Document Type

Book Review


Michel Foucault's (1975) examination of the power of surveillance includes a disturbing question:

The practice of placing individuals under “observation” is a natural extension of a justice imbued with disciplinary methods and examination procedures. Is it surprising that the cellular prison, with its regular chronologies, forced labour, its authorities of surveillance and registration, its experts in normality, who continue and multiply the functions of the judge, should have become the modern instrument of penalty? Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?

Over the four decades since this observation, U.S. public education has experienced an accountability era built on increasingly invasive observations of schools, teachers, and students that also include a cultural embracing of no-excuses ideologies. Kathleen Nolan examines one aspect of that evolution in her ethnography of an urban high school that adopted a zero-tolerance policy as well as a pervasive police presence in the school.

Nolan’s Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School (2011) presents an examination of urban youth that reminds me of Patricia Hersch’s A Tribe Apart (1999)—although where Hersch includes rich and extended detail, Nolan grounds her work in scholarship that her ethnography both supports and complicates. Where Hersch is trapped in middle-class norms, Nolan peels back the complicated hegemony of society and its institutions.



Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

School discipline--United States; Urban high schools--United States; School police--United States; Hegemony--United States

Geographic Coverage

United States







Included in

Education Commons