How are human relations practiced in language? English and Indigenous students at university

Year: 2003

Author: Harrison, Neil

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is an alarming gap between what we want from students and what we do as lecturers in teacher-education courses at university. While we want preservice teachers to develop harmonious, collaborative relations in their classroom, and to recognise the positions of each and every student, they themselves are positioned in relation to their own ego. Students are usually positioned through the discursive techniques practiced at university to take a metaphorical stand in their talking and writing rather than consider how their position might be linked to others. They are learning to argue rather than to negotiate. While we would like students to consider all the positions carefully, we require them at every point to be judgmental and egotistical about a world which is constituted as objective through the scientific discourse of the university. Students are simultaneously expected to make appeals to authority in their writing whilst also acting in that position themselves. They learn a scientific methodology that requires them to describe, compare, categorise, analyse and interpret. But such a methodology produces a competitive, individualist and judgemental approach to human relations. While it makes the ego stronger, it undermines the possibility of Indigenous students negotiating any sense of belonging in the university classroom.