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BOOK REVIEWS


Rogers, B. (1990) You Know The Fair Rule. Australian Council for Educational Research, Hawthorn, Victoria.

J. D. Whiteley
Research Services
Department of Education

When the author claims that this book will provide strategies for making the hard job of discipline in schools easier, it could be understood if the teacher audience was to reply, 'So what? Hasn't enough been written about school discipline?' After all, references and resources in another recent book by Cowan et al, 'Positive School Discipline', take up some 34 pages alone and even these are not exhaustive.

Clearly, it must be questioned whether yet another book on school discipline can make its mark in what is an already crowded field. For many teachers, but not all, the answer to this question will be 'yes'.

Rogers' philosophy is home grown, essentially practical and teacher centred, developed from years of experience as a teacher and a consultant. It appears to have its foundations in behaviourism, but there is a strong sociological undercurrent, which stresses that in many cases disruptions emanate from a disjunction between school culture and the interests of the student.

Opinions on discipline fluctuate widely, so any book stating a position on discipline is certain to please some and irritate others.

Even so, Rogers does not try to mask his own values, or hide what he considers the goals of good discipline should be. These are defined as: developing self-discipline, encouraging self esteem, accountability, recognising and respecting the rights of others, promoting honesty and developing rationale conflict resolution. From this platform, Rogers examines a variety of strategies that teachers can employ to come to grips with the difficult job of school discipline. These strategies do not advocate the quick fix, they are not merely a grab bag of ideas designed to get the teacher out of crisis situations that arise throughout the teaching day. Rather, they are strategies for developing a working plan aimed at improving long term discipline. As such, the book is directed at the teacher wanting to make an ongoing commitment to improving the classroom for both themselves and their students.

Teachers are all too familiar with the time and effort needed to develop good lesson plans, Rogers' message is that we need to put some of this effort into developing a discipline plan. Such a plan involves teachers working out strategies they will use when certain predictable situations arise in their classrooms. Rogers provides a framework for developing such strategies. He recognises that teachers are individuals and that they can only operate within their own set of individual beliefs. This framework certainly does not advocate producing a collection of clones programmed to solve the problems of the classroom. There is a recognition of the reflective nature of change, and a realisation that these reflections need to be positively focused. This process is facilitated by incorporating a set of reflective questions at appropriate points; questions which lead the reader to consider how they would implement specific strategies into their own classroom situations.

Rogers describes the process for developing positive classroom discipline as a series of steps involving:

In achieving success, consistency and support are held up as key factors. On this point there are likely to be a few disagreements.

Three styles of discipline are discussed and contrasted: hoping students will do as they are directed, expecting compliance and demanding obedience. From this deliberation the expecting compliance style, which requires a clear, rule focused, calm but when necessary, assertive teacher, is firmly advocated. Indeed, it is this style of discipline that forms the foundations of Rogers' classroom discipline model. Clearly, if a reader is not comfortable with this style of discipline, or adopting this style, the rest of the strategies are unlikely to be of any value.

The classroom management discipline plan for creating a positive environment involves four stages:

The first three phases of this plan, based around planning and consistency, are most realistic. However, the final phase, which involves the intervention of other staff members, may not be easily attainable in some teaching situations and in some schools.

There are many 'real' classroom examples cited of discipline in action. These cover a range of examples, from Year 1 to the later secondary years, although the main emphasis is on the primary school. Early examples of classroom behaviours are somewhat lurid, presumably to raise initial interest, although student teachers reading them may well question their decision to choose the teaching profession. Atypical behaviour has to be confronted, but the message received might well be that outlandish behaviour is the norm in classrooms. Even in the 90s this is not the case.

A key concept of any discipline model is accountability. The one adopted here has its groundwork in the 3Rs: Rights, Rules and Responsibility, which, with guidance, are developed and hence owned by the students. Breaking these student owned rules has its logical consequences and the teacher's role becomes that of administering the rules to which students have agreed to be accountable. Recent research by Slee shows that this is a method much favoured by students.

Rogers makes the excellent point about the need for a positive school climate and the need for a cooperative and supportive staff within the school. His overall plan hangs on developing such a climate, through 'staff meetings, workshops or in-service programs'. Although encouraging collaborative decision making, Rogers does not go far enough in his suggestions of how to achieve this. Like discipline, schemes to change principal's and senior staffs' opinions and work practices have to be planned. While restructuring a classroom is easy, procedures that involve other staff members should not be embarked upon without considering the potential problems and likely affronts to other colleagues that precipitous actions, no matter how well intentioned, may cause. This is not to say such actions should not be attempted, but the book would have benefited from a description of some of the basic strategies that need to be employed to get these original ideas accepted. Along with this, there should be some mention of the possible pitfalls ensuing from lack of introductory planning.

The book is essentially practical, with many useful ideas that teachers could easily incorporate into their classroom management strategies. As such I can see that it would have broad attraction to a range of groups in the teaching profession. The pragmatic nature of this book makes it ideal for anyone wishing to put theory into practice. Consequently, I would certainly recommend this book to pre-service and beginning teachers. Its underpinning principle of reflection on practice make it suitable for teaching practitioners who are seeking to deliberate on ways of improving their teaching style and procedures. Finally, although the ideas are basically teacher centred, they could easily be embraced by senior administrators wishing to make positive changes to their school climate. Although, should they wish to put the ideas into school wide practice, they would be well advised to go beyond this text.

References

Cowen, M., Freeman, L., Farmer, A., James, M., Drent, A., Arther, R. (l990) Positive School Discipline: A Practical Guide to Developing Policy, Baronia, Vic: Narbethong.

Slee, R. (ed) (1988) Discipline and School: A Curriculum Perspective, Melbourne, Macmillan.

Hill, B. V. (1991) Values Education in Australian Schools. Australian Council for Educational Research, Hawthorn, Victoria.

P. Singh
Division of Education
Griffith University

In his book 'Values Education in Australian Schools' Brian Hill sets out to deconstruct the implicit values and moral assumptions of the secular school. As well, Hill proposes a curriculum model of consensus pluralism designed to provide students with the opportunity to study moral reasoning, codes and conduct, and invite inspection of the implicit values of a secular, pluralist society.

He argues however, that his critique of the secular state school does not set up a 'straw man', only to be knocked down. Yet Hill's use of generalist discourse creates a text in which the dominant voice is that of the rationalist critic, often resorting to slogans in order to deconstruct the mythological 'straw man'. Hill attempts to counteract this criticism at the outset by claiming the necessity of setting a framework for values education through the use of generalist theories. More specific issues he argues, can be discussed if this line of argument is endorsed. However, Hill fails to acknowledge that general theories do not necessarily and logically lay the foundation for the analysis of specific issues. On the contrary, monolithic theories of the individual and society, such as those used by Hill effectively suppress the voicing of micro or specific theories of social interaction and the construction of social identity.

Despite this major criticism of the book, Hill does raise significant, although contradictory points which need to be addressed by all educationalists in the nineties. On page 5 Hill makes a profound assertion:

We hold beliefs about many things, and regard some of our beliefs as more serious and fundamental than others. We are also inclined to relate our beliefs and values to each other and develop a 'value system' which represents our personal response to the world. This may also be referred to as our 'world view 'religion or 'life stance'. It is natural for human beings to try to link their experiences in a personal perspective or story which helps to confirm their individual identities. Conversely, a sensed loss of meaning can make people as sick as any victim of physical accident or deformity (emphasis added).
While much has been written about the quality of education since the mid eighties[1], few policy writers have addressed the issue of values education at such an essential level. Hill clarifies the causes and consequences of student alienation in the secular society. Most importantly, he argues that psychological distress caused by positioning and repositioning within specific social structures is as painful and damaging to personal health as physical illness. The values and moral order which regulate the formation of subjectivity and social identity within the secular school need to be made explicit and exposed for their ideological orientation. Using Durkheim's distinction between the moral and social order, and the importance of the moral order in regulating subjectivity, Hill argues for a balance between transmitting the culture and developing individual autonomy. He argues that the moral order of individual autonomy within the secular school has produced an alienated consciousness of throw-away consumers. Individuals are isolated from each other, values are private constructs, and there is no transcendent or communal value system which can serve as a reference point.

Hill presents four criticisms of the secular and Christian independent schools. First, he critiques the monolithic faith of the Christian private and independent schools which he argues is incongruent with liberal democratic ideology. Second, he argues against the policy of placing teachers of European background without special training in rural schools where the majority of students are Aboriginal. He claims that although the students are labelled as deficit, it is the teachers who lack ability. Third, he critiques the 'additive approach' to multicultural studies which produces situations where students from minority backgrounds are 'put on show' to illustrate a topic dealing with their cultures of origin. Anglo-celtic children, on the other hand, are presented with their heritage as part of the regular and accepted sequence of topics. Fourth, Hill critiques the limitations of a relativist approach adopted by the secular school, where different cultures, values and morals are discussed briefly under the thematic approach. Such an approach elevates process at the expense of content and does not promote students' understanding of the human quest for transcendental or esoteric knowledge through religion, science and other belief systems. Hill (1991: 61) argues that 'pure relativism causes intellectual paralysis.'

This excellent critique of the Australian schooling system however, is incorporated within the monolothic discourse of cultural imperialism. Hill resorts to the use of catch slogans such as achieving the goals of social justice, and alleviating the oppression of women, to construct a discursive terrain of 'us' and 'them'. 'They' need to be incorporated or assimilated into the regime of liberal democracy through dialogue. However, the social and linguistic code of dialogue is a western construct which interpellates the 'other' and does not leave a space for individual autonomy. The code of dialogue which is fundamental to democracy and heralds individual freedom and autonomy, serves at the same time to eradicate 'other' belief systems and values.

Hill proposes that the values of liberal or political democracy form the foundation of Australian society and should govern the dominant culture. Respect for individual autonomy should be balanced by respect for the common culture of liberal or political democracy. However, in a pluralist, multi-ethnic, epifaith society Hill fails to answer his own question of the possible alliance between individual autonomy and a common culture of liberal democracy. The values and morals of liberal democracy are not made explicit. The assumption is that 'we' are all aware of the moral code.

Moreover, Hill denounces the morals and values of specific ethnic groups. He uses the example of the oppression of Muslim women to censure the practices of that religion. His critique however fails to take into account the powerful positions taken up by Muslim women within the family and the home. At the same time Hill does not take into account the oppressive experiences of Anglo-saxon single mothers and working clus9 women. By using a generalist discourse oi women's oppression, HiD constructs 'the other' (i.e., ethnic and minority women) as pathological.

Moreover, through the use of specific signifiers such as 'our society', 'we', 'our white forbearers', 'the aboriginal people' and 'other people' Hill addresses and interpellates a 'white, angle-saxon, Christian audience into the 'society' which he discursively constructs within his book. In this case, 'the other' is essentially constructed as pathological or dev iant against the norm of liberal democratic Australian values. Further, Hill argues that it is imperative to maintain Australian heritage and culture because of its essential goodness despite some minor shortcomings. The minor shortcomings that he eludes to are the attacks on Aborigines by 'our' forefathers.

In summary, Hill's book on values education is timely and should be read by everybody involved with education and the schooling system. Hill provides some profound insights into the link between social structures of the moral order and the regulation of subjectivity and consciousness. However, the reader should also be aware of the limitations of Hill's critique and analysis. Through the use of the theory of grand narrative he attempts to present an account of social order and subjectivity within Australian society. His topic is too broad and he fails to develop the connections between a dominant culture or moral order and individual subjectivity.

Finally, Hill's answer to the problems of an epifaith society, individual autonomy, and alliance to a common culture of liberal democracy is to propose dialogue between ethnic and/or minority groups and the majority. He identifies two problems, minority groups do not expose their private discourse because they associate teachers with authoritarian figures, and Australian schools have become professional enclaves which have discouraged participation from the community. Consequently, ethnic groups fail to engage in dialogue with the school community. Hill does not acknowledge that dialogue is a Western cultural mode of speech. The expectation that ethnic and minority groups should engage in dialogue is a demand to enter a discursive linguistic and social code constructed by the dominant group. Hill fails to understand that dialogue can be oppressive for ethnic groups because the rules for linguistic and social communication have been constituted by the group in power.

End Note

  1. Quality of Education Review Committee (1985) Quality of Education in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia Publishing and Printing Co.

    Department of Education, Queensland (1987) P-10 Curriculum Framework. Brisbane: Department of Education, Queensland.

Rosier, M. J. & Banks, D. K. (1990) The Scientific Literacy of Australian Students. ACER, Research Monograph No.39, Australian Council for Educational Research, Hawthorn, Victoria.

Dr J. Wilson
Division of Education
Griffith University

Detailed analyses of the Australian component of the Second International Science Study (SISS) are reported in this monograph. The SISS examined the state of science education in 24 countries; 10 of which had participated in the first study (FISS) of 1970. The study was conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

A model for achievement in science is reported in the monograph, based on a form of regression analysis termed 'practical least squares' (PLS). Variables included socio-educational level, student gender, ability (verbal and mathematical), Year level, emphasis on practical work within the classroom, learning initiated by teacher or student, opportunity to learn and student achievement. Individual data are presented for the Australian states.

International comparisons are also drawn between the means test scores of students from 24 countries. It is acknowledged in the monograph that the SISS tests reflect a traditional science curriculum but that analyses of the science curricula carried out in the study show that most countries follow such traditional patterns.

Ten countries that participated in the First International Science Study (1970) were also included in SISS. Test scores on certain bridging' items have provided a basis for comparison of scores for individual countries in the first and second studies. The relative positions of Australia and the United Kingdom in the two studies and their relationship to the achievement scores of other countries are briefly discussed.

The monograph raises a number of very important questions, worthy of public debate, concerning the place of science studies in the education of future generations of Australian students. The data and analysis presented should be of great interest to educational policy makers throughout Australia.

Please cite as: QIER (1991). Book reviews. Queensland Researcher, 7(1), 44-53. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr7/book-rev-7-1.html


[ Contents Vol 7, 1991 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 23 July 2006. Last revision: 23 July 2006.
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