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Classroom authority

Posted By: Duane Swacker on May 12, 2003
I am not sure what you are looking for in research on classroom authority in that one can approach the subject from a number of different viewpoints/lenses/angles. One might look at the authority from a legal viewpoint such as comparing laws in different countries that "authorize" the actions of teachers. Or you could look at authority from an historical point of view a la Michel Foucault in trying to determine under what the conditions-social, legal, cultural, etc. . .-current practices developed. If you haven't read Foucault, you might try his book Discipline and Punish, which deals with the birth of modern prisons. In it he details how modern prisons have come about since the "Classical" period and his concept of subjectivication. Or you might take a look at J F Lyotards work in The Postmodern Condition and Just Gaming to get an idea of his concepts of his various language games and how these can be used to anaylze classroom authority.

These are not "scientific" but more philosophical-historical type works. I would argue that we, at least here in the United States need a lot more philosophical examinations of current practices than "scientific" ones. We here in the U.S. are so caught up in the modern episteme of attempting to scientize education that it is almost laughable. Kind of like Middle Age scholars arguing about how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.

I am a high school Spanish teacher with a Masters in Education Administration and am working on a doctorate in same. I am fortunate to be working with a professor who many consider to be "too philosophical". So I am doing neither a quantitative nor qualitative dissertation but a Critical Enquiry into the state of Missouri's mandatory testing program.

On a different note to your inquiry about different experiences with classroom authority I can share my own. I know that in Latin America the authority of the teacher pretty much goes unquestioned, whereas, here in the U.S. public schools there is almost daily questioning of classroom practices--not only by the students but also, at times, by parents and the community. I happen to welcome those challenges as I believe by explaining my reasons for doing what I do I get better cooperation from the students. If the students think that you are handling the class in an arbitrary fashion or do not have sufficient reasons for doing what you do they will go into an attack (not physical) mode and do their best to undermine the class environment. Unforturnately, the situation is such that many times the students are believed (although sometimes rightly so) over the teachers.

I hope this post was a little helpful for you. If you would like to discuss this more please respond. Let me know if further emails would be helpful and I can get you my email address.

Duane E. Swacker
Kirkwood, near St. Louis, Missouri
Thread Hierarchy
 classroom authority in practice by David Gehle on April 9, 2003
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