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Professional Life and Work

Studying Teachers' Lives

Studying Teachers' Lives - an emergent field of study

Critics indeed have argued that in the existing political 'moment' life story work is deeply problematic; some certainly hint that it may be best to abandon the whole enterprise. The work in this volume accepts the problematic nature of the enterprise but does not take the view that we should withdraw from the field and thereby leave conduct of life story work to those who do not accept or explore such problematics. Rather it argues for facing squarely the dilemmas of studying people's lives; to build both methodological procedures and value systems which will respect those lives and collaborative patterns which will widen and deepen understandings. The chapters in this volume all share a concern to broaden the manner in which we study teachers' lives from a sole focus on stories or narratives towards a range of more exploratory and contextual procedures and processes.

The problematics of studying people's lives are part of a wider context of social relations, priorities and provisions. Lasch, for instance, has scrutinised the historical trajectory of private lives in Haven in a Heartless World. In his history of modem society he discerns two distinct phases. In the first phase he argues that the division of labour which accompanied the development of individual capitalism deprived ordinary people of control over their work, making that work alienating and unfulfilling. In the second phase Lasch argues that liberalism promoted a view that, while work might be alienated under capital, all could be restored in the private domain. ‘It was agreed that people would be freed to pursue happiness and virtue in their private lives in whatever manner they chose. The work place was thus severed from the home and the family became the "haven in the heartless world".'[i] No sooner was this equation established, Lasch argues, than liberalism reneged.

Private life was opened up to the 'helping' professions: doctors, teachers, psychologists, child guidance experts, juvenile court officers, and the like. The private domain was immediately made prey to these quasi-official 'forces of organized virtue' and 'the hope that private transactions could make up for the collapse of communal traditions and civic order’ [ii] was smothered by the helping professions.

[i] Menaud, L. (1991) 'Man of the people', a review of The True and Only Heaven by C. Lasch, New York Review of Books, Vol. XXXVIll, No. 7, 11 April.

[ii] Lasch, C. (1977) Haven in a Heartless World, New York: Basic Books, p. 168.

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Studying Teachers' Lives Ivor Goodson
  • Date of publication: 06/02/1992
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
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    Studying Teachers' Lives
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  • Price of book: £42.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-06858-1
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