The discourse of control – Foucault in ECE 3

In the afore-mentioned article, Millei writes that “The discourse of the classroom, its architectural plan, regulations and administrative measures, is filled with controlling techniques of power/knowledge. The word ‘school’ itself defines relations within the institution and in the classroom as well by specifying certain individualities, and organises space and time according to a particular discourse. Thus, there were students, children, teachers and assistants in the classroom, and there is an activity area, a rest area and a teachers’ area. The temporal organisation is similar in that the whole day is scheduled into activity time, rest time, inside time, outside time and cooling off time, and commanded by signals such as the play bell, go inside bell, packing up bell, noisy bell and so on. Each word is filled with particular predefined expectations towards power relations and appropriate and timely ways of conduct. In school, learning takes place all the time and everywhere under the constant gaze of the teacher’s eyes….” (133)

The whole classroom area was easily controllable because there was no space for younger human beings’ privacy. Even the height of the doors in the toilets invited supervising adult eyes. The teacher and assistants carefully monitored all areas; even sounds and feelings were scrutinised by them, such as feeling sympathy. Young human beings were paired or separated based on their ‘settling effect’ on each other and without consideration of their preferences.” (133)

In the classroom Millei was doing her research in, she makes a point that could certainly be attributed to other educational settings: “Sounds were differentiated as well according to their educational value: ‘As long as it’s busy noise I don’t have a problem with the noise … As long as they are busy and they are playing nicely and doing all those things and I don’t, the noise doesn’t bother me really … I mean you are still listening everywhere. Your eyes are everywhere but yeah. No, I don’t mind the noise.’ (K, [one of the teachers’ assistants] p. 4)” (133)

In school the young person becomes a student. The word student controls the child by setting a clear boundary of its expected conduct – ‘listen to the teacher’, ‘be quiet’, ‘do as I explained to you’. The student should pay attention to the teacher, should learn, should place herself under the governance of the classroom rules. The ‘unruliness’ of childhood is over, the ‘learning child’ steps in (Holland, 1992, p. 63). The ‘learning child’ must be placed in a ‘learning environment’ and she must execute ‘well-structured learning tasks’. The idea of ‘student’ creates expectations towards power relationships and conduct in the classroom. Thus, the idea of ‘student’ also provides a base for instant evaluation of the young human being as ‘good or bad’.

Woodrow (1999) argues that images of childhood have a great impact on an individual’s approaches to young persons. She explores three dominant images of childhood that govern the Australian early childhood education field: ‘child as innocent’, ‘child as threat’ and ‘child as embryo adult’ (Woodrow, 1999). The image of ‘child as threat’ calls for tight control measures. It justifies the ‘disciplinary power’ (Foucault, 1977) of behaviour management and control over young human beings. The image of the ‘child as threat’ conveys the meaning that s/he can be dangerous to others (Silin, 1995). It invokes the teacher’s protection of the others in the class. These ‘dangerous children’ need to be tamed/controlled or, in relentless cases, diagnosed and treated.” (134)

Ref: Zsuzsanna J. Millei (2005) ‘The Discourse of Control: disruption and Foucault in an early childhood classroom’ Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Volume 6, Number 2, pp.128-139

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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