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Resistance in the classroom: between failure and indignation

In this paper, I approach a conceptual dilemma involved in understanding student resistance in classrooms. I summarize some of the classic positions on resistance (WILLIS, GIROUX), and recall the distinction between behaviors that contribute to "school failure" and those that express "moral indignation". I discuss classroom studies that attempt to explain moments of discontinuity in the flow of verbal interaction as evidence of student resistance. I then turn to the implications of the theories of Basil Bernstein and Jürgen Habermas to explain these processes. I suggest that not all expressions of resistance in the classroom should be seen as signs of incompetence, cultural difference, or self-condemning behavior. Drawing on Habermas' theory of communication, it is possible to understand many student's responses as a legitimate, albeit indirect, invocation of the validity claims of truth, correctness and sincerity.

Resistance; Classroom Interaction; Bernstein; Habermas; Critical Theory; Sociolinguistics


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