Balancing the scales: a Habermasian look at one school's communicative practices




Loewen, David Charles

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This dissertation reports on the findings of a single, embedded, interpretive case study centered on nine teachers, supportt staff and administrators in a small, fledgling, faith-baised, independent school in a major city in Canada. Communication practices in schools are significantly impacted by the highly rational society in which they are situated as well as by the expectations often associated with traditional hierarchal roles. Independent schools, as a feature of their 'independence,' have certain freedoms to create new norms of leadeship and emancipation but also meet with greater pressures because of their increased dependency for sustainability on donations and tuition fees. They tend to be easily drawn into the competitive ideologies that exemplify a highly rationalized, free market capitalist society. A large body of literature describes the impact of excessive rationality on communicative practices. The work of Jurgen Habermas serves as foundational to the phenomena of communicative practices in this dissertation. The researcher used qualitative methods to explore participants' perspectives on the communicative practices of their school organization. The findings show participants to be vulnerable to the cultural hegemony of rationality, but anaware of that hegemonic power. However, the findings also show a desire to foster ethical and inclusive communicative practices. They also reveal a significant interplay between participants' individual theologies and their beliefs about communicative practices. The suggestions for educational change are to more readily educate both teachers and administrators regarding ethical discourse and the essential components of Ideal Speech, and for each school organization to conduct an audit of communicative practices to ensure an ongoing creation and critique of communicative norms.



Habermas, system, lifeworld, hegemony, communicative, rationality