M.I. Moreno Pizarro

IES Matilde Salvador (SPAIN)
In this paper I contend that labelling, as the act of classifying, identifying or designating students or their acts with a descriptive term, can be explained as declarations (Searle, 1985), which are utterances that have a double direction of fit, like a referee's call. Despite having been broadly studied in speech act theories, ascertaining their truth value is complicated and nonetheless very useful to explore the peculiar nature of some of people's linguistic interactions as well as the psychological circularity between them, specially when they occur in educational contexts: the truth of what a student, or their acts, performance, skills, etc. appear to be is a circular game that involves expressing feelings (as a description of the inner state of the subjects), assessing reality (as a decision about what a student is or isn't) and creating reality (as an agency intervention that gets to arise a new situation concerning the identity of the subject in the declaration). When teachers give students feedback (typically, when compelled to find words for their students' strengths and weaknesses), they investigate their identity, so to speak, as much as they create it, pretty much like if they were revealing the hidden statue by sculpting in the stone where it lies unshaped. In the process of this interaction, the level of authority will play a determining part in the outcome. For this reason, the truth of what a student or their acts, performance, skills, etc. are, like in those utterances, arises from a combination of knowledge, will and authority, with the very important caveat that this authority is not straightforwardly hierarchical, as it could be believed, but moral, shared and interplayed.

My aim in this paper, then, is to show that the analysis of those utterances not only is appropriate for most of our significant linguistic interactions when we educate -it also provides a model that meaningfully accounts for the peculiar nature of teacher-student relationships, locus for circular causation and complexity. Lastly, I will try to explore the various ethical issues involved in using declarations in educational contexts. The inner mechanism of this kind of speech acts will make visible how truth, trust, authority and responsibility, stand out in the ethics of education.