L'écrivain écrit dans une langue et dans
me logique dont, par définition son discours ne peut dominer absolument
le système, les lois et la vie propres. Il ne s'en sert qu'en se laissant
d'une certaine manière et jusqu'à un certain point gouverner par le système.
Et la lecture doit toujours viser un certain rapport, inaperçu de l'écrivain,
entre ce qu'il commande et ce qu'il ne commande pas des schémas de
la langue dont il fait usage. Il n'y a pas de hors-texte.
We begin, as we did at the onset, with the report of an incident about which we ask questions that lead us in a new direction.
Foster said that the president of the student council did his senior project on what a high school was like. Foster permitted this student to administer a survey to all the other students in the school without first announcing it to the teachers. He said that many teachers were upset because they didn't think it was fair to spring a questionnaire on the students without discussing it first. He said the real reason why the teachers were upset was that the teachers were afraid that the kids were going to judge their teaching ability. He said that the teacher most upset by the survey was an English teacher who, as it turned out, retired at the end of the year. He said that the student council president had also done some other things to upset some of the faculty members. At one point, he had asked a physical education teacher for his curriculum guide in order to see what's wrong with the physical education department. He said that the teacher was very threatened by the student.
Just like Staffer did in T1, Foster transforms an incident in which a few human beings interacted into one which involved a student, several other students, some teachers and himself as principal. He then gives us the "real reason." The story is simple enough:
1) a student asked him for permission to administer a survey to other students;
2) this made some teachers upset, two in particular;
3) the real reason being the teachers' fear of students evaluating them.
T21 was, in fact, but a piece of a much longer utterance, the occasion for which was an initial interview with the principal when we requested permission to study in the school and explained what we would or would not be doing. We had gotten to the topic of surveys-of which we said we wouldn't conduct any-and he was telling us of his problems with surveys:
Dr. Foster mentioned that they had administered some formal questionnaires last year and the teachers didn't like some of the questions on the questionnaire and that the teachers had become somewhat sensitive to being asked to fill out such questionnaires. The teachers were concerned because that questionnaire was apparently dumped on them without notice because that's the way the administration wanted it to get their raw opinion, but then they got a problem because nobody was prepared for the questions.
The questionnaire referred to here is a different one from the one mentioned in T21. It was administered by the administration for its own purposes and:
"the teachers"... didn't like some of the questions ... have become sensitive... were concerned.
The questionnaire was dumped on "them" and "nobody" was prepared for the question.[ftn 2]
The principal has become even more general in his comments. In T21 we had "some teachers were upset"; in T22, we have "the teachers didn't like..." Is the transformation a simple reflection of an empirical situation? Were all the teachers truly upset? Let us look at another text that reflects similar operations:
Foster then began to talk about his first month at the high school. He said that upon arriving at the high school, he began to write a lot of memos. He said that these memos upset and frustrated people. He said that the most upsetting memo was a four page memo he handed out the last day of school. He told me that he had met with the teachers in the commons and that after he finished speaking, almost every teacher in the school came after him to ask him angry questions. He said that two teachers followed him up to his office and challenged him. He said that they were extremely upset and angry and that they were shaking their fists at him. He said that the teachers had had a pretty easy year that year, because they had gone through the school year doing basically what they pleased, because the former principal didn't pay too much attention to them.
Here we have a concrete example of what it may mean for teachers to be "upset." It is only two teachers who talked to the principal but Foster explains: "The teachers had had a pretty easy year." Once again, Foster has generalized.
One of the memos which Foster showed us as exemplifying those which bothered the teachers so much was the following:
"There is something intriguing about a teacher surplus which now
exists in our country today. It permits us to be very selective in education.
It enables us to assign teachers better. It even lets us replace some
teachers we should not have hired in the first place. Possibly, at long
last, it can stimulate us to be serious about individualized instruction.
I have listed below some of my thoughts which will obviously convey my ideas and philosophy of education.
1) Accountability. Teachers must become more and more accountable for students' failures. Just as the patient expects the doctor to administer medication, teachers must continue to search for methods and approaches to meet the needs of students.
2) "E" and "F" grades. I must emphasize, even though the record shows the student failed it is a definite reflection on the teacher and his approach to helping the student learn.
3) Teachers must show an awareness or understanding of pupils' human as well as intellectual needs. Students must have a sense of personal worth, a feeling he belongs, and some sense of power to make a difference in shaping his own destiny. This would again infer that the failure of a student is because of the failure of a teacher."
The memo was addressed "to FAC" and distributed to all teachers. However, no references to "the teachers" appear in the introductory paragraph. The principal says "we"...
We must first see in this "we" the evidence of its availability as a rhetorical device. The "we" is not lexically specified in the preceding text. It is not socially determined either. Were we to interpret it to refer, in Foster 's mind, to "the administrators," of which he is one, we would have to realize that the memo is presented as coming from "Foster," not "the administration." Were we to interpret it as a somewhat inept attempt to co-opt the teachers by making them party to their own evaluation, we would have to recognize that the teachers were not fooled. This "we" is a signal for something that signifies much more than a common-sensical recognition of a pragmatically defined interest group.
We can then note that all four texts are in one way or another, about evaluation and through evaluation about loss of material support. T24 is most straightforward "it allows us to replace some teachers." T21 and T22 are only superficially about surveys, as the principal indicates when he says that the "real reason" teachers were upset was that "they were afraid the kids would judge their teaching ability." The danger lies in that the principal would see the results of the survey. For this reason the survey mentioned in T22 can be understood to be even more threatening than the one conducted by the student. Why should surveys be so threatening?
We remember that what is evaluated legitimately are acts that have been performed. The principal isresponsible, legally and customarily, for the collection and reporting of these acts. To know of these acts is to be "informed." Evaluations are based on information. Without information there can be no evaluation. And nothing is more "information-gathering," in a quasimythical sense, than survey taking.
In the same common-sensical vein, we might also wonder whether the principal's projection onto the teachers of a fear of surveys which our team might have administered, was a rationalization of his own more or less conscious fear that what our team would discover in the school would reflect negatively on him. I personally doubt this was a strong motivation, as Foster was extremely open and self-assured. This "explanation" could, however, easily have been given by any person in the school intent on relating his speech to issues of evaluation. That our team did not collect an instance of such an utterance is a matter of chance, for it is an eminently possible utterance. That it might have had no truth value is irrelevant. Foster's "the teachers were upset" has no truth value either, strictly speaking. It is, however, one possible way of dealing with a set of raw incidents.
Let us now look at a text in which Foster uses still another strategy to deal rhetorically with the teachers. T25 is a memo Foster addressed to "Science Teachers":
Let me take this opportunity to thank each of you for the exceptional report and discussion presented to the small group of P.T.O. mothers at the Board of Education offices on Wednesday of this week. As principal of this high school it was a pleasure for me to hear each of you discuss with the parents the pros and cons of your subject matter. It is also interesting to see the positive reactions from those persons who have so many questions about the many innovations and changes which have been made by each of you.
I was sincerely interested in the reactions of the parents because in every case I felt that they were more than satisfied with the answers and the discussion. Each of you were most capable to defend and explain the reason for the approaches used in each of our science courses. The professionalism displayed was without a doubt quite impressive to each of the ladies in the audience.Keep up the good work and I certainly look forward to the many ideas and future changes which each of you are discussing and attempting to implement into your program."
The occasion referred to was one where, apparently, everything went smoothly: "The parents were more than satisfied," the teachers displayed an "impressive professionalism." For this Foster "thanks" them.
The principal is not describing a situation. He is creating a situation,
for whatever purposes, through the use of certain syntactic means that
carry an extra semantic load because of the availibility of alternative
means that could have been used but have not been. It is not "the
teachers" who are to be thanked. It is not even an undifferentiated
"you." It is "each of you." Foster never refers to
the audience of the memo in the collective mode (except in the dedication
of the memo and then only as a diacritic mark). The collective _is used
but only in reference to "the parents," a group who is not a
part of the audience of the mew and does not participate in the the created
situation in the same way as the teachers. They are "outside"
(in the position "the teachers" occupied in Foster's private
talks with our team when they were referred to collectively using the
This personalization is accompanied by other interesting transformations. We might have expected Foster to remark that such behavior as the teachers exhibited would reflect favorably on their evaluation: In other words he could have stressed that what the teachers did was for them. Instead, he implies that it was for _him. He had not made such an implication in T24. There, teacher failure was a reflection on the teacher and not on the principal. Indeed the principal disassociated himself from even the evaluation procedure by using the plural pronouns "we," "us": "It lets us replace some teachers we should not have hired in the first place."
Still when, in T24, Foster talks about "failure of the teacher," he points out that it can be inferred from the "failure of the student." In other words, he suggests that there is a reflective aspect to evaluation: It is not only what you do, but what you do _to others. Evaluation is done through, rather than at, a slightly transformed restatement of something we analyzed at length in Chapters 2 and 3. When Foster thanks the teachers as "I ... the principal of this school" and thereby implies that they have done something for him, it is because, from a certain point of view, they have. Foster himself, we must rear, is evaluated. Teachers were eminently aware of this, as we saw in T19 and T20. They were quite sure too of the grounds on which principals are evaluated. There is something fitting in Foster thanking the teachers for a good performance. In the same way as Foster said of Lyons that he was a good teacher because "he tells the teachers things are not so bad" (T4)-he prevents the teachers from being upset and creating problems the board expects Foster to minimize teacher unrest and, possibly even more importantly, to minimize parent unrest. In T18 Foster implied that this was precisely one of the superintendent's responsibilities "He can gain the confidence of the community or tearit asunder." But parents do not deal solely with the superintendent, they also deal with teachers who themselves are under the responsibility of the principal. Thus the superintendent, and the principal who would be criticized by him if the Board attacked him because of something a teacher did to a parent, are properly thankful if a presentation by a teacher satisfies "the parents."[ftn 3]
In summary, we have seen that, given a set of possible problems (e.g. evaluation) between two sets of people (e.g. administrators and teachers), there seems to be associations between:
1) In situations where the intended audience does not include potential adversaries:
a- explicit reference to the problems;
b- collectivizing syntactic constructions which lexically specify the adversary-particularly through the use of third person plural constructions (even when it is well known that the problem is caused by no more than a few members of the purported collectivity).[ftn 4]
2) In situations where the intended audience includes the potential adversaries:
EITHERa- explicit reference to the problems; AND b- collectivizing constructions which do not lexically specify the adversaries while they place the adversaries in the same position in relation to the problem-particularly through the use of first person plural constructions.
c- no explicit reference to the problems;
d- personalizing constructions with no lexically explicit labelling of the persons i terms of their /role/-particularly through the use of first and second person singular constructions.
T21 exemplifies case 1) a- and b-; T24, case 2) a and b-; T25, case 2) c- and d-.
As just stated, it might seem that the pattern of association is governed by the type of social situation, with various types demanding various forms of linguistic realizations. The suggested logical progression is as follows:
1)GIVEN SS (a social situation) THEN RM (a rhetorical mode)
I chose to state the relations in this manner initially because this implicit progression is the one that is most commonly
used for the interpretation of the type of evidence we have been examining.
This logical progression, however, cannot deal with the fact that participants
ccnmonly "break the rule," i.e. use certain modes at times when
an observer would see the "objective" situation as requiring
an alternative type of utterance. If we could argue for the essential
reliability of our (as observers) views of the situation, even in the
face of the participants apparent denial that the situation is so constituted,
we could then argue that the participants, by misusing their language
are either confused, or more or less consciously lying to the outsider
or to each other.
It is more likely, however, that the characteristics of the "social" situation cannot be specified independently either fran the participants' rhetorical realization of it or the observer's own. The questions then became: hfiat is the relationship between the various types of utterances? What is the best way to handle the total experience of the participants?
This suggests that it might be useful to reverse the logical progression so that:
2) GIVEN RM THEN [SS]
This way of looking at our material keeps open two lines of investigation. First, it encourages a search for ways to handle what appeared to be "exceptions" under the first progression so that we can rewrite the statements of structure more accurately to show they may not be exceptions at all. Second, it leads us to consider the full symbolic implications of the rhetorical organization. Investigations that more or less implicitly follow logical progression 1) have the immediate effect of breaking down ethno-sociologies. Our task is to recapture these.
It must first be noted that, in situations when speakers talked about a number of absent actors from some other category, they could also use personalizing constructions.[ftn 5] It was, in fact, common for both collectivizing and personalizing modes to be used concurrently. We saw for example how, in T1, Staffer talked about the incident in which she was involved either as something that took place between "I" and "Ervin" ("I sent Dick to see Ervin") or between "teachers" and "administration" ("the administration does not support the teachers"). The situation did not change during the course of her utterance. But she did shift modes. While the temporal closeness of the two statements imply that they are closely related, it is probable also that Staffer could not have said "Ervin does not support me" and have the same impact. Similarly, the principal told us several times something like "the teachers are like children," "they had an easy year." To say "Jane is childish" or "John had an easy year" would have had different connotations. If we had pushed Foster about the exact referential extension of the former utterances, he would have denied that all teachers are like children. Such utterances had truth value only so long as no attempt was made to "name names" as participants would say, i.e. to personalize statement.
To specify more exactly the relationship between personalization and collectivization, let us look at another text where the principal explained the difficulties he experienced in his attempts at reorganizing the administration of the school along what he considered to be more liberal lines. He had just told me about his attempts to institute an "open door" policy to his office: A door to his office gave directly onto the main corridor. This door was almost always open and through it one could step into the office directly without having to stop at a secretary's desk as one had to do when the office was approached from the alternate route. The following text is an excerpt from his long explanation of why many teachers did not enter the office through the open door:
"This is a difficult policy to enforce mainly because of the older teachers. Some of them wouldn't walk through that door (pointing to the opened door). They almost create a barrier between teachers and administration that shouldn't exist. Today is our first all-faculty meeting. But we already have had 16 meetings of the faculty advisory committee which I have created to make them understand that they have to make the decisions for themselves. But most teachers prefer to see the principal decide so that they can gripe about the decision and feel unconcerned. But some teachers are like kids: they don't want responsibility. When I arrived in Sheffield I said to the faculty I wanted to turn the school over to the teachers and then to the students. We are now at the teachers' level. Some will say that it is the principal's job to make decisions, that that's what he is paid for. And now I tell them to let the kids make the decisionsl Some really get edgy. The problem is compounded by the fact that we have many older teachers because the turnover rate is very low. There are only 12 new teachers on the staff with whom I can work easily."[ftn 6]
The open door policy is a collective construct but certain teachers (variously specified as "the older teachers," "most teachers," "some teachers," "all but twelve") threaten to make it fail and to create a (collective) barrier between teachers and administrators. The whole text is redundantly marked for personalization and this leads the principal to imply that he has been somewhat successful ("[some of] them almost create a barrier..."). In a latter elaboration of this statement in the same interview he said:
In this text (which is identical in structure to Tl) the barrier has solidified. It is a collective barrier, not a barrier between a few potentially nameable individuals.
To the extent that we can directly see the principal's ability both to collectivize and personalize in the same situation, it is certain that this situation as such is not the key to the interpretation of the modes. Something else, however, is systematically associated with each mode. From our first discussions of T1, we have seen that nothing that ever happens between administrators and teachers is without implications for evaluation with radical material and economic consequences. We saw how individual teachers are evaluated and the ground for doing so. We recognized that the participants seemed to possess some understanding of the origin of the conflicts. It is now time to specify how indeed they understood it.
Let us go back to T26. The principal, then, was not talking about evaluation as such. But, to the extent that he is talking about something which he wants all teachers to do even though some do not want to do it, it is not surprising that these teachers would become concerned about their evaluation. Indeed, the principal directly implies that he is evaluating these teachers negatively. He implies that the problems he has are caused by some specifiable teachers who refuse to accept the policy. He redundantly states that it is he ("I have created...," "I said...," "I wanted...") who has the problems. He realizes that he has these personal problems because he is a principal. It remains that the whole statement is personalizing. He specifies what kind of teachers make problems. He knows who they are and he suggests he could name them for us. With other teachers he has no problems, a further proof, to him, that the problems he has are essentially personal problems with teachers who are, singly, altogether "bad." We can now restate the patterns of associations in the following manner:
In reflective talk about dangerous interactions there is a constant oscillation in expression between personalizing and collectivizing syntactic constructions. Each are associated with reference to aspects of the interactional process that are thereby made different:
a- Personalization is associated with consideration of the inherent worth of an individual in abstraction from the constraints imposed on him by his social position;
b- Collectivization is associated with consideration of the position of individuals within the society.
This makes it quite difficult for any speaker in the school to talk routinely about the impact of a position on an individual and vice versa. Let us now explore this difficulty.
In none of the texts we have looked at do we see Foster realizing that
there is a paradox in the fact that he, as principal, can "turn the school over" but that no teacher, as teacher, can "take it over. "Without far more radical changes than were planned, the gift of the school was a fake gift, a strategy for co-optation which no old-timer could accept at face value. "He who giveth, taketh away," they knew. Foster s reorganization (and it was limited essentially to an open door and an increase in committee meetings--after all the authority of a principal is severely
limited too) is an act of bureaucratic fiat, an act which expresses the asymmetry of the relationship even as it pretends to destroy it. Going to the teachers' lounge, when one is a principal cannot "break the barrier." It may hide it. The barrier remains because it is inscribed in the very organization of the school I will refer to this organization as the structure of evaluation.
Foster seemed sincerely puzzled by the refusal of the teachers to take the responsibility he thought he was so liberally offering them. He did not perceive the paradoxical character of his evaluating teachers on their enthusiasm towards reforms which, supposedly, were inteended to allow for more independent action, including, one would expect, independent thinking with regard to curriculum decisions and personal interaction with either administrators or students, not to mention perhaps selfevaluation. He was sincere too, I believe, when he suggested to us that T24 was an early attempt on his part to involve teachers in administrative decisions. While the use of "we" can be considered a mark of his ineptitude in a transparent attempt to co-opt the teachers, it was, from his point of view, an honest and straightforward attempt to implement his ideal of cooperative administration of the school with all the parties equally involved in the running of the school. If this were achieved, then of course teachers would have to evaluate other teachers and "we," teachers and administrators as one, would be able "to replace" some--a few- "we should not have hired in the first place." It is significant that in the second paragraph of the memo Foster shifts to "I" and "my thoughts" emphasizing by implication that, while he remains "we" with his audience, the details of his position are his own, not as principal, but as partner in a cooperative endeavor.
This blindness was not such, however, that fine principal did not
know that something was wrong. He was puzzled. The teachers themselves
were not much clearer about the exact source of their difficulties with
the principal. Quite a few agreed with him that the difficulties laid
with those other teachers who refused what was offered them. As for
the others, we will see that their own analysis did not differ that
much from the principal's. They were puzzled too. Where they differed
from Foster was in their willingness to publicize their puzzlement,
to focus on it and to challenge the principal into dealing with the
paradox. But they did not offer anything new.
It is now time for us to focus on this paradox. The school, we know, defines teachers and administrators differentially. The distinctions are spelled out in great detail in the Policies and Bylaws.[ftn 7] Two pages are dedicated to the "Principal's Functions." Two paragraphs are of particular importance for us here:
"All school principals are directly responsible to the Superintendent
of Schools for the total operation of their respective schools. They shall
work cooperatively with the Business Administrator and any other officials
who may become a part of the staff of the Central Administration for the
Sheffield Borough Schools.
Each principal shall have the following responsibilities and the commensurate authority to execute them effectively.
A) Serve as administrative head of the school to which he is assigned and as such shall have responsibility for coordination of the total resources of the school, general supervision of all school activities, safety and welfare of all pupils, and general evaluation of the effectiveness of all educational activities.
C) Maintain the general morale of the staff an good human and professional relationships within his school. He shall make himself available for consultation with teachers, students and parents and shall encourage their active participation in efforts to improve the school."
The principal is responsible for the school ("good relationships within his school") which becomes his school. He is responsible _to "the Superintendent of Schools." The superintendent himself is responsible to the Board and it is specified that all employees are also responsible to the Board, eventually, but always "through" the superintendent. The high school is Foster's school only to the extent that he accomplishes all the prescribed tasks to the pleasure of the superintendent. Since principals are not tenured, the threat of dismissal is extremely real. The personal rhetoric ("his school") cannot erase this, though it can easily conspire to make the participants fail to realize concretely the interactional consequences of the organization of evaluation.
The administrative definition also conspires to hide some of these consequences. First, there is the use of personal pronouns. Second, and much more basic, is the construction of a model of administrative organization that is more consonant with overall rhetorical structures than with any possible account of social interaction. This model is of a chain of command in which one goes from the most limited responsibility (the student responsible for himself), to the most inclusive (the superintendent responsible for the whole school), through different positions (the teacher and his students, the principal and his school). Each position, at the same time as it is "responsible for" is also spoken about as the owner of the position "below": "his self," "his students," "his school." This is essentially a non-reflexive model of social organization. There is no recognition of the possibility that "one's" students or "one's" school are themselves active agents, subjects rather than objects. There is one way in which the chain circles back since, after all, the Board of Education is supposed to represent the parents who are sending their children to the school. But this closure is not even referred to in the description of the bureaucratic organization of the school. The Policies and Bylaws present a picture of a situation where A is responsible to B who is responsible to C:
A > B > C > . . . n
Each person is also responsible for something or somebody which is another way of saying what we discovered through our analyses of evaluation: one is not responsible for who one is. One is responsible for what one does to others or what those others for whom one is responsible do. The responsibility is for a series of acts, not a state of being. The arrow of "responsibility for" thus goes in reverse direction from the arrows of "responsibility to":
A < B < C <- . . . n
If we put together the two lines of bureaucratic descent one would construct a fully reflexive structure:
A > B > C > . . . n
< < <
However, the rhetorical distinction between responsibility to and responsibility for breaks the reflexivity in that it obliges speakers to talk at any one time of only one aspect of the situation. In T28 for example, after the initial sentence which places the principal between the "respective schools" (what the principal is responsible for) and the "Superintendent" (whom he is responsible to), what follows is solely concerned with prescribing what the principal must do to the teachers (his responsibility "for"), no mention being made of what the teachers do to the principal (their responsibility "to") or what he might do to the superintendent (his responsibility "to").
In fact, other models of the school are possible that would directly
confront the dialectical nature of the relationship between the various
positions. Some of them might account more economically for the peculiar
conflicts the participants entered into. Let us now look at such models
while suspending for a while our emphasis on the participants' discourse.
1) The writer writes in a language and in a logic. By definition his discourse cannot absolutely dominate the system, the organization and the life of this language and logic. The writer can only use them to the extent that he can let himself be governed by the system. Reading must always search for a certain relationship, which the writer could not control, among the schemas of the language he uses.There is nothing outside the text. (Author's emphasis. My translation.)
2) To the extent that T21 is not a verbatim transcription, it is probable that the Foster's speech was simplified and systematically distorted in the direction of a more consistent usage of the generalizing mode. One may wish to compare T21 and T23 with T58 where an actual statement is transcribed. T21 and T23 are still useful here both for their content and their form. They are suggestive of a type of discourse which the principal did regularly enter into and of the concrete dangers involved in writing fieldnotes. It is probable that the principal suggested that all teachers were concerned. It is certain that the fieldworker wrote it down in such a way that only through the most conscious efforts can we come to doubt the reality of the suggested situation.
3) The most conservative analysis of the anaphoric "the" in "the parents" is that it refers to "the small group of P.T.O. mothers." A less conservative hypothesis would be that, as the memo proceeds, the referent expands to "[all] those persons who have so many questions," and then to all parents. At the very least it is certain that, in the everyday talk of the principal and the teachers, an unspecified "the parents" was the most common way of referring to a group which would have been most accurately described as "the parents who are dissatisfied on this particular issue." In any event, what is most relevant at this stage of the analysis is the absence of differentiation even in the specifying phrase "the small group of mothers."
5) here Given the syntactic requirements regarding deictic reference to absent persons in English, the realization had to take the form of third person singular pronominal form or even third person plural forms when several specifiable single persons were involved. In order to distinguish the latter from the collectivizing mode, speakers had various devices at their disposal. They could talk of "some" or "a few" (see Chapter XI for a further analysis of these forms). They could use numbers ( "three teachers"). They could begin their utterance with a series of first names followed by third person plural forms clearly referring to the names (e.g. "John and Mary, they...").
6) Here too, the most conservative analysis would be that all "they's" refer to "some of the older teachers," a rather well specifed group. However, there is no specification in the text as to whom these older teachers are nor is there any justification for suggesting they were the only ones in opposition. We could not obtain a list of the actual teachers that opposed the principal, nor could we make a list ourselves. The actual situation was much too fluid for any one to make such a list.