Discipline lessons from American faith-based autonomous schools: a narrative of power and ‘mini-public’ ideology

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Widespread neoliberal approaches to education consider schools increasingly accountable for self-management and ‘client’ recruitment, encapsulating economic ideologies that assume privatisation is essential for social progress. With an ever-shifting landscape of market-driven policies and the increasing growth of private education settings, more research is needed to cast light on emerging or under-researched aspects of autonomous schools. Located within a U.S. state that has strict constraints on tax subsidies for religious K-12 education, this paper investigates how an extensive form of decentralisation corresponds with schools’ discipline and ethical environment. It analyses teacher interviews and web documents from faith-based, autonomous schools in a state that has devolved power and authority for decision-making to parents and other independent ‘agents’, having a distanced relationship with its non-state ‘actors’. The paper follows Foucault’s use of the metaphor of the panopticon and adopts his power analysis to examine the nature of parental control and its influence on disciplinary and ethical practices. Evidence suggests that these autonomous schools are driven by a ‘mini-public’ ideology that constrains educators’ autonomy and generates particular disciplinary norms; entangling ethical, educational, and social ramifications, including teacher resistance and teacher demoralisation. Implications for policy are discussed in this context of control.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)308-333
    Number of pages26
    JournalJournal of Education Policy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


    • Autonomous schools
    • decentralisation
    • discipline
    • ethical environment
    • parental control
    • sociology

    Cite this