Questioning honor: a parent–teacher conflict over excellence and diversity in a USA urban high school

Journal of Moral Education 33 (1):57-69 (2004)
Abstract
Parent?teacher relations are often characterized as highly conflictual in the educational literature, with scant empirical evidence of how the disagreements occur in everyday talk. Close analysis of a teacher's account of an intense conflict with a student's mother over the National Honor Society grounds the abstract discourses of merit and difference in the worlds of parents, teachers and students. Narrating primarily through reported speech, in a ?she said, I said? fashion, the teacher recreates her conversations about the National Honor Society and the graduation ceremony. Creating the social milieu through reported speech and the inner reality by telling what she left unspoken, she captures the derision between parents and teachers. Moreover, the adult struggles obscure the adolescents' initial concerns about elitism. Exposed to reform debates, the teacher reveals her consciousness about diversity and privilege. The mother's understanding reflects traditions of individualism and meritocracy without regard to barriers created by race, sex, class and disability. The encounter ends without opportunity for fuller articulation. Notwithstanding these tendencies, the individual parent?teacher conference remains the most widely employed format in US schools, emblematic of an extremely privatized notion of that relationship. The author frames the conflict in terms of school community and public education at large to identify possibilities for more generative communication
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