As detailed in Chapter 1, Researching special schools: a poststructuralist approach, this work explores the capacity to apply poststructuralism, in theory and in practice, in a setting where other discourses are dominant. I focus on my own work as principal in the context of a special education school where I worked with students categorised as ‘emotionally/behaviourally disordered’. I analyse the discourses that inform this kind of work, both from the position of one who inevitably took them up, even becoming expert in them, and from a Foucauldian position of critique which sets out to render these discourses less able to be taken up.
In this chapter I examine the discourses that have informed the way we think about children living in out-ofhome care who do not fit into the normal school system. I explore my own embeddedness in those discourses when I work with these children, and I subject the discourses to critique—to make them visible and analysable, showing the (often negative) effects they have on the children’s lives. These are powerful discourses with powerful effects, and what I set out to do here is show how we are inevitably constituted by them and constitute the children with them, even while learning to distance ourselves from them and no longer hold them as revealing ‘the truth’ about the individual children we work with.