Theses Doctoral

Rules of Disorder: A Comparative Study of Student Discipline

Natsiopoulou, Eleni

This dissertation is a comparative study of school discipline in the United States and in Greece. It examines the effect that schools, particularly their organizational form and rules, have upon the behavior of students and how this behavior is understood and categorized. The empirical findings show that, despite facing an elaborate system of rules, punishments, and staff dedicated to discipline, students at a New York school were three times more likely to be unruly compared with students in a similar school in Athens, where only teaching staff managed behavior, and formal rules and regulations governing student conduct were virtually non-existent. Drawing upon the theoretical insights of Emile Durkheim, Mary Douglas, Tom Popkewitz, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and neo-institutionalist scholars, this study proposes explanations for this surprising pattern. I argue that increased structural-functional differentiation within schools and heavy-handed sets of rules and punishments for students erode the moral authority of the teacher and create spaces outside the classroom where students can develop and employ identities and cultural hierarchies that lead to more frequent and extreme forms of unruliness. I also argue that the regulation of student discipline is part of the broader system of state regulation and control. In societies where govermentality is a dominant theme, school discipline becomes preoccupied with questions of measurement, care, and efficiency. What is needed, I suggest, is a return to democracy.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Steiner-Khamsi, Gita
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2011