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1.6 Who’s in authority - Standard, English Studies, EAL/D

To what extent are we the authors of our own lives and our own texts?

Authority is a difficult concept to discuss as there are different kinds of authority – authority over others, authority over ourselves and authority, in the sense of being authors, over our own creations.
In the case of government institutions there is usually a clear authority structure in place. 

While an institution like the Centre for Road Safety is responsible to the government and must abide by its rules, the government is responsible to the people who elected them. This means that any texts produced by such ‘authorities’ have to engage the interest and goodwill of the community while sometimes telling them what they do not want to hear and may be reluctant to do.

The Centre for Road Safety is a government authority. Go to its website and read the web tab About the Centre

  • Identify the symbols of authority on this page.
  • Highlight key words which describe what the Centre for Road Safety does and consider: 
    • whether these words suggest power or authority
    • what relationship these words suggest with the community.

Look at the image below. Imagine that the driver of this vehicle is the Centre for Road Safety. There are passengers and back-seat drivers as well. Consider these questions:

  • Who are the passengers?
  • Who do you think those back-seat drivers might be? 
  • Which ones would you put up front next to the driver? 

How well does this image work as a representation of the responsibilities of the Centre for Road Safety? 

Can you think of other ways of representing its role, functions or responsibilities?

Authority: Freedom and safety

Driving is an important new source of freedom for many adolescents who are no longer dependent on being driven or taking public transport. The job of the Centre for Road Safety is therefore a difficult one: how to convey a message that is for the good of the community and does not fuel resentment about being controlled.

Explore the problem through drama

Imagine that you are out with a mate and he is going to drive you home. You didn’t really like the way he drove you to the party and you have even more doubts about his driving now that you are going to leave the party as he looks a bit under the weather. 

Think about the consequences of:

  • saying something
  • not saying something and just going home with your mate as he is. 

What are you going to say and do? Make notes on several possible scenarios. 

Which one was the best way to resolve the tensions between freedom to choose (the driver’s and your own) and safety (the driver’s, your own and the community’s)? 

Present the scenario that best explores the tensions between freedom and safety to the class.

Last update: 23rd January 2019