Schule als Autoritätsstruktur

Aus alten Arbeiten zur Soziologie, im vorliegenden Fall zur Bildungssoziologie, kann man in der Regel nicht nur erfahren, welche Themen und Herangehensweisen von Wissenschaftlern vergangener Tage verwendet wurden, oftmals sind die Arbeiten aufgrund ihrer theoretischen, methodischen und inhaltlichen Tiefe sehr interessant und ein Vorbild für heutige Arbeiten.

Die Arbeiten, die Howard Becker zu Bildungsthemen erstellt hat, sind solche Arbeiten. Sie breiten nicht nur Methoden qualitativer Sozialforschung als Zugang zu einem Forschungsfeld aus und zeigen deren gekonnte Anwendung, sie zeigen auch, wie man empirisches und theoretisches Arbeiten miteinander so verbindet, dass nicht beides nebeneinander besteht, wie monolithische Blöcke, zwischen denen es keine Verbindung gibt, wie dies heute häufig der Fall ist.

Eine Darstellung der Einbindung schulischer Lehrer, die für Lerner der qualitativen Sozialforschung eine perfekte Anwendung der dokumentarischen Methode zur Auswertung narrativer Interviews darstellt, schließt Becker mit dem folgenden Fazit ab:

„I have presented the teacher as a person who is concerned (among other things) with maintaining what she considers to be her legitimate authority over pupils and parents, with avoiding and defending against challenges from these sources. In her view, the principal and other teachers should help her in building a system of defense against such challenges. Through feelings of colleagueship and the use of various kinds of sanctions, a system of defense and secrecy (oriented toward preventing the intrusion of parents and children into the authority system) is organized.

This picture discloses certain points of general relevance for the study of institutional authority systems. In the first place, an institution like the school can be seen as a small, self-contained system of social control. Its functionaries (principal and teachers) are able to control one another, each has some power to influence the other’s conduct. This creates a stable and predictable work setting in which the limits of behavior for every individual are known, and in which one can build a satisfactory authority position of which he can be sure, knowing that he has certain methods of controlling those – who ignore his authority.

In contrast the activities of those who are outside the professional group are not involved in such a network of mutual understanding and control. Parents do not necessarily share the values by which the teacher legitimates her authority. And while parents can apply sanctions to the teacher, the teacher has no means of control which she can use in return, in direct retaliation.

To the teacher, then, the parents appear as an unpredictable and uncontrollable element, as a force which endangers and may even destroy the existing authority system over which she has some measure of control. For this reason, teachers (and principals who abide by their expectations) carry on an essentially secretive relationship vis-a-vis parents and the community, trying to prevent any event which will give these groups a permanent place of authority in the school situation. The emphasis on never admitting mistakes of school personnel to parents is an attempt to prevent these outsiders (who would not be subject to teacher control) from getting any excuse which might justify their intrusion into and possible destruction of the existing authority system.

This suggests the general proposition that the relations of institutional functionaries to one another are relations of mutual influence and control, and that outsiders are systematically prevented from exerting any authority over the institution’s operations because they are not involved in this web of control and would literally be uncontrollable, and destructive of the institutional organisation, as the functionaries desire it to be preserved, if they were allowed such authority“

(Becker, Howard Becker on Education, pp.56-58).