The Urban Review

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 493–515 | Cite as

Authority or Democracy? Integrating Two Perspectives on Equitable Classroom Management in Urban Schools

  • Eliot J. GrahamEmail author


Classroom management is sometimes dismissed as behaviorist or even oppressive. However, as scholars concerned with issues of equity, we cannot afford to avoid the complexity of authority relationships in urban schools. Doing so undermines our ability to effectively combat the influx of authoritarian disciplinary approaches into these schools and to prepare new urban teachers for the challenges of classroom leadership. In the hopes of furthering consideration of these topics, this article highlights two distinct perspectives on equitable classroom management in urban schools: one emphasizing democratic classrooms, the other emphasizing teacher authority. Though these perspectives may seem contradictory, I argue that a conception of classroom management that incorporates both democracy and authority is critical to effectively addressing the issues highlighted above. Drawing upon theoretical conceptions of authority, studies examining the significance of racial and cultural differences in classroom management, and literature on restorative justice in education, I propose a framework that integrates these two perspectives. This framework suggests that rather than working in opposition to one another, democracy and authority are two sides of the same coin, and one may not be fully possible without the other.


Classroom management Authority Urban education Equity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Davidson Honors CollegeUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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