Teachers, drugs and politics : a study of teacher activism in Queensland

McMorrow, James F. (1980). Teachers, drugs and politics : a study of teacher activism in Queensland PhD Thesis, Graduate School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author McMorrow, James F.
Thesis Title Teachers, drugs and politics : a study of teacher activism in Queensland
School, Centre or Institute Graduate School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1980
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 362
Language eng
Subjects 139999 Education not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract The phenomenon of teachers' political activism is the central concern of this project. The project seeks to understand the nature of the more conspicuous involvement of government school teachers in the politics of education in Queensland in the 1970's. It also hopes to make a contribution to the academic study of industrial relations in education. Central to the investigation is a case study of a major campaign undertaken during 1976 by activists prominent within the Queensland Teachers Union. This campaign was aimed at reinstating four young teachers dismissed from the teaching service following their conviction on charges relating to the smoking of marijuana. The campaign was an important event in the history of teachers' political activism in Queensland, if not in Australia, and a review of its theoretical and general implications is a major outcome of the study.

Following a review of the literature associated with the study of teachers' politics, a "pre-theoretical" research design in the phenomenological sense, is developed. This approach is adopted on the conviction that knowledge of the qualitative nature of teachers' political behaviour is incomplete, that the perceptions and values of teacher activists as participants are essential components of any such research design, that the emphasis in such research should, at least initially, be rather more on understanding than on explanation and, accordingly, that interpretative social research is appropriate to the circumstances of the project.

In order to describe, analyse and evaluate the various manifestations of teachers' political activism during the period under review, several distinct, but related, research techniques are adopted. These techniques give effect to a form of methodological triangulation and include documentation, interviews and the undertaking of a content analysis of activist documents. Central to the research design as a whole is the adoption of participant observation techniques and, indeed the review of participant-observation as a research tool is one of the important features of the project. These methods are utilised in a discussion of historical, political and organizational antecedents, a description of the events which made up the case study, a content analysis of Union documentation and an interpretative review of the data generated by the project.

This interpretative account provides a number of generalizations relating to the factors underlying teacher activism, including predisposing, intervening and enabling factors, to the manifestation of that activism in the period under consideration and to the assessment of its effectiveness. Some of the outcomes of the analysis include:

   •  profiles of activist attitudes and characteristics;

   •  a possible typology of activist teachers according to their orientations to "Us" and "Them";

   •  an outline of possible predisposing, intervening and enabling factors;

   •  a presentation of activist decision-making processes which corresponds to a "garbage can" model of organizational choice;

   •  a possible "legitimacy continuum" of political tactics;

   •  a sceptical hypothesis of activist effectiveness;

   •  an anatomy of teacher activism incorporating the adoption of long term strategies, the identification of more immediate activist objectives and the selection of particular political tactics.

These generalizations, which are presented as possibilities for further research, lead to a discussion of their implications for the QTU, for the governance of education and for the theoretical study of teachers' politics.The project concludes with a review of major outcomes and a consideration of methodological implications.
Keyword Teachers -- Queensland -- Political activity
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