In this chapter, I present data from both classroom observations and interviews that I interpret as student resistance. Interpreting this information in terms of resistance and as evidence of resistance can help educators develop alternative perspectives for understanding puzzling and/or oppositional student actions. These alternate perspectives avoid applying psychological explanations, which often presume student pathologies, to oppositional student behaviours.
Positing resistance maintains a respect for the reasons that underlie oppositional behaviours. This position assumes that students have healthy reasons for avoiding school, for sporadic attendance and for dropping out. It also encourages educators to honour the persistence, the sacrifices and survival strategies, including a variety of classroom resistance behaviours, that students who keep coming back to school must employ. If educators recognize resistance and value it, they can consider ways of working with resistance (instead of against it) to help students through the process of maintaining their marginalized identities while entering into and remaining within the dominant cultural systems that literacy acquisition generally requires. I maintain that a positive consideration of resistance is important, not only to help students, but also to help ABE change and improve.
The concept of agency is pivotal both in resistance theory and in post structuralist theory. Agency refers to the marginalized individual's capacity to change their environments and to control the terms of their own existence. When post structuralists refer to the dual nature of the subject (as subjected to and as author of) within the concept of discourse, the aspect of authorship refers to the individual's capacity to effect change in the discourse itself. When an individual is "subjected to," that individual enters the dominant discourse and is controlled by it. When authoring, agency is employed to change circumstances; when being "subject to," agency is employed to change self according to some received or accepted value from the dominant discourse. Authoring reflects resistance; being "subjected to " reflects accommodation.
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