contradictory and uncertain meanings, the ultimate message is that students should do their homework to avoid a poor grade, rather than for its educational value. Confronting missing homework is meant to persuade students to fulfill their obligations, yet neglecting the reasons why students should read and write does not promote engagement.

In both classes, teachers and students construct hybridized authority relations in which teachers’ directives, and their underpinnings, are unclear. Teachers draw on a combination of traditional, bureaucratic, progressive, and radical (egalitarian) orientations along with other strategies to preserve the order necessary for teaching and learning. Yet ambiguous messages about whether students really need to understand connections between Islam and Judaism, or read assigned books, undercut the significance of subject matter. Investing in education is framed as an individual choice with individual consequences. Negotiations revolve around grades - in the higher track class raised by students and in the lower track class by the teacher - which implies weak professional legitimacy and weak intrinsic value of learning. Teachers and students construct ambiguous negotiations that assuage their tensions and may even render them entertaining, but these interactions reflect and recreate uncertainty and ambivalence about schooling.


Data collection for this study consisted of extensive observations as well as interviewing. Because previous articles have highlighted observational data (Pace, 2003a, 2003b), and because this one was partially inspired by Swidler’s (2001) work on how talk expresses culture, I focus here on interview data.

What does teachers’ and students’ talk about classroom relationships reveal about how authority is understood? Contemporary ideas on authority resonate with progressive, radical, traditional, and bureaucratic constructions. They are translated extractions from ideology embedded in commonsense understandings. Relations between teachers and students are negotiated based on participants’ knowledge of how to navigate the demands and dilemmas of schooling; mixed notions of authority inform this knowledge. The following section explores this argument, aided by Swidler’s (2001) explanation of the relationship between ideology and commonsense knowledge.

During interviews, Ms. Goodman’s comments were largely oriented toward bureaucratic authority. She spoke about her accountability policies, in which students earned credit for completion of assignments and thus learned to take responsibility. Grades served as students’ motivation; they measured students’ productivity and Ms. Goodman’s success as a teacher. In this scheme, students were workers and she was the boss. She said the rationale behind her system was ‘‘[I]f I ask you to do something … then I expect you to do it but I’m gonna reward you for doing it. That hard work pays off.’’ She said ‘‘ultimately [students] understand ‘I’m in school, school is work oriented, skills oriented, and if I perform these skills and do this work, I will be rewarded with a nice grade, and that’s how I’ll know that I did what I was supposed to do.’’’ Getting good grades signified completion of work and fulfillment of obligation; this was the central educational purpose that justified authority.

Ms. Goodman’s explanation of her teaching style also suggested traditional authority. She described it as ‘‘very controlling’’ and ‘‘teacher centered.’’ Although she elicited student participation, she spoke about having particular objectives and maintaining academic focus, rather than following students’ interests.

Ms. Goodman also spoke to professional authority. She indicated that teacher competence was based on knowledge of various teaching methodologies but more importantly the ability to relate to and encourage students. She had to learn new content and pedagogy when she began teaching English yet thought she had ‘‘a lot of the natural attributes of being a teacher.’’ These had to do with ‘‘how you interact with kids,’’ ‘‘understanding what it is that people want in terms of feedback.’’ She spoke about ‘‘making those one-on-one connections’’ and letting students know that ‘‘you know and are concerned about each one as an individual.’’ These comments imply the commonsense understanding that professional authority rests largely on the teacher’s innate ability to relate to students, rather than accumulated expertise in curriculum and instruction and the contexts of schooling that is emphasized in scholarship on teacher knowledge (Grossman, 1990; Shulman, 1987).

Ms. Goodman struggled to reconcile her bureaucratic leanings with her emphasis on individual attention. A dilemma for her was maintaining ‘‘consistency of policy.’’ She thought she could be ‘‘more structured’’ about ‘‘consequences’’ for late or missing homework and quizzes. ‘‘[I]t would make my life easier and it would make them more mature as students. And it would also reward those students who do what they’re supposed to. And penalize those who don’t. And that this is how school works and this is how you learn to take responsibility.’’ At the end of the year, she seemed to want to convince herself to be strict rather than flexible: ‘‘If kids know what the policies are and you hold to them you really do get better results.’’ She continued, ‘‘I mean you can’t not come to work when you’re an adult.’’

However, although she saw grades as a potent sanction, the press for preservation of positive feelings made it difficult to take a bureaucratic

stance. She said earlier in the semester:

You know, for their self-esteem, I think I’ve done a good job of not making them constantly conscious of how they’re doing on their grades and that in fact, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that positive attitude, they seem happy to be there, they don’t seem stressed. And I think that’s a good environment for learning. The fact that they haven’t bought in and aren’t doing the reading and don’t have the good grades to go with it well I’m sorry about that. But I’m not sorry - I don’t want to have grim faces, a tension-filled room; I would prefer what appears to be this happy productive engaged room.

Ms. Goodman was pulled between the two main things she thought she offered: grades and a personal connection. The importance of good rapport made it difficult to stick with an impersonal approach to authority.

Ms. Goodman was also caught between traditional and progressive orientations in her understanding of professional authority. Another dilemma was figuring out

how much of that teacher-centered teacher-controlled curriculum really is educationally beneficial for the kid versus continuing to work harder to make the classroom more active, more student centered…. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that if we got away from teacher-centered and did more cooperative learning and more group projects and more (half-singing) mhmhmhmh! That kids would learn more, and I’m not absolutely convinced of that. Although part of me thinks I could do more in that area.

She resolved this question by saying she needed to adjust her style when teaching honors classes, while concluding her current approach was appropriate for the lower levels.

The four students I interviewed from Ms. Goodman’s class indicated a range of attitudes toward authority. They too were oriented toward bureaucratic authority as manifested in grades but in varying ways and not as strongly as the teacher. Elena adopted a passively compliant stance as though she were coerced by grades: ‘‘[Ms. Goodman] makes you do the work.’’ Doug appeared to assume responsibility for working towards college: ‘‘You always wanna try hard y keep all your options open.’’ Malaika was ambivalent about grades: ‘‘It means a lot to my mother; to me, it makes me feel bad when I y get a bad grade but it doesn’t matter all that much to me because I don’t take grading as, grading doesn’t really show how much you know.’’ She resisted the system by not completing her work.

Three out of the four students expressed positive feelings about Ms. Goodman tuned to aspects of professional authority. They remarked that she was encouraging and helpful. Elena said, ‘‘If I don’t understand how to do my homework I ask her and she explains it. And she gives me ideas and stuff.’’ Malaika said that Ms. Goodman believed in her ability to be successful, encouraged her to do the work, and offered help outside of class. She said the teacher was nice and showed respect for students; therefore, they respected her. Doug said Ms. Goodman was friendlier and clearer in her expectations than other teachers. But Ali expressed resentment. He complained that Ms. Goodman was nice in the beginning of the year but had changed; she was too strict and yelled a lot. He said that whether students completed their work depended on whether they liked the teacher, which explained why he was no longer doing so. My hunch was that Ali, whose other classes were at the honors level, felt offended by Ms. Goodman’s controlling approach with this lower track class.

Elena, who had emigrated from Russia a few years before, highlighted the dominance of individual choice over authority in American schooling. She explained that teachers in Russia constantly talked to parents; this helped students fulfill their responsibilities. Elena said, ‘‘This is my choice of studying y but over there you really have to do it.’’ Ali’s comments pointed up the salience of choice: ‘‘If the teacher’s on you to get your homework in, like, people like won’t pay attention to her just cause she’s doing that.’’ Ali expressed a strong attachment to exercising his freedom and suggested that Ms. Goodman was invasive in trying to get students to comply with her commands. He said his other teachers were much more relaxed and left it up to the students.

Doug was the only student who consistently found the work intrinsically motivating. The others did not seem to see a great deal of value in much of what they were reading and writing. Students were attached to their expressive interests more than utilitarian aims: Their comments were filled with their likes and dislikes and were much more focused on feelings than on obligations. Malaika’s opening statements during our first interview are indicative: ‘‘I like the class, and it’s a nice class, and the work is sorta easy. But sometimes I don’t really like the books … the book has to be really good or I cannot make myself read it.’’ Malaika expressed positive feelings for Ms. Goodman and participated enthusiastically in class, but she disliked reading and doing homework and consequently got Ds on her report card. Consent to authority was multifaceted and based on feelings about the teacher and about the assigned work. Ms. Goodman’s assumption that students responded to the power of grades in bureaucratic authority did not hold constant.

In comparison with Ms. Goodman, Mr. Clark emphasized grades less and his rapport with students more. He described the heart of authority as winning students’ love, and, when necessary, provoking their fear. He perceived himself as a charismatic teacher, who was able to cover the curriculum and satisfy students’ wants by being ‘‘energetic’’ and ‘‘flexible,’’ because ‘‘adolescents are energetic and unpredictable.’’ The key was exuding ‘‘energy’’ by being ‘‘loud’’ and ‘‘effusive’’ and a ‘‘physical person,’’ as well as using showmanship in his lessons: ‘‘I see it as a performance art. And they’re your audience. y I’ve got my raft of stories and trivia and y sight gags and slapstick and, you know, all of that stuff.’’ Mr. Clark used entertainment to maintain control. Once he had won students’ hearts by making his class fun, he could afford to get angry once in a while when they became uncooperative. These comments suggest charismatic authority, not in Weber’s messianic definition of this term (Weber, 1947) but akin to Waller’s (1932/1961) discussion of prestige enjoyed by teachers with qualities that appeal to students. Although Metz (1978) discusses charisma as a source of personal influence, Mr. Clark indicated that charisma was part of his professional qualifications.

Mr. Clark’s notion of professional authority was, like Ms. Goodman’s, primarily based on the ability to relate to students, but he also talked about having an aptitude for impressing students as knowledgeable, which required interpersonal communication skills, or what he called ‘‘the knack’’: ‘‘Y’know, are you an improviser, can you think on your feet … it’s a creative art.’’ He explained:

You’ll encounter things in the curriculum that are not areas of expertise … you have to be a quick study and you have to give the students confidence that you know the subject area. … I present myself in the classroom as somebody who’s got a handle on the information. So, as far as ninth graders are concerned, I do.

More than subject matter or pedagogical expertise, according to Mr. Clark, self-presentation and popularity were paramount to being a successful teacher.

Paradoxically, Mr. Clark’s relationships with students seemed egalitarian but in fundamental ways were traditional. He spoke about being ‘‘loose and informal’’ and letting students have input. But although students raised specific challenges they did not question the way he conducted the class. Mr. Clark acknowledged that his pedagogy was ‘‘teacher focused’’ and that he was uncomfortable during classes devoted to small group projects with ‘‘less teacher control.’’ Given the expectation of HHS that honors students be given autonomy, Mr. Clark, like Ms. Goodman, said he needed to work on becoming less teacher centered.

Mr. Clark talked about appealing to legal-rational claims to legitimacy when authority struggles arose. Although I rarely observed this, he spoke about resorting to consequences for misbehavior, such as detention, and justifying his actions to students: ‘‘And you know without getting on your high horse you tell them you have a professional and legal ethical responsibility to that student and the rest of the class, to the parents and taxpayers, you have no choice.’’ But Mr. Clark’s appeals to external authorities were rare; he was more likely to assuage opposition with flexible standards.

The six students I interviewed from world history stressed the teacher’s egalitarian approach. Robin said:

He treats us as equals. Not like he’s the boss and we’re like below him, even thought that’s sort of the way it is, but everyone has an equal amount of power. … I think he chooses to let it be a more democratic process than him being like, you know deciding everything.

Having revealed that underlying authority relations in the class were actually a mix of bureaucratic, radical, and progressive orientations, she continued by stressing the latter: ‘‘Well we always get to say what we feel, we … get to give our input … and he’s open to our suggestions. … And he’s relaxed and … he’s not very strict at all.’’ Robin said the teacher was ‘‘flexible’’ and didn’t have ‘‘set rules.’’ Matt said that ‘‘high school teaching is better suited to younger people’’ who were ‘‘willing and able to institute new policies and break old traditions,’’ which made for ‘‘a lot better cooperation and relationships between students and teachers.’’ Jade remarked on Mr. Clark’s relaxed approach. She explained, ‘‘It’s a laid back environment,’’ which meant that the teacher let students eat in class and sit where they wanted to - on top of desks, on the floor, etc. Students seemed to equate democracy and progressivism with flexibility and an allowance of expressive control.

Students’ understanding of professional authority was implied in their perception that Mr. Clark was knowledgeable. Matt said, ‘‘I just think he’s very sort of, on top of it. And … a lot of it is that he’s sort of presenting very new information … even though it’s an easy class.’’ They said the teachers’ stories and openness to students’ input made them ‘‘think about a lot of different topics’’; the class was interesting and fun. Jade said she respected teachers for knowing more than she did but emphasized that she especially liked Mr. Clark because he was a ‘‘fun person’’ who was nice and sympathetic to students.

These higher track students were invested in grades and therefore concerned with bureaucratic authority. Daniel admitted, ‘‘Anything we can complain about we’ll complain about.’’ The reason was, simply, grades: ‘‘Because people always want to get their grades better (chuckle). Because that’s number one, top priority.’’ Robin explained students’ motivation: ‘‘No one goes into that classroom saying I am here for an enriching learning experience; they say ‘I wanna get an A cause I wanna graduate and I wanna go to a good school and I wanna get a good job.’’’ Although some students did demonstrate enthusiasm for learning, both in class and during interviews, preoccupation with grades was notable.

Students indicated that Mr. Clark asserted traditional and bureaucratic authority but compensated for it through his confident and lighthearted demeanor. Daniel described an incident involving a major assignment: ‘‘He said in very joking terms, ‘If I don’t get this tomorrow, I’m gonna have your head on a platter.’… He was very funny; I laughed. But he was also very much ‘You don’t pass it in tomorrow, you fail.’’’ Students shared an incident in which Mr. Clark yelled at the class but then apologized, which they appreciated. Several students used the word ‘‘respect’’; Daniel explained that respect was earned by teachers who could ‘‘keep their cool’’ and were not afraid of students. He said Mr. Clark had ‘‘a lot of charisma,’’ which made it easier to listen to him. Nomi explained: ‘‘He’s nice … he’s funny, he doesn’t make the class heavy all the time, like God it’s history now. He makes jokes. He talks about himself and his own family and … [he’s] more of a person rather than a teacher so much.’’ Students suggested that Mr. Clark enacted charismatic authority based on knowing what appealed to them, for example, egalitarianism and humor.

When asked how she viewed Mr. Clark’s approach, one student said, ‘‘It seems like he doesn’t show enough confidence to have enough authority … he doesn’t have any rules.’’ If people were being disruptive he would say, ‘‘Please stop’’ repeatedly rather than ‘‘take more authority.’’ She said she needed more structure than the teacher provided.

What generalizations within this case (Erickson, 1986) can be drawn from these interview data? In both classes, teachers’ and students’ talk reveals features of progressive, radical, traditional, and bureaucratic positions on authority. It contains traces of ideologies that have shaped what are now taken-for-granted, unselfconscious, commonsense understandings of authority. Ideologies are ‘‘explicit, articulated, highly organized meaning systems’’ that serve to ‘‘establish new languages and styles for new strategies of action’’ (Swidler, 2001, p. 99). Ideologies develop during unsettled periods open to new possibilities. Over time, they may become embedded in mainstream culture and thus become more implicit rather than explicit. Commonsense knowledge consists of unquestioned assumptions that do not require justification because they seem natural and self-evident (Swidler,

2001, p. 96).

The commonsense understandings manifested in talk about authority point to hybridized relations that combine aspects of different types of authority, although they may contradict one another. Teachers and students acknowledge the salience of bureaucratic authority backed by power in the form of grades. Labaree (1997) argues that social mobility for individuals has replaced two other educational aims - development of democratic citizens and preparation of a stratified workforce - as the major goal of education so that schooling has become a private consumer good rather than an institution that serves the public interest.

The focus on competitive credentials versus intrinsic value of learning (Pope, 2001) generates authority relations that are bureaucratic and uncertain in their educational justification. The tensions produced by this situation, in combination with the growth of large, diverse student populations generate increased concern with positive rapport as a primary vehicle, along with grades, for winning cooperation (Cusick, 1983).

In my study, students and teachers emphasized that bureaucratic authority is made palatable by teachers’ sympathetic treatment of students, which is seen as a component of professional legitimacy. Accommodation and friendly relations that acknowledge students’ autonomy offset the tacit traditional authority manifested in teachers’ approach to curriculum and their ultimate control of classroom affairs.

Missing from both teachers’ and students’ talk are well-developed understandings of professional authority, including its source of legitimacy and educational aims. Constructions of authority that emphasize good will reflect the salience of interpersonal skills more than pedagogical expertise. The element of choice advocated by progressive thinkers has been translated to mean that investment in learning is voluntary (see Dewey, 1938/1997). Also absent is an understanding of radical critiques of authority. The concern with equality and interrogation of authority espoused by critical scholars has been reconstructed as the appropriateness of egalitarian relations and students’ right to challenge obstacles to acquiring good grades.


In this article I analyzed enactments and talk of authority from two high school classes using concepts from curriculum studies (Kliebard, 1986) and the sociology of culture (Swidler, 1986, 2001). Borrowing from Kliebard’s discussion of the hybridized curriculum that resulted from the struggle among differing ideologies, I tried to illuminate the hybridized character of contemporary classroom authority. Observation and interview data reveal that teachers and students combine aspects of traditional, professional, bureaucratic, and egalitarian models (Hurn, 1985; Metz, 1978) as they negotiate their agendas. Informed by Swidler’s conception of culture, I showed that underlying many of their actions are unquestioned commonsense understandings, or culturally embedded assumptions, that bear traces of different ideologies. Teachers and students are influenced by everyday translations of progressive, conservative, bureaucratic, and radical ideas about authority. Reasons for directives (‘‘Do this because it’s educational’’ vs. ‘‘Do this to earn a good grade’’) are often contradictory. Additionally, teachers veil their assertions of authority, responding to the premium placed on individual choice and egalitarianism in this particular school and in the wider society. Students appear generally acquiescent.

Authority relations seem fairly stable and smooth yet under the surface are uncertain. In addition to contradictory orientations to authority, educational purposes are unclear. Teachers and students get along and enact the curriculum, yet lack conviction about the importance of their work together. Ambiguous goals, narrow views of professional authority, dependence on bureaucratic authority, and conflicting demands of liberty, control, competition, and equality contribute to confused classroom relationships. These relations maintain the order needed for education to occur but work against deep involvement in teaching and learning and recreate ambivalence toward authority and the value of schooling.

Why is further research on authority important? Authority is inextricably linked with teaching and learning in classrooms (Grant, 1981; Metz, 1978); it is fundamental to classroom functioning while it embodies the dilemma between the requirements of teachers to impose on and evaluate students as well as create affective bonds to encourage them to learn (Bidwell, 1965; Waller, 1932/1961). It can promote or intervene in disengagement from intellectual learning in American high schools, a widely documented problem (Cusick, 1983; Goodlad, 1984; Hurn, 1985; McNeil, 1986; Page, 1991; Powell, 1996; Powell et al., 1986; Sedlak et al., 1986; Sizer, 1984). Authority is also vital to the school’s responsibility to prepare citizens for a democratic society (Giroux, 1988).

From an historical perspective, the1960s partially undermined teachers’ traditional legitimacy (Hurn, 1985), and the purposes of high school have become less certain as more students collect diplomas without necessarily learning much (Cohen & Neufeld, 1981; Labaree, 1997). Support for teachers’ professional capacity is weak (Cohen, 1996), while students present more challenges than ever before (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001); thus, claims to professional legitimacy may be tenuous.

Examination of contemporary understandings and enactments of authority illuminates these issues. Accountability based on standardized test performance is purportedly meant to fix uncertainty, disengagement, and low standards in schools. Using sanctions to pressure teachers and students to raise test scores implies an increase in bureaucratic rather than professional authority, which may further undermine genuine involvement in learning.

Extended exploration of authority’s complexity and its contextual influences is needed. Page argues that the notion of ‘‘curriculum-as-hybrid’’ is a conceptual tool that ‘‘provide(s) a means of acknowledging complexity without being overwhelmed by it’’ (1999, p. 590). This study presents the idea of authority-as-hybrid. It shows that discussions of authority are not only vital but also need to be grounded in the complex dynamics of real classrooms rather than abstract ideals. Contextualized understandings of the dilemmas of classroom authority and how teachers and students manage them is essential to figuring out more educationally beneficial practices.

This research was limited in scope. Future studies should investigate authority relations in greater numbers of classrooms and schools to test and elaborate on these findings. They should attend specifically to the impact of standards-based reform, which pressures teachers and students to perform. Additionally, expanded discussion of ideologies about authority and their relationship to the history, culture, and politics of American schooling and society are needed, along with comparative studies of authority that span different cultures and domains.

Confusion about authority pervades American society. Explicit and informed discussion of authority, its variations, and the dilemmas it embodies is vital to educational reform and to a democratic citizenry (Giroux, 1988). Knowledge of the different forms and layers that constitute social constructions of authority, and how these influence classroom life, must inform both educational practice and policy.


1 See Page’s (1987, 1991, 1999) discussions of ambivalence and ambiguity in classroom interactions and how they are shaped by the paradoxical culture of schooling and of America.

2 Also borrowing from Kliebard, Page (1999) uses the term curriculum-as-hybrid to conceputalize her main finding in a study of integrated science.

3 Pseudonyms are used throughout the paper to protect anonymity.

4 Teachers were recruited from those faculty teaching both lower and higher track classes and recommended by colleagues as being successful at engaging students in learning.

5 While I interacted a bit with students at opportune times during class, for example during small group activities and before and after the lesson, I was an observer, not a participant.

6 One reviewer suggested I investigate further the roles of track-level and sociocultural factors, such as race in authority, by relating findings from this study with prior research. I chose not to do that in this article because I thought it would detract from its focus and because I explored these issues in other publications.

7 Note taking may also serve as an important symbol of honors status.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 8, 2003, p. 1559-1585
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11556, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 6:45:17 PM

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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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