Structural limits and teachers' perspectives

  • Gwendoline M. Wallace

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is about the relationship between schooling and the economic and political structures which constrain its institutional framework. It focusses on teachers, as mediators of structural constraints, and on middle schools, as institutions which occupy a functionally transitional place between the primary and secondary traditions. In approaching the problem of linking the different perspectives of macro and micro sociologies, I argue the view that the individual mediates the contradictions between the socially cooperative processes of production and the competitive individualism which legitimates the private appropriation of wealth and income. The link is observable in the schooling process as a pattern of contradictions and tensions mediated by the rhetoric of equality of opportunity. In order to elucidate the link, the processes within the boundaried institutions must be viewed in the context of those changing tensions within the state administrative systems, which reverberate into schools as economic and political constraints. Framed within the ideology of the Flowden Report (1967), middle schooling was set within a discourse which stressed cooperative relationships rather than competitive standards. Since the mid-1970s, administrative policies have heightened the competitive battle for declining resources and attacked the Plowden ideology. Focussing the fieldwork on six middle schools in one local authority, T use an eclectic methodology to relate economic and political policies, generated in the state administrative system, to the situation in the schools between 1979 and 1981. The methodology incorporates a time dimension in order to highlight the tensions as they play upon teachers' changing definitions of the changing situation. I conclude that the intersubjective socio-cultural relations of schooling cannot be properly explained without making explicit the changing tensions in the rule/resource relationships which teachers mediate through their particular institutions.
Date of Award1984
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHenry D Miller (Supervisor)


  • structural limits
  • teachers' persepectives

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