"Within settings like classrooms, a great deal of the response to dominant discourses occurs fleetingly, sub rosa in what Scott (1990) calls the 'hidden transcript'" (Rampton et. al 2002, p. 386).

Critical Discourse Analysis and related approaches do a good job of explaining the institutionalization of dominant discourses, but "have much less to say about how people receive or resist these ideologies" (ibid.).

I've been rereading a response article by Ben Rampton and colleagues, and the two quotes above -- along with much more in the article -- have me thinking about my research project, how I've organized it, the kind of data, analyses and conclusions I'll be able to draw upon, and what, ultimately, I'll be able to say about the places and people I've been observing.

First, I'll restate the caveat I think will be the "estribillo" (chorus) of my dissertation: there's so much I must be missing, there's so much more to learn. And in the meantime, I submit the following thoughts for your feedback:

When I think of "hidden transcripts" I think of Scott's Filippino (I think?) research informants, peasants and living in very unequal socioeconomic and political situations where their "hidden transcripts" of resistance served as evidence that they were not simply compliant underlings. (Forgive the broad strokes; it's been several years since I read Weapons of the Weak.)

When I try to apply this idea to people at the high schools, I think first of the kids, of course--ostensibly the lowest members of the institutional hierarchy. In the everyday, their resistance to dominant discourses is rarely hidden, I would say. At the suggestion of a homework assignment, you hear, "No, maestra!" and "Madre mía" or "Dios! Todo eso?!" During classroom lessons, there are the myriad small ways students have always managed to sidestep the teacher's protocol: talking to a neighbor, giggling, doodling; or the more explicit refusals to comply, for example, "Yo no leo más y ya está" or "No me he traido el libro; está en casa." There’s also the common complaint, “This place is like a prison!”

In addition, deconstructive actions against school infrastructure are common. Not long ago, a group of kids managed to pull a classroom door completely off its hinges. At faculty meetings, teachers have urged each other to get after kids who throw trash on the floor or leave their desks disorderly. Similar actions exist in kids’ social memory, as well, including retelling anecdotes of the time the glass in one of the doors got busted out over a weekend, the time the music room was vandalized and stereo equipment stolen, or the time a used condom was found discarded at base of one of the entryway doors.

All of these could be considered transcripts of resistance, but they are anything but hidden. The notion of “resistance” itself loses some analytic purchase when talking about the relationship between kids and teachers here. In many ways, Rampton and his colleagues’ comment that teachers, rather than students, suffer isolation and alienation within classroom dynamics makes more sense here. Teachers often feel at the mercy of what a particular class of students will allow them to do; the opportunity to impart a class -- in the classic, traditional sense that everyone reading this is familiar with – depends entirely on whether the students will be quiet enough for the planned (or impromptu) lesson to take place, whether some or all or none will participate, and whether that participation is focused and academically productive or distracting, aimed at interrupting the sequence of tasks designed by the teacher. Naturally, the students’ ability to produce and maintain successful distractions also depends upon the teacher’s ability to, or interest in, asserting authority or motivating students with lesson content.

The more “hidden” transcripts of resistance likely come from the teachers themselves, who form part of a bureaucratic system that promises lifelong job security to those who manage to qualify but also requires competition for points and rankings, continual monitoring of participation in in-service and extra-curricular development activities, and in the meantime, a complete lack of control over where temporary and permanent positions may take them, geographically speaking. The teachers’ hidden transcripts could be considered to take the form of grumbling, complaining, trouble talk and sharing stories of classroom dynamics and glitches in the online tracking system for job placements and point accumulations.

On the other hand, what interests me about the Citizenship and Social Change curriculum are the ways that kids resist, respond to, or reinterpret the dominant discourses expressed through the texts and materials created for these courses. But that’s not the only level of analysis. They are also responding to the way their teacher presents the ideas structuring the courses, as their teachers, in turn, are responding to and interpreting the state-defined curriculum, while the province is responding to the new state requirement to implement these classes, and the state is responding to the EU initiative that invented them.