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This article reconstructs R. S. Peters' underlying theory of ritual in education, highlighting his proposed link between ritual and the imitation of teachers. Rituals set the stage for the imitation of teachers and they invite students to experience practices whose value is not easily discernable from the outside. For Peters, rituals facilitate the transmission of values across time, create unity in schools, and affirm authority relations. There is a tension, however, between this view of ritual and imitation, on the one hand, and Peters' views of liberal education and the ‘criteria of an educational process’, on the other. This article suggests how the processes of ritual and imitation can be reconciled with liberal education, and it identifies school rampage shootings as an area in which Peters' work on ritual might prove useful.