The good student: Subjectivities, power and schooling

Year: 2006

Author: Thompson, Greg

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Schools are places where student subjectivities are negotiated and contested in a variety of spaces. This paper argues that schools organise the possibilities for student subjectivities through a set of discourses that construct idealised notions of the good student. Whilst some discourses occur across educational sites, in practice these sets of discourses construct a unique vision of the good student in each specific school site. This vision is articulated in a variety of ways in each school, however, the result is that each student is enmeshed within a complex nexus of power relations that they can contest, negotiate or accept. Most of the time, students engage in a swirling set of subjectivities that encompasses these possibilities in various ways at various times.

This paper problematises commonsense notions of the good student at one school site. One intent is to give voice to the lived experience of students who find themselves the site of these technologies of power. These technologies construct a set of commonsense expectations of schools - amongst which is the desire to produce the good student. Another is to use a Foucaultean analysis that rejects the good/bad binary that underpins many commonsense understandings of what students should be.