There is an unspoken intestinal war between permanently suspicious rival powers; the master is malevolent and soft, the servant malevolent and intractable; the former constantly tries by unfair restrictions to evade his duty to protect and remunerate, and the latter shirks his duty to obey. The reins of domestic administration flap between them, each trying to grasp them. The lines between authority and tyranny, liberty and licence, and right and might seem to them so jumbled and confused that no one knows exactly what he is, what he does, and what he should do.
A. de Tocqueville (1969: 579-580)


The Process of Student Identification

In order to evaluate a student "individually," the teachers have to know "who he is." We saw in detail how the senior project committee continually asked: Should the student do the project (will it lead to an educational experience?)? Can the project be done, practically? Will it be done (or will the student escape?)? Later, while reading the student's final report, a teacher would ask: What has he learned?

The possibility of such questions suggests the existence of a schedule of areas of reality to investigate. In preceding analyses, we saw what the parameters of these areas were—particularly in relation to the teachers (in Chapter IV and V). Let us simply state here that all we discovered then also applies to the students as beings who "are" both /persons/ and /actors-in-role/. That analysis, however, did not specify the consequence of the necessary ambiguity that is produced by the conflicting requirements that an evaluator take into account the unique "personality" of the person, and also treat him "just like anybody else" in the same /role/. On the one hand we have a requirement for extreme flexibility. On the other hand we have a requirement for extreme specificity.

In the routine, it seems that it is always flexibility and imprecision that wins. As we have seen in the senior projects decisions (T79), in the encounter between Lyons and Marylin Dolby (T84), routine evaluations are done without explicit reference to the scales that are suggested by the fact that so many different kinds of questions are asked of students. We could never record an instance of the induction of a student's evaluation from an observation of behavior to a statement of his place on a scale. In T72, T73, T74 and T75, when teachers speak about students, it is in terms of summary decisions that have already been made and which are now used to help future behavior: At that moment the student identifications are used as test results.[ftn 1]

Obviously, routine encounters between teachers and students do not leave much room for the full blown judicial reviews that might make the process appear less haphazard. Lyons probably did not have time to make an issue of Marylin Dolby's lack of respect. But the whole encounter as it unfolded necessarily was a moment in an ideological struggle simply because it occurred. By noticing an infraction, by not sanctioning the infraction, Lyons played his part in a scene within the larger play of the individualization of discipline. In a certain sense then, Lyons acted just the way he was "suppposed" to. But I also mentioned that he was not quite satisfied with the encounter. I suggested that the members of the senior projects committee were not satisfied either by what they were doing. American readers will also recognize that the indeterminacy of the routine evaluation process can be severely criticized for its inherently prejudicial character. It is fundamentally "unfair."

This discomfort was very real. We saw what kinds of tension arose when questions of "fairness" emerged in teacher evaluation. More was directly at stake there but it was an event circumscribed in time and space. By contrast, the evaluations of students became significant to the students' lives cumulatively. No one routine decision as to a grade or the withdrawal of privileges was particularly weighty. However, such decisions had to be made continually. Also, the teachers were evaluated by very few people who had a great interest in being unanimous about their decisions. The students were evaluated by many teachers and there was no unanimity. In the following text, for example, Karl Boles is talking about Steve Lipsky:

Text 86

"He's probably the biggest discipline problem in the school. I don't know why but I've never had any problem with him. The only problem I had was when he used to come down and help me build sets for the shows and work his head off. Never bothered anybody. Never said anything. Until I found out that some of the times he was coming down, he was getting out of classes, actually cutting classes to come down... I just work well with him."

Boles is the drama teacher around whom the freakish "drama clique" organized itself. He labelled himself, and was labelled by others, "liberal." This should not be taken as an "explanation" of his relationship with students with whom other teachers could only relate antagonistically. It is rather a summary way of symbolizing his "difference." This difference was accepted by the school—Boles was not threatened with the loss of his position. It did carry consequences --Boles ate by himself in his roam. He himself was adept at identifying students. T86 demonstrates this much. But his identification follows different lines from that of other teachers. He can work with certain students (and not with others). Other teachers work with other students.

Such disagreements were generally not smoothed over. They could be used to mark clique differentiation among the teachers. Boles was not completely isolated. A few teachers shared with him a positive attitude towards students whom still other teachers considered "difficult." Boles recognized that Lipsky actually was, for these other teachers, "difficult." He cut classes, roamed the halls, etc. But these acts did not concern Boles as long as Lipsky did not cut or disrupt his classes and in so far as he was not responsible for keeping Lipsky from roaming the halls.

This lack of unanimity in the identification of students, the fact that students changed or that a teacher's continued participation in a certain clique might require significant alterations in his intuitive evaluation of a particular student, all these things made evaluation problematic and obliged the teachers to produce more complex texts about a student's performance than they might otherwise have done. The parents sometimes protested. All teachers were aware of the national disputes about legitimate grading. There was no blindness here. But there was a paradox —a contradiction—perhaps which participants cannot escape.

Two "solutions" tempted the participants when the stakes got high. Neither admission to college, nor eviction from school could be based on the type of processes we just mentioned. For admission to colleges, the effort was to create settings in which the student's uniqueness could express itself in a way least mediated by his social relationship. The higher the stakes, the more "standardized" are the tests students take. The most legitimate of all these tests is the one that was most divorced from the school itself: The one that is given by the Educational Testing Service. The S.A.T.'s are not designed by the school. They are not graded by the students' teachers but by a computer which seems not to have a biasing personality.[ftn 2]

In such testing, the effort is to reward in an absolutely mechanical fashion fully specified actions. However, for the school to deal with every aspect of the students' behavior in such a way would be unimaginably scandalous. No eventual evaluation could be based solely on test results.[ftn 3] No disciplining action could be taken in such a way as to make it appear that there existed a schedule of automatic punishments with no consideration of mitigating circumstances. To do this would be a denial of the special constitution of the reality of the student. Individualization requires indeterminacy. Thus, the other direction the participants took in high stake situations (particularly in disciplining situations) involved more and more complex investigations of single acts to place them in their context. The administration considered it its duty to investigate in a quasi-judicial manner any instance of clashes between teachers and students (see T1, T82, T83). If things got even more dangerous, a formal court of law might intervene and look at the administration itself as a context for the student's (or the teacher's) actions.

Indeterminacy and Arbitrariness

In particular cases, the move to computers or judges resolve the problem. But the structural problem remains. No participant is obliged to accept the solution. Personalized, consciously weighed, indeterminacy can always be seen as "arbitrariness"—particularly, of course, when the outcome is not satisfactory to the speaker. Arbitrariness is an insult and people commonly hurled it at each other in the school. Evaluation always remains painful. The participants often claimed that this was because evaluators do not follow proper procedures. I would like to suggest, however, that the problem ensues from the way the prescriptions have to unfold themselves in historical time and social space.

Given the individualizing prescription "Thou shalt take the personal and historical context of an act into account as thou evalueth the actor," a participant must define in contradistinction:

  1. An actor;
  2. His context;
  3. An evaluator.

By definition, the evaluator is not part of the context. Nobody, in the school, of course, is a final evaluator. For the teacher-as-evaluator, parents and friends of the student are the context. An administrator-as-evaluator would have to consider parents, friends and teachers. A court of law would have to consider parents, friends, teachers and administrators. There is an absolute break in point of view between evaluator and people-as-contexts. The latter are never "part of the solution," they are "part of the problem."

The difference in point of view is accentuated by the fact that actors, contexts and evaluators will not have access to the same information and will not weigh that information in the same fashion. However "good" the reasons which led Ervin to let Dick Laughlin go lightly in Tl, Staffer would experience these reasons differently. Some aspects of the incidents had toweigh differently for her than they did for Ervin. She needed to be "respected" by the students in an immediate existential manner. For Ervin, that students should respect Staffer was an abstract, intellectual affair, a special case of the general injunction that students should respect teachers in general—to the extent that teachers are respectable.

Still, in such settings, the participants were in close enough contact to be able to know a lot and, perhaps, to understand the other's position—if they were not too passionately aroused. But such an intense scene could only involve a very small number of participants that would be further limited by requirements for "confidentiality." For everybody else, the process would be a kind of "black box." Cumulatively they would see certain kinds of events take place, and then various kinds of outcomes proceed through the mysterious mediation of evaluation. All students knew that to be where you were not supposed to be was a very different thing depending on 1) who you were (or were known to be) and 2) who found you. They knew that an act that had been tolerated for weeks could suddenly be punished--as happened in the case of smoking in the bathroom. They also knew that an act of which they, themselves, disapproved, and which they knew to be formally illegal, could be tolerated by the adults. Quite a few students complained bitterly about the invasion of the bathrooms by the smokers. And yet, except for a brief half-hearted attempt, the administration and teachers let it happen.

There were, thus, plenty of occasions for everybody to be unhappy with specific cases of evalution so as to be led to phrase one's understanding of the disciplinary process in a negative fashion and transform the neutral "indeterminacy" not into the positive "individualization" tut into the pejorative "not being supportive," "arbitrariness" or "favoritism."

Friendship and Fairness[ftn 4]

That the very rhetorical structure should also participate in creating certain types of existential problems has been a contrapuntal theme that has run in the background of all of my descriptions and analyses. At several points I have brought to the foreground the tensions which are produced by the ideology. In Chapters VI and VII, I emphasized the tensions produced by the incompleteness and relative arbitrariness of the rhetorical structure in relation to the "world" as it can be highlighted through a comparison with other modes of interpretation which may allow for a more direct confrontation with certain aspects of this world.

In Chapters IV and V, when I dealt with the disputes about the "quality" and "quantity" of teaching, and more recently in this chapter and in Chapter X, I have also cane to emphasize the tensions produced by the ideology in its relation to itself, so to speak. As I argued earlier, the expansion from a restricted rhetorical cue into elaborated text or drama is a process which may lead to the production of statements perceived by the participants as "different." Through such differences, other types of conflicts can be symbolically expressed or rationalized. But the more fundamental power of the rhetoric to confuse resides at its very heart rather than in the processual development of its use. The coming analysis establishes this. To move faster, I will now be using the formalization developed in Chapter IX.

As rhetorically signified, interpersonal relationships are built upon /1/'s who build /we/'s and /they/'s around some /it/'s which each group is seen to have in common. This ethno-sociology works most smoothly in all settings when /I/'s are independent one from the other except in ways over which they have direct control. The proto-typical case is that of the "clique" or--more appropriately--of the group of friends. When /I/'s are not independent, as when one /I/ has a certain type of formal authority over the other, things suddenly become very complicated. The reality of each /I/ (as independent and free) must, at the same time, be considered and not considered.

It must be considered positively on the principle of individualization and negatively since it is agreed that, to the extent that /I/'s can both like and dislike each other for personal and appropriate reasons in situations of mutual independence, these likes and dislikes will feed in into an interaction from which they should be excluded--such as an interaction when one person has authority over many others. The teacher must be "objective," that is, he must abstract himself from the interaction and function solely in terms of the /it/ on which the relationship of dependency is built. It can even further be argued that the independence of the /I/ in such situations is best preserved when no attention at all is given to any other aspect of the dependent /I/ than the one that is deemed formally relevant to the /it/.

In more concrete terms, the family life of a student should at the same time be irrelevant on the principle that "race, sex, creed and national origin" are no grounds on which to evaluate any person, and relevant since certain types of apparent failures can be "explained" by precisely such things as race, sex, creed or origin.

This is a paradox so fundamental that no one can escape it, for every interaction re-awakens it, even the most routine. As a teacher walks the corridors during intersession, or when he talks to his class as a group or to an individual student, he must consistently deal with the connotations of the attitudes he has happened to adopt through this total posture, from the degree of muscular rigidity, to the type of smile on his face, of body contact (handshakes? slaps on the back?), to the extent and type of joking, to the length of phatic small talk, to the seriousness with which he probes into the student's private life, etc. Each posture, whether consciously manipulated or not, transmits a message to which other teachers and students will respond in ways that may not be what was intended. The people may not know exactly what it is that makes them uncomfortable when dealing with each other. But they all perceive difficulties and can talk extensively about them. Such talk often centers around the issue of "friendship." Lucy Lynn, a young teacher, put it this way:

Text 87

She told me that she is sort of friendly with a number of the girls, but that she knows she can't get too friendly with them because it wouldn't look good. She said that she used to be stricter when she first started because she was afraid students would take advantage of her because she was young and that they would think that they could be too friendly with her. She said now, however, she is not a very strong disciplinarian, and that she still has to maintain a certain distance from the students. She said she wished it really were not so. She said that "If you gain the respect of the students, then you can keep discipline at a minimum."

The students were caught in the same paradox, and they phrased it in much the same way as the teachers did. Gloria Jackson told us once:

Text 88

There was a teacher last year who did not try to be the kiddie's pal, but he let you do whatever you wanted. He said, for example, that the students could curse in front of him and that if they felt the need to go out of the classroom they could go. Or, if they felt the need to do something else besides work in class they could. She said that this class was fantastic... Gloria said she didn't think that teachers and students could really be friends because the teachers have to keep up the authority barrier. They must have the upper hand because there are always a few kids who are bad and would take advantage of a teacher who would act informally. She said that this is too bad because it would probably be good to have informal relationships between teachers and students.

Bobby Christian knew why he was getting extra privileges:

Text 89

"I can leave the building and if someone says something to me, Mr. Ervin comes up to me and he says what did you leave for? Well I can say I went home because I have basketball equipment and it was wet this morning. I had to put it in the dryer. I didn't think I should bother you for it because I looked in your office and you weren't there. He'll say ok, but don't do it again. I am sure that's what he is going to say. He's not going to give me a hard time."

He also knew how this would be used by other students:

Text 90

"I can't see how a teacher could be too friendly without the students appreciating it and respecting him for it. Me, personally, the closer, the nicer a teacher is to me, the more I respect him and then if I hack around, the teacher gives you one of the looks, then you know you're taking advantage. Then I'd stop. I don't think there's such a thing as being too friendly. At least I haven't encountered it."

Most of the students seemed to prefer, like Bobby Christian, for the teachers to be "friendly." They talked most pejoratively of the "teacher thing" by which they referred to all attempts at formality, pulling rank, and refusals to consider special situations. However, many students, like Gloria Jackson, also included caveats. Things could go too far. Some students would take advantage. "Bad" students would trespass boundaries; overly friendly students got evaluated unfairly.

Teachers varied extensively in what they let themselves do with students:

Text 91

Mike Forsdale told me that he had gone into the city to see Fill Pratt run in an important athletic event, and that when some of the other students heard about this, they asked him if he would like to meet them at a restaurant after the game. Mr. Forsdale said that he declined the offer and explained to me that he thought that it was inappropriate for a teacher to go out to dinner like that with students. He said that he is often asked by students to come out with them but that he has rarely consented to join them. He said that it's very important that the teacher be able to maintain an informal and friendly relationship with students while remaining aloof from them at the same time. He said that friendship with students is different from friendship with other people and that a teacher can't get too involved in the lives of students.

Other teachers did not have the same scruples and more or less regularly invited students to their house or gave them a lift in their car after school. One teacher was also known to have dated some of his students for many years until he married one of them. We learned about this from students and it was never referred to negatively by the administration who must have known about it. His formal evaluation was positive and he had no difficulties with discipline.

Acts like inviting students to one's home were thus not necessarily forbidden, however dangerous some may consider them to be. They were eminently possible, thinkable acts. They were acts to debate with others, with oneself, about others and about oneself. Some teachers resisted mightily against the flow of informality and struggled to maintain a stance that seemed to work for them. This seems to have been Forsdale's attitude. Other teachers were more ready to let the structure play itself through them. In T86, Karl Boles explained to us that he did not have any serious disciplinary problems with Steve Lipsky who was otherwise known as a major trouble-maker. At the end of his utterance, Boles summarized the situation:

Text 92

"Most of the talk you hear among other teachers is that they will show favoritism towards students if they don't have problems with them and who are willing to work. I guess that's normal. I think I feel the same way."

T86 had as its theme the possiblitity that a personal relationship between teacher and students, a relationship dependent solely on mutual appreciation and not on the opinion of others or on the hierarchical position of the protagonists, could in some sort of way, be responsible for the differential nature of the interaction between a teacher and a student. Boles accepts this, and there may be much wisdom in such a stance. But he also knows that the intervention of such personal factors can be seen as "favoritism," a pejorative word.

In T87, Lynn elaborated about what a teacher should do. She became aware of a difficulty "when she first became a teacher." She had to "overcome" "her young age." What does her age have to do with it? As she "became" a teacher, she found herself in jeopardy in encounters with students. If one is too friendly, Lynn believes, students will "take advantage." Boles, on the contrary, had seen being nice to one student as one way to prevent problems from arising. There is a difference however: Lynn (and Forsdale) is using a generalized plural, "students." Boles is talking about one, identified, student. Here again we have the opposition between the plural of conflict and the singular of identity which takes us back to our discussions of evaluation. Lynn states that to be too friendly "would look bad." Boles and the other teachers who actually were friends with individual students were not bothered by it personally, nor were they strongly criticized for it by the administration. To have friends, and to be too friendly, are two different things.

Boles said about being friendly:

Text 93

"In terms of people I'm friendly with, I'm friendly with those people because they know me. I tell them stories in classes about my family, my experiences. Fun type things and we get along really well. Now, I tell these to my normal classes too depending on how I react to them. If they give me a hard time,

I'll stick right to the subject matter because it takes me just a while to get through that and keep them in line. But sometimes I like to react well with the kids."

A student told us the following about Boles:

Text 94

Maureen Travers began telling me that she hangs around Mr. Boles. She noted that Mr. Boles is young and that he "maintains the teacher thing only a little" and that this makes her feel more comfortable with him.

To be friendly is to know someone, to have fun with him; it is, most importantly for us, not maintaining the "teacher thing," or doing it only a little.

It would seem that the participants have no problems being friendly to each other, whatever their formal position, but that the formal positions are necessarily antagonistic, formal and not friendly. It is only by ceasing to be a teacher that one can be a friend (T94). Conversely, it is only after one has become a teacher that one begins to have difficulties with being friendly (T87).

These difficulties are directly related to the existence of the "teacher thing." As far as Lynn is concerned, there are three possible ways for a teacher to be: Strict/responsible/too friendly. The teacher thing is a continuum at the center of which a good teacher ought to place herself. Forsdale identified the proper place of a teacher in the same manner (T91): He must be informal, and "friendly" while remaining aloof. In other words, a "teacher" must deliberately express the difference that exists between him and a student. This difference is not marked in the relationship as such. It is constantly to be achieved, something that is difficult when most of the unmarked cues conspire to mark the equality in substance of the teacher and student (as they do when they are close in age, or when they dress similarly).

The structural implications of the notion of "taking advantage," as it is seen by the students, also points in the same direction. The mythical progression moves 1) a teacher being friendly, to 2) some students taking advantage, to 3) the teacher pulling the teacher thing. In this progression, the two aspects of the relationship between teachers and students are made to operate, the personal and the formal, at the beginning and the end of the progression. "Taking advantage" is possible because both friendliness and formality participate directly in the situation. It is only because teachers can be friends or friendly that students can take advantage. We did not collect any reference that one could take advantage of the teacher thing. However, taking advantage is also only dangerous and dilemma-provoking because the teachers are teachers. Friends may "take advantage" of each other. This will simply lead to the breaking of the friendship. But teachers and students cannot break their relationship—except in the extreme forms of suspension of a student or firing of a teacher.[ftn 5]

The notion of friendship is an elaboration over the rhetorical cues provided by the /I/ mode. It implies the identity and equality of the various /I/'s that enter into an interaction. The most appropriate rhetorical expansions involve respecting the need of the protagonists and the absence of evaluation. These needs can vary. The students were perfectly aware that teachers have certain needs that are not the same as theirs and which they must respect if they are to play their part in the friendship drama. Look back at T90 when Bobby Christian explains how he stops "hacking around" when he is made to realize that he is taking advantage.

The teacher must reciprocate in terms of the needs of the students as they perceive them. To be seen as friendly, the teachers may have to do anything, from smiling to looking the other way when witnessing less to more serious forms of misbehavior. This may, of course, lead into forms of behavior which will be seen as "favoritism," at which time the non-favored students may protest. Somebody once slipped the following anonymous note under the assistant-principal's door:

Text 95

"Linda Pearl and Sybil Dillon and maybe Shelly Mead are skipping today. They're at Sybil's house. They skipped on Monday too. I do not think it is fair because they never get caught and we always do."

The writer is, so to speak, pulling a "student thing." He is protesting the students' taking advantage of the establishment of suspected personal relationships. Of course, "taking advantage" of a teacher is dangerous to the teacher who is involved; "taking advantage" of the students is dangerous to those who are not involved. It remains that the dilemma springs from the same rhetorical roots.

Furthermore, there is convergence not simply between a-teacher-being-friendly-to-a-student and a-student-being-friendly-to-a-teacher, but also between the "teacher thing" and the "student thing." To be formal is also to be fair: It is to be "formally equal." This is manifested in the fact that friendship, as a mode of relation, appears more available in certain areas than in others. Teachers in non-academic subjects admitted to being friends with students more readily than other teachers. This may be related to the greater importance of "objectivity" in the grading and evaluation of students in those aspects of their school life most directly relevant to its eventual outcome--college. Also, there was a tendency for "bad" students to insist more strongly on availing themselves of the opportunity of friendliness and to see most value in it.

The tensions were never resolved by a fast choice in either direction. Most teachers made new decisions pragmatically as the need arose. But the focus of this research is not on individual decision making. Thus, I would like to concentrate again on structural properties of the teacher thing/ friendship tension.

Friendship as Fairness, Fairness as Friendship

All those who talked to us about friendship and fair evaluation saw the two things as being antithetical. The question I would like to address myself to is the extent to which we could see them as two poles of a structure or whether they have to be seen as two independent values produced by different historical developments.

There is a tendency for informants to argue that the "teacher thing" is mandated by the school, while "being a friend" is an invasion of external ways of relating into the school. In fact, the school, at its most forma], also expresses itself in texts which allows it to present itself as a community of helping friends. As has been stated, the "School Philosophy" insisted that a student is unique and different. He has potentialities that have to be developed to theirutmost, whatever they are. There is no mention of evaluation, no hint that the school may actually function to separate wheat from chaff. The stress is on "democracy," freedom, development and responsibility. The last paragraph of this Educational Philosophy closes with this sentence:

Text 29b

"True teaching occurs when one person's mind is stimulated by another person's mind and when a human heart is touched by another human heart."

Mind and heart... Not transmission of knowledge and evaluation of the capacity to restate this knowledge in particular settings: "Friendship," not the "teacher thing."

Along with the Educational Philosophy is repro-- duced in the Teachers' Manual a quote from an Earl Reum, Coordinator of Student Activities of the Denver Public Schools. The first paragraph runs as follows:

Text 96


I want to teach in a school--in a system where the Superintendent has a vision--where the administrators are dreamers—and doers too--but basically can dream great dreams. I want to teach where the faculty dream of ways they can help young people really become significant--really contribute to the world--really grow in knowledge."

The text runs for about 150 words in the same vein. We did not have any reaction to this text, but the principal frequently reproduced, on the daily memos, short inspirational quotes of the same style which were received with general yawns. For many teachers, but obviously not for the principal who inserted them, these texts did not express any value; they were regarded as meaningless. It remains that they were there, "officially," and some did respond positively.

To see these texts solely as sentimentality would be insufficient. The efforts of Boles or Forsdale to be friends or friendly, the questions Lynn asked herself about the proper tone to adopt with her students, are related to "Philosophies" and "Desiderata." What is "unreal" in the various bureaucratic documents is the dichotomy that is operated at their purely written level between "friendship" and "fairness" by having certain texts deal solely with "friendship" and other texts deal solely with "fairness." The people could not compartmentalize their everyday dramatizations in such a way.

In fact, from the point of view of the school, what is lived by the participants as a dangerous dilemma is in structural balance. As I suggested earlier, "individualized" instruction and discipline --the (friendly) consideration of the /I/ of each student—represents an extreme in fairness. Similarly, the School Philosophy, even as it stresses that the school is in a relation of friendship with the students, also stresses that "we" (a personal, friendly way of talking about the school) will directly frame the student's life. It is for their own individual good, of course, but the means of this action demands the acceptance by the student of certain required performances, the value of which will become clear only after a while. The friendliness of the school towards the student is of a special sort: The reciprocity is delayed (while the friendliness of friendship implies immediate reciprocity). In a similar vein, there is a structural solution to the teachers' dilemma. It is dangerous to be a friend and improper to be too strict. What one must do is "act friendly." Since one is putting on an act, friendliness, being unreal, ceases to be dangerous. Since one is overtly friendly, one will not communicate improper strictness.

Rhetoric and Existential Dilemma

The rhetoric only becomes problematic when it is inserted into improvised action. This has been my theme throughout this book, from my discussion of alternate modes of interpretation of a certain social "real" world, to my remarks about the indeterminacy of the process of expansion from the restricted rhetorical cues. In the same manner, it is at best terribly naive to think that the view of the school we can abstract from the Philosophy and other such documents, corresponds to the life of the teachers in its totality. When writing these documents the author remains detached from everyday life. Be edits his actions as he controls their realization. The Philosophy is "un-livable," and any attempt to live it—an attempt in which all participants in the school were, wittingly or not, involved—raises difficulties.

It remains that the nature of the difficulties with which I have been dealing in this last chapter are directly shaped by the rhetoric itself and arise from inner contradictions within this rhetoric. When I dealt with the difficulties arising from the lack of congruence between the structure of evaluation and the school rhetoric, I was dealing with a "contradiction." But the two poles of the contradiction stood within different domains. The difficulty resided in the fact that it may be impossible to deal with human action in a purely "individualistic" and personal manner if the world is not, itself, constituted in such a manner. The contradiction between the needs for friendship and fairness is a contradiction that is located within the individualistic theory of human action itself.

As we saw when we analyzed the rhetorical foundation of clique formation and segmentation, the segregative /we/ and /they/ are hierarchically dependent on the /I/. In other words, the emphasis on the /I/ necessarily correlates with a multiplication of small groups. These can then easily become antagonistic for the dramatistic expansion of each /we/--e.g. the the long hair of the freaks vs. the neatness of the jocks--make manifest variations in attitudes towards life. The fact that somebody else has chosen some other way of life is always an implicit judgment on one's own. Furthermore, certain dramatistic expansions exclude others: A lounge cannot be at the same time neat and not neat.

These tensions become even more serious when identification with a clique means that the pattern of preference and prejudice which are acceptable within a clique will have a major impact on the aspects of the material and social survival of certain of the people involved. A person cannot do something that is damaging to his friend. Within the friendship group, this is both a model "for" and "of" behavior, though the stress might be on the "for" as the weaker protagonist asks for privileges controlled by the stronger one. Outside the friendship group, the stress will only be put on the "of" behavior: A certain act of grading or disciplining will be seen as favoritism rather than informed objectivity.

All these situations are part of the routine of the school. Teachers are continually grading and disciplining, students are continually being graded and disciplined. Yet, both because the dilemma is recurrent, and because it is grounded in the rhetoric and is thus eminently expressable, it seemed to be much more "present" to the participants than the other dilemmas and contradictions with which we have also been concerned. The potential conflict between the social reality of the school as a system of classes in conflict and its rhetorical reality as a bunchof freely interacting and contracting individuals emerged from behind the rhetorical surface only at extraordinary times when many other things also emerged.

The vocabulary the participants have at their disposal is totally inadequate to express purely social structural pressures. The same vocabulary is overly adequate to express interpersonal pressures. It is the main generating force for the rhetorical tensions which surrounded evaluation. /I/ cued both "fairness" and "friendship" AND the incompatiblity between the two.


1) The fact that situations where it appears that sorting decisions are made about students, rarely function as moments when evaluations of students are changed is well documented in Goldman's work (1982).back to text

2) The recent controversies about such standardized testing, and the legitimacy of the measurement of minority students using the tests, have generally centered on the fact that the tests are not, in fact, "color-blind," and free of bias. In my terms, they are seen by the participants as not measuring individual performance as such (in relation to an abstract scale). They are seen as measuring performance in relation to a personalized scale thus not accomplishing what they are supposed to do. In other words, the controversies are a further expansion of the depersonalization process which make the tests necessary in the first place.back to text

3) In fact, it is continually restated by every interested party in the system that admission to college is not based solely on S.A.T scores. Guidance counselors drill this into the students. The latter struggle to create files that will reveal them in their uniqueness. E.T.S. makes it a point to tell colleges not to rely solely on its tests. Colleges emphasize that they do not.back to text

4) A preliminary version of this section was pblished in an article I wrote with Marj Kelly (1976).back to text

5) In fact, it may be that the logic of the system is leading to attempts to institutionalize something that would correspond to "divorce" in a school environment. T82, when Ervin tried to separate Taylor and Terry Moro, could be an early example of such a process.back to text