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Professional Life and Work

Studying Teachers' Lives

Studying Teachers' Lives - an emergent field of study

Interestingly Denzin has recently argued that ethnographers and biographers represent the latest wave in this 'penetration' of private lives, and that this is to be expected at a time when we see 'the emergence of a new conservative politics of health and morality, centring on sexuality, the family and the individual'. Hence he argues:

The biography and autobiography are among Reagan's legacy to American society. In these writing forms the liberal and left American academic scholarly community reasserts a commitment to the value of individual lives and their accurate representation in the life story document. The life story thus becomes the left's answer to the repressive conservative politics of the last two decades of American history. With this method the sorrowful tales of America's underclass can be told. In such tellings a romantic and political identification with the downtrodden will be produced. From this identification will come a new politics of protest; a politics grounded in the harsh and raw economics, racial, and sexual edges of contemporary life. This method will reveal how large social groupings are unable to either live out their ideological versions of the American dream, or to experience personal happiness.[i]

And further:

In reinscribing the real life, with all its nuances, innuendoes, and terrors, in the life story, researchers perpetuate a commitment to the production of realist, melodramatic social problems texts which create an identification with the downtrodden in American society. These works of realism reproduce and mirror the social structures that need to be changed. They valorize the subjectivity of the powerless individual. They make a hero of the interactionist-ethnographer-voyeur who comes back from the field with moving tales of the dispossessed. They work from an ideological bias that emphasizes the situational, adjustive, and normative approach to social problems and their resolutions, whether this be in the classroom, the street, or the home.[ii]

[i] Denzin, N. K. (1991) 'Deconstructing the biographical method', paper presented at the AERA Conference in Chicago, April 1991, p.2.

[ii] ibid., pp. 2-3.

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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
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £42.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-06858-1
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