Embodied logic: understanding discipline through teachers' commentaries

Year: 2009

Author: Millei, Zsuzsa, Raby, Rebecca

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Ideas of discipline are organised into coherent sets of approaches that construct unified subjects of discipline and present logical delineations of theory that, in turn, inform practices and techniques of discipline. We aim to demonstrate in this paper that despite the assumedly logical nature of these approaches and the unified subjects they attempt to produce, individual teachers when talking about disciplining students create an individual and 'embodied logic' to justify their practices that appear as much less coherent and somewhat illogical or even incompatible. This 'embodied logic' is composed through statements delivered by the confluence of discourses of discipline approaches and other related discourses, for example ideas on human nature, childhood and adolescence, respect, responsibility and so on.

In order to develop this argument, we first examine the ways in which approaches to discipline utilise scientific discourses and constitute ideas about the subjects of discipline and produce particular rationalities of discipline. Tying this examination together with considerations of respect, responsibility, self-discipline, choice and so on, the paper then examines codes of conduct that utilise these and aim to create an inherent logic of discipline. Following that teachers' commentaries on codes of conduct are analysed in order to demonstrate the ways in which constructions of 'the child', 'the adolescent' and 'human nature' and the previously explored rationalities and considerations play out in teachers' thinking. We argue, that these commentaries are mobile and temporary assemblages of statements that are used by teachers to organise their reasoning to create an 'embodied logic' to justify and explain particular ways of disciplining students, but often are composed of diverse, incompatible and irreconcilable ideas and values. Thus, we develop an argument that the ways in which these considerations play out are fragmented and often illogical, in spite of teachers' attempts to build up an 'embodied logic'. Finally, we raise some questions about the implications of what this fragmented view of disciplining might mean.