"Mom, why is Daddy big?"
"Because he is grown up!"
"Mom, why is he grown up?"
". . . . "
Sheffield High School and its problems belong to the very familiar. This familiarity conspires to obscure the need to wonder about the solutions which the people give to their problems. After all, all human beings resort to the same solutions when confronted by the same problems, do they not? And if something is natural and universal, what is there to question? Common sense suggests that to question the obvious is less akin to science than it is to children's pestering "why's. "
And yet, there is something to question about schools. Human beings are not
"teachers" or "administrators" in their natural substance.
They have to do
certain things to signal whether they are to be treated as one or the other and at which point. They must also provide for the possibility for their existence by building contexts which reveal the presence of such things as "teachers. "Cremin has noted (1976) that there is no intrinsic reason for the popular identification of teaching and education with teachers and schools. The pure event of [TEACHING] is something which happens between any two human beings when there is some deliberate attempt by one to change the other. Parents are [TEACHERS], and so are priests, ministers, politicians, gang leaders, older siblings, army sergeants, etc. And yet, for most Americans none of these people are teachers in quite the same manner as a school teacher is a "teacher. "There is something special to such teaching. However, what is special about it is not that the teaching that goes on in schools is an intrinsically different activity from the teaching that goes on in the home.
To transform [TEACHING] as an event into /teaching/ as a cultural category, something has to happen that is not reducible to the structure of this event as this structure might be understood either from an ethological point of view or from a purely (social) structural functionalist point of view. To reveal themselves, school teaching and administering must be symbolically, as well as materially, produced. Without such marking, even insiders will not be able to signal that one of their actions is relevant to instructing rather than to something else (since participants always do much more than instruct, even in schools). The underlying process is one of symbolic or semiotic signification.
In this part of the book, we discover the outline of the means which permit--and reveal--the symbolic production of teaching and administering. This is done in three steps. In the first chapter, I ask basic questions about the nature of the vocabulary used by the participants to refer to the concerns of the adults in the school. I start by following a particular strand of these concerns, one that was of major material concern to the adults: Evaluation of performance. At this point I simply establish the existence of this vocabulary and, most importantly, the fact that it is fully shared by all the participants, whatever their position, and whatever their personal opinions as to the nature of an event, i.e. its appropriate labeling.
In the second chapter, I follow the adults' conversation about salary, tenure, evaluation, good and bad teaching, appropriate administering of teacher performance, etc. I look at all this from several possible points of view, that of the administrators and that of various teachers, some who are tenured, some who are not, some who are more inclined towards salary scales, some who prefer merit increases. I look in some detail at the fate of various teachers, good ones and bad ones. I focus on what could be said about them to whom, and when. I document the reasons that might justify their firing or rehiring as these can be told in various settings with various consequences.
A preliminary picture of a certain rhetorical patterning will emerge. This picture is summarized in the third chapter. This chapter also includes a summary of the theoretical grounds on which rests the next step in the analysis, the search for the generating pattern that is independent of the content of conversations.