Study school codes of conduct in two areas in Canada by Rebecca Raby
This article by Rebecca Raby examined school codes of conduct in two areas in Canada as well as the effects these codes have on shaping the types of students that emerge from these schools. Raby finds that the school system’s codes of conduct are designed towards creating a docile, productive citizenry while those who break the rules and fail to “self-govern” are subject to harsh penalties. Raby’s methodology is fairly straightforward. The paper examines school codes of conduct in the Niagara and Toronto school boards (Raby 74). The schools examined were all public, non-Catholic, secondary schools (Raby 74). Though the author notes that Catholic schools would have been interesting to examine they fell outside of the context of this paper as a result of their religious nature (Raby 74). Once the various schools’ codes of conduct were acquired the author examined each thoroughly. Key themes were identified as well as how the rules were justified and presented to students (Raby 75). Changes in rules since the passage of the Safe Schools Act and the relative rarity of some rules were also noted (Raby 75).
The paper next examines citizenship. The author finds that these districts espouse the goal of creating an active and responsible citizenry and claim to involve students in the construction of rules (Raby 76). However, 65% of schools directly link rights to responsibilities and a large minority of them suggest that rights are contingent upon certain responsibilities being fulfilled (Raby 76). Raby also finds that there is often little room for students’ voices to be heard. Most rules are increasingly being homogenized across districts by school boards or left to the direct vote of the parents (Raby 77). The end goal, Raby argues, is the creation of “a passive, docile citizenry rather than a critical, involved one necessary for a thriving, participatory democracy” (Raby 77). Students who are unable to “self-regulate” are often subject to being cast as the Other and find themselves at the receiving end of suspension and expulsion procedures at schools.
Raby next examines how the codes of conduct fashion workers. Raby finds that there is often a deliberate set of parallels between the academic environment the schools seek to create and the professional environment of the working world. For example, students are expected to be on-time for classes and respect authority, dress is expected to be somewhat professional, or rather, separate than the dress of the “streets” (Raby 78). These are more overt; students are expected to become punctual, well dressed, and essentially white collar workers in the service industry (Raby 78).
Finally, Raby examines how this creates a restrained and docile society. The author specifically focuses on restraint in clothing choices initially. Many dress codes require students to dress in “good taste” or to use “common sense” both of which imply a sort of shared knowledge and culture that may not be known or widely agreed upon (Raby 80). The author argues that this is likely linked with a desire by the schools to produce adults who are “in control of their own sex” (Raby 80). Often young women find themselves facing the brunt of the dress code, either implicitly or explicitly, which reinforces gender norms found in society (Raby 81). Self-respect is often greatly emphasized which, according to the school codes, can only be gained from respecting other. Almost always, female sexual expression is incompatible with self-respect (Raby 83).
The paper concludes with a brief summary of the major findings; mainly these schools seek to reinforce the society that created them at large by enshrining a system of values upon them that make them unlikely to question or take action against the society. This has some interesting implications. One further area of study could be to examine the school codes of a different society built upon a different system of values to see if this pattern holds true or not. Schools are a product of society and in many ways seem to work quite hard to reinforce the majority of the society.
Raby, Rebecca. “Polite, Well-dressed and on Time: Secondary School Conduct Codes and the Production of Docile Citizens.” CRSA/RCSA, 42.1 (2005): 71-91. Print.