Authoritarian Teacher Analysis Essay

2. 2Authoritarian Teacher The preceding section has depicted the figure of “authoritative teacher” as a de jure and de facto authority within the teachercentred approach. It is now turning to a discussion of the “authoritarian teacher”. The word “authority” has negative connotations with “conformism” and “unquestioning obedience” (Wilson, 1977), leading to the unpleasant impression of teachers as authoritarians. Teacher-centred scheme in essence attempts to cultivate a student attitude of “docility, receptivity, and obedience” via the “imposition from above and from outside” (Dewey, 1998, p. -4). This type of imposition, however, is in most cases exercised by the authoritarian teacher. Before proceeding to illustrate the image of “authoritarian teacher”, it is necessary to highlight the difference between the “authoritative teacher” and the “authoritarian teacher”.

As contrasted with the authoritative teacher who is being official and highly trustworthy, the authoritarian teacher “flaunts his authority, demands instant obedience, glories in superiority, discourages critical thought, treats evaluative questions as closed” (Thompson 1972, p. 20). Another way of putting this: the authoritative teacher possesses de jure and de facto authority without flaunting it, whereas the authoritarian teacher flaunts his de jure and de facto authority. Yet, Peters (1966) addresses his concern on the danger that those who are authoritative teachers become authoritarian teachers by referring to Weber’s idea of “charisma”. This concern has its pertinence, since the danger deriving from “charisma” is immanent in the construction of teacher as an authority.

According to Weber (1947), “charisma” is the persona traits or magnetism attributed to the individuals who arouse devotion and compliance of followers. As mentioned earlier, authoritative teacher as a de jure authority enjoys an inherent superior societal status for the recognised right to issue a command, and as a de facto authority retains a professional role for the acknowledged expertise to make a pronouncement. Such superior status and expertise are likely to be seen as “charisma” that cultivates a cognitively stimulating attitude towards learning (Burbules, 1995; Raelin, 2006).

Despite this, such “charisma” is in danger of being exercised on a purely personal basis and abused as a mask for superior power and intelligence, which might lead to a shift from being an authoritative teacher to an authoritarian one in the end. Having explained the distinction between “authoritative teacher” and “authoritarian teacher” and the risk of “authoritative teacher” becoming “authoritarian teacher”, the following analysis is to identify the problematic characteristics of the authoritarian teacher based on the discourses of “power” and “intelligence”.

Firstly, I explain how an authoritarian teacher establishes the hierarchy of power in educational settings with reference to Hannah Arendt’s (2006) discussion on the hierarchical nature of the authoritarian order, and analyse how this hierarchy of power liberates and oppresses students. Secondly, I point out the inequality of intelligence between the authoritarian teacher and students, mostly by referring to Jacques Ranciere’s (1991) “stultification” and Paulo Freire’s (1996) “banking education”.

2. 21 Hierarchy of Power Not surprisingly, there is a direct connection between “authority” and “power”. “In general, we understand ‘power’ by the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a social action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action” (Weber, 1968, p. 926). The term “power” is generally understood to mean the capacity of some individuals to exert anticipated and effective forces on others, or the possession of control over others. In line with this, Wrong (1980) identifies authority as one of the distinct forms of power.

Whilst authority brings about a certain kind of power to win compliance, acquiescence and obedience, it is a sanctioned claim of right (Selznick, 1992). To illustrate this point, authority is a form of power that emanates from two particular sources: “individuals must freely recognise it as legitimate” and “it points toward something superior from which it receives its legitimacy” (Michaud, 2012, p. 287). In other words, authority is the power delegated to the superordinate in which the superordinate is seen as having the right to command while the subordinate as having the obligation to obey.

Both the superordinate and the subordinate have their own prearranged position in this power relation. The exercise of power, however, is distinct from what I previously referred to as “social control in the discussion of “legal-rational de jure authority”. The social actors in the sphere of social control act in accordance with the social norms shared by their community, whereas the power holder attempts to carry out his or her intention and exercise control over others’ conduct in social interactions.

To locate this relational configuration of power in educational settings, a hierarchical power relation exists between the authoritarian teacher and students. Arendt (2006) contends that “the authoritarian order… is always hierarchical” and “what they [the one who commands and the one who obeys] have in common is the hierarchy itself” (p. 92-93). This is to say, what the authoritarian teacher and students share in common is the hierarchy itself.

The exercise of authority implies a hierarchical power relation, explicit or implicit, between the superordinate and the subordinate (Metz, 1978; Hearn, 2012). The power relation between the authoritarian teacher and students is thereby rigidly unilateral and hierarchical. The authoritarian teacher could be regarded as the power-wielder who exerts greater dominance over the conduct of the power subiects than the reverse (Wrong, 1908). The students, submitting themselves to a hierarchical world of power, are the subjects of the uthoritarian teacher’s power.

This hierarchical power relation between the authoritarian teacher and students, on the one hand, liberate students in a certain sense. According to Foucault’s (1983) reasoning of power, “power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free” (p. 221). It seems that the hierarchy of power brings human beings into free subjects. Following Foucault’s idea, Thompson (2013) suggests that the liberation is achieved by “addressing both parties with productive effects on their identity” (p. 290).

That is to say, within the hierarchical power relation, the authoritarian teacher confirms his or her teacher-subject with superiority in front of the students. In contrast, students realise their studentsubject in relation to the authoritarian teacher. Both parties, the authoritarian teacher and students, are somehow actively engaged in this power relation. In this sense, it could be argued that the search for an authority with superior power gives meaning to the students’ free development of themselves, and allows them to find their true “self”.

Paradoxically, the hierarchy of power on the other hand is likely to oppress students. A prison house of power upon students would be established, if the educational work leans on the authoritarian teacher’s exercise of superior power. An authoritarian teacher is said to exert a high level of control on students’ conducts and attitudes in a strict manner, expecting students’ unquestioning obedience to the rigid rules out of fear of punishment (Adorno, 1964; Baumrind, 1966; Kurland, 1991).

Using punitive disciplinary methods, the authoritarian teacher leaves no room for negotiation and discussion (Turliuc & Marici, 2013). This unquestioned authority is believed to be necessary for effective classroom management, as it allows teachers to create disciplines and maintain orders in a classroom setting (Downey & Kelly, 1979; Steiner, 1982). Likewise, Maatta and Uusiautti (2002) claim that the management of pedagogical work is directed by the authorities who possess superior power. Nevertheless, when the authoritarian teacher glories in the uperiority of power to issue direct commands and require students’ unquestioning obedience, students are being inferior due to the intensity of the authoritarian teacher’s power.

Students are suppressed by this intense power, to be precise, “the psychological, social, physical power” to “reward and punish, exclude and promote” (Steiner, 2003, p. 4). As a consequence, they will do whatever they are commanded by the authoritarian teacher, and modify their behaviour accordingly. Even if they have a strong desire to rebel against this hierarchy of power, they understand that the authoritarian teacher is an undisputed authority.