Silencing Student Voice

Barriers to Students
Barriers to Students

To assist you in identifying and challenging adultism in schools, I’m adapting this list of common phrases educators have been conditioned to use throughout schools. They try to silence students with these phrases, especially when students challenge them, pushback or otherwise disagree.

The phrases below are often used by educators against students. Students of color, working class and poor students, queer and LGBTQI students, obese students, disabled students, and other marginalized students frequently hear these things more than other students. Silencing student voice happens a lot of different ways.

Strategies to Silence Student Voice

These silencing strategies, and others that may have been missed, can be found in any order. Students’ experiences of adults trying to silence them often go like this:

  • Adults in schools assert authority over students
  • Adults in schools question student knowledge/judgment
  • Adults in schools delegitimize student responses
  • Adults in schools delegitimize students
  • Adults in schools enforce dominant point of view
  • Adults in schools shut down debate or conversation

Following are details of what each strategy to silence students sounds like.

How Adults Assert Their Authority Over Students

  • No, but…
  • You’re wrong.
  • You’ve been wrong before.
  • That’s not true.
  • Are you sure? I’m going to Google it.
  • Really? I don’t believe it.
  • That’s never happened to me / anyone I know.
  • I’ve never seen / heard of that.

How Educators Question Student Voice

  • You don’t know that for sure.
  • You don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • That doesn’t count.
  • This is a completely different situation.
  • You’re making it about students when it’s not.

How Educators Dismiss Student Voice

  • You’re overreacting.
  • You’re blowing it out of proportion.
  • Why are you making such a big deal out of it?
  • Stop getting so emotional.
  • Don’t tell me you’re upset about this.
  • You’re getting angry /raising your voice / shouting again.
  • Not everything is about…(structural oppression goes here).
  • Stop trying to make it about…(structural oppression goes here).
  • You always say that.
  • I knew you’d do this.
  • Can’t we talk about something else?

How Educators Delegitimize Students

  • (Rude laughter)
  • (to someone else) She’s crazy. Don’t listen to her.
  • Why can’t you just relax?
  • Can’t you take a joke?
  • I’m just joking.
  • You’re so serious all the time.
  • You’re so angry all the time.
  • You have no sense of humor.

How Educators Enforce Dominance

  • You have to accept that…
  • You must agree that…
  • It’s obvious that…
  • You must be stupid to think that…
  • Everybody knows…
  • When I was your age…

How Educators Shut Down Conversations

  • This is a stupid / irrelevant / useless conversation.
  • Why are we still having this conversation?
  • It’s not important.
  • Not everything is about you.
  • You’re making it worse by talking about it.
  • Why don’t you just give it up already?
  • I’m done.
  • Are we done?
  • Are you happy now?
  • I’m gonna hang up.
  • I don’t debate on this topic.
  • I’m not having this conversation.
  • I said I was sorry! Isn’t that enough?

This post was adapted from here with permission of the original authors.

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