The Urban Review

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 1-35

First online:

The Rhetoric of Care: Preservice Teacher Discourses that Depoliticize, Deflect, and Deceive

  • Eric ToshalisAffiliated withGraduate School of Education and Counseling, Lewis and Clark College Email author 

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How teachers “care” for students is a well-established line of inquiry in educational research, but the ways such “care” may function as symbolic violence have received scant attention. In this ethnographic investigation of classroom disciplinary interactions, the characteristics and functions of preservice teachers’ care discourses are examined. By translating deficit discourses into expressions of praise for students’ nonacademic talents, the participants’ rhetoric of care effectively shifts blame for failure from teacher to student. The preservice teachers’ expressions of care also function to veil the power being produced in such rhetoric, to frame the teacher as victim when said care is rejected, and to reverse the carer/cared-for dynamic when teachers’ attempts to inspire academic progress are unsuccessful. Implications for teacher education and teacher development are provided as are suggestions for how to recognize and implement more authentic forms of care.


Care Symbolic violence Deficit discourses Culturally responsive pedagogy Urban education