Assignment 3: A Critical Review of a Hermeneutical Article


The purpose of the study by Goldstein is to examine the normative hegemony in the high school classroom and the construction of knowledge and meaning that occurs inside of this dynamic. She says that exploring the dynamics of the classroom discourses both normatively and hegemonically in the same space will have implications on educators (Goldstein, 2003).

Epistemology and theoretical perspective

The epistemology that is guiding this research is constructionism. The constructionism is developed as Goldstein records the interaction between Rajeem and his classmates and teacher. As Rajeem came in late and was disruptive, Goldstein says that he was constructing his identity by “marginalizing another student and rejecting Mr. Smith” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 114). A branch of critical theory, called hermeneutics, is the theoretical perspective that Goldstein is following. Hermeneutics is a study of understanding and meaning making inside of a community. She demonstrates this by trying to interpret the interactions of Rajeem and his classroom environment. She said that Rajeem’s actions and conversation show how he constructed beliefs of racism and religion with his peers to show that education was “white” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 115).

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework that is used by Goldstein is an ethnography. She spent one year in an urban high school to the “study of teacher and student identity construction, discourse production, and power relations” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 112). She focused on one exchange between a student, his classmates and his teacher. Her discussion analyzes this exchange from the point of view of an observer. Goldstein did not appear to follow the type of ethnography the Dunier wrote about his interactions in the Valois Café.


The rationale for the population in this hermeneutic study was to look at the discourses that occur in an urban high school setting. The researcher wanted to see how these discourses would function normatively and hegemonically and how they influenced power structure and identity construction. The sample from this population is Mr. Smith’s American History class. The view that Mr. Smith has of his students as lacking a desire to learn clearly frustrates him, which contrasts with his students view of the educational system as one that encourages “white culture” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 117), giving the researcher some of the elements that she is interested in studying.

 Data Analysis

The data is analyzed quantitatively from an exchange between Rajeem, a classmate, and his teacher. Rajeem has challenged the power structure of the classroom by arriving to class late and announcing his arrival by talking about Islam and engaging a Spanish speaking student. When corrected by his teacher, Rajeem appears to not be very courteous and seems to have little respect for his teacher. Goldstein is critiquing the situation in order to help the teacher student relationship to improve. She says that Mr. Smith is using “Freire’s banking concept of education” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 110). This concept implies that the teacher treats the student like a bank, depositing knowledge directly into the student, without the student giving any effort to learn. This is reflected in how Mr. Smith feels like his students do not understand the point of attending school, and according to Goldstein, Mr. Smith did nothing to help the students understand or share their beliefs about education.

Goldstein used field notes during her time inside of the school. She does not share in her paper how she coded her notes or gives any background information that could be helpful. Her analysis of the teacher and student identity construction seems to come from one isolated incident.   There are no other interactions in this paper that would support or not support her analysis.


By looking at this one exchange between Rajeem, Mr. Smith, and the class, Goldstein says that it does “indicate the ways in which students can effectively engage in shifting power to construct knowledge and discourse” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 118).  She discusses that the students are trying to work through several levels of discourse, which influenced the daily lives of the students inside of the school. She draws out the differences between normative and hegemonic discourse and how the students and the teacher support these different discourses (Goldstein, 2003).

Goldstein also says that the discourses between Mr. Smith and his students were not fully constructed. They were dependent on interactions and reactions among all involved. She says that this is important because everyone has different ideas, thoughts, and views that they bring into the classroom everyday. Goldstein ends her article by stating that “Mr. Smith should have contemplated being a traveler” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 120), she felt he should have done more to reach out to them and learn from them.

Aim of inquiry

The aim of the inquiry is how multiple classroom discourses are able to function both normatively and hegemonically in the same space and how this influences the construction of student and teachers identities. This inquiry is intended to help teachers be critical of their work and explore ways that both students and teachers can engage in knowledge construction that benefits all involved.   She states that the “normal” way of education is where students are required to “reproduce knowledge” are “objectified” and are given little “agency, and autonomy” (Goldstein, 2003, p. 110). She is taking a single exchange in one classroom as her example for issues that occur in education. She wants teachers to be able to develop a place where transformation can occur (Goldstein, 2003).

 Comparison to Dunier and Slim’s Table

Both are ethnography’s but Dunier is attempting to change the public’s opinion on a particular sub-culture. Goldstein is trying to understand and interpret (hermeneutics) the problem within a classroom (community) and not change anything. Dunier had conversations while Goldstein was just an observer.

In Slim’s Table (Duneier, 1994), Dunier, spent a considerable amount of time interacting with the people in the Valois café. He participated in deep discussions with them and worked to tell a story of a group of men, to change the view the world had of these men. He not only observed, he participated.

Goldstein spent one year in an urban high school observing the different dynamics and issues that developed. Her paper does not indicate that she was immersed in this school, with the students, and faculty. It appears that she was more of an observer, simply watching what was happening and making meaning of the interactions that she witnessed.


Duneier, M. (1994). Slim’s table: Race, respectability, and masculinity: University of Chicago Press.

Goldstein, R. (2003). Discourse production, normativity, and hegemony in an urban history classroom. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 7(1), 109-122.


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