Friends or foes: Relationships of trust and mistrust in inner city education

Carol Lundberg Kennett, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines the social organization of trust and the ecological arrangements within which trust occurs in the context of inner city educational settings. The investigation considers relationships between the various social actors in a public elementary school and contrasts these relationships with those which occur in a community-based educational program serving the same student population. Using data derived from observations, interviews, and written documents, the author describes the organizational structure, pedagogical design, and interpersonal relationships existent within a majority of classrooms ("typical") and then provides contrasting description of educational arrangements in a minority of exceptional classrooms ("atypical"). Arrangements in typical classrooms appear to stifle curiosity and creativity and to encourage passivity and limited productivity; atypical classrooms are described as "safe havens" which allow for critical and creative thinking. The study seeks to understand how teachers "make sense" of their classroom organization and teaching style and how students react to the experience of school and to the various educational relationships which they encounter. The study looks at the concepts of fairness and respect as they relate to trust development and describes where and in what circumstances members of the inner city community feel that they either are or are not being treated fairly and with respect in educational settings. A model of typical classroom arrangements is offered as a way of understanding not only issues of power and control but also the roles which safety and respect play in the development of trust relationships and the quality of educational outcomes. An alternative model, the pastoral care model, is suggested as a more satisfactory approach to inner city education and one which allows both students and teachers to learn together and to grow from their mutual encounters. The study urges a paradigm shift away from professional distancing and towards an appreciation of the benefits gained from allowing teachers and students to relate naturally in a family-like atmosphere where love and trust are acknowledged, fostered, and valued.

Subject Area

Education|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Kennett, Carol Lundberg, "Friends or foes: Relationships of trust and mistrust in inner city education" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9413861.