chapter  9
27 Pages

The meaning of staffroom humour

Sociological analyses of schools invariably leave an impression of grim institutionalization, and analyses of teachers, one of either sinister conspirators in the service of the dominant groups in society or of judgmental dopes, innocently but naively unaware of what they are doing. Neither of these is the view I have formed of teachers, at least in as simple a form as that; and that particular image of the school, as we have seen, is one-sided.1 As described in chapters 2 and 7, a large amount of rhetoric pervades the teaching game. Many ingenious explanations are devised to provide accounts that square with the professional ethic and naturally enough, when interviewed on this plane by researchers, teachers answer in those terms with entire conviction. However, it is a curious fact in a society characterized by sharply differentiated functionary roles that we can 'split' ourselves into components, each one self-sufficient and insulated from the others. So that we can, if we wish, stand outside ourselves and comment on the actions of another 'self.2 I take the line that much personal investment in the advanced industrial society is made in the private, as opposed to the public, sphere, a point I shall return to in chapter 10. For the moment it is clear that, for the reasons I have advanced in the two previous chapters, certain elements of the 'private' self are not to be found in the teaching process at Lowfield. But they are there in school, and performing an important function.