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Discipline in education past and present

Peer-Tutoring Independant Study

"Discipline in the Classroom: Past and Present"

Throughout the history of classroom education, many different

types of disciplinary systems have been applied by teachers and other

authority figures in schools for the sole purpose of controlling student

behaviour. These systems include corporal punishment, psychological

abuse or neglect, and assertive discipline. Although two of these three

topics are illegal at this time, they were all widely used in schools across

the country a short time ago.

Corporal punishment in general can be defined as the infliction of

pain or confinement as a penalty for an offense committed by a student.

During the time that corporal punishment was used by schools all over

the United States and Canada, parents did not have any say in school

discipline. It was completely up to the school authority figures on the

type of punishment and the severity of the punishment given to the

student. The classroom teacher had the most say in the matter since it

was the teacher who usually administered the punishment to the

students. Because of this, some teachers (who especially liked the idea

of physical punishment) took advantage of the minor guidelines set by

the principal to protect students from excessive physical beatings. These

guidelines varied from school to school, but often included length, width

and thickness of the paddle or any other weapon used, the amount of

times the student may be struck by the weapon, and other minor details

about other types of physical punishment. The list of weapons that were

acceptable for teachers to use include long: rubber hoses, leather straps

and belts, sticks, rods, straight pins, hard plastic baseball bats, and

arrows. If at the time a teacher did not have his/her weapon, they would

often resort to punching, kicking, slapping and shaking as ways to "get

children's attention". Besides these common manoeuvres of punishment,

other and often more painful techniques were used by teachers. Children

in a class for the learning disabled claimed that their teacher, and her aide

banged their heads into their desks until some students were

unconscious, twisted their arms, and even tried strangulation. Another

teacher shook hot tabasco sauce in the mouths of the troublesome

student and smeared it in their faces. When parents found out about

this specific act of cruelty, they were outraged and took their case to

state officials. The final verdict on this case was that they saw nothing

wrong with forcing kids to eat something they did not like (Butterfield

1983). In the Christian schools, this kind of punishment was related to

the concept of original sin and the need to combat Satan by beating the

devil out of children. This same idea was used in other religions as well,

and children were beaten because of mental illness, or disease. One of the

most common arguments for corporal punishment is that its abolition

would leave teachers powerless to control students, especially those who

might be a threat to the teacher. Despite this, it has been proven that

most corporal punishment is inflicted against relatively defenceless

students who are to small or weak to strike back. Now that corporal

punishment is illegal in almost all areas including the Unites States and

Canada, the only physical force that can be used by teachers is in specific

situations (with the unintention of inflicting pain) such as to quell a

disturbance, to protect oneself, property, or another person.

When a child is physically abused, absence from the abuser results

in a relatively quick healing of the physical wounds, but the emotional

scars left by the abuse last a lifetime. For this reason, many

psychologists believe that when a child is psychologically abused in

schools, it will have a far worse effect on children all throughout their

lifetime, and quite often lead to stress related diseases (ulcer, depression

etc.) and may even lead to suicide. It is a common mistake that a child

can not be psychologically abused unless they are physically beaten, or

abused. This could not be farther from the truth. Physical abuse

accounts for only 20% of the total psychological damage left on abused

children. There were many things that were done to children by their

classroom teachers that had a far worse result on the student than any

physical abuse would ever have. The most common of these is constant

humiliation. It was not uncommon for teachers in the past to repeatedly

criticize and laugh at a particular students disability, or even creativity for

the main reason of punishing the student for a minor offense. Teacher's

did this by often reading a student's personal journal to the whole class,

reading a students grades, and most often apprehending and degrading

the student about his or her appearance, family, or school work in front

of the whole class. This kind of humiliation is difficult to take even as an

adult, never mind a ten year old child. As a result of this so called

"punishment", many students who were constantly embarrassed and

degraded over a long period of time suffered from psychological

abnormalities such as insomnia, nightmares, and even schizophrenia.

Another such psychological "punishment" used by teachers was

seclusion. This is not to be confused with the idea of suspension, or

removal from class. Seclusion often meant locking misbehaved children

up in to small dark closets, or damp dark basements for long periods of

time. In one specific case, an eleven year old child who slipped and fell

while walking down the hall, was put into a small, dark, wet almost

cubby hole where janitorial supplies were kept. He ended up spending an

incredible twenty-eight hours in this closet before the teacher

remembered that he had locked him in with a pad lock the day before.

The boy was able to drink water because there was a running hose in the

room. The parents of the child were so scared and outraged that

authorities were notified, but once again it was decided that only the

teachers can decide the severity of the punishment.

Assertive discipline is a very broad term, and can be achieved by

using many different techniques. The main idea of assertive discipline is

that it forces a student to do or carry out an unpleasant task as a

punishment for a wrongdoing. Assertive discipline is used in schools

today, and does not include any physical, or emotional harm that may

damage a students ability to learn. This does not mean that teachers

can not apprehend and punish a student for intolerable behaviour, but

they can not do it by any means of inflicting students with fear of

possible abuse, or maltreatment. In this day and age, teachers must

watch carefully how they discipline their students because one slip of the

tongue, or hand for that matter may lead to criminal charges of assault,

or other related charges. Many teachers have now been stripped of their

right to teach just for a small comment to a student that may have been

interpreted the wrong way by the student. It is recommended now that

teachers always have a witness present while speaking privately, or a

tape recorder to avoid such devastating mishaps. Every public and

secondary school teacher in the world has their own discipline system.

Some teachers are more lenient than others, but each teacher should

ensure that the consequences for a misbehaving student is great enough

to persuade students to think again before breaking any rules. There are

many different systems a teacher can use. Still being used most of all is

the traditional detention. In this system, if a student misbehaves, he/she

must spend a certain amount of their own free time in the class after

school or during lunch. The only problem with this is that there are the

few student who don't care if they spend the rest of their life in the class

and may brake rules on purpose just to achieve this. This is often due

to unpleasant home or social situations. Another system that is still

being widely used is the "Write Out" punishment. This includes writing

certain things out 1000 times, to copying a page of a dictionary for

homework. This is an all around unpleasant thing to do, and is probably

one of the better systems used. Throughout all the different discipline

plans, each teacher must be positive but stern while punishing students.

Verbal apprehensions in private also may have a positive effect on

misbehaving students.

Of all the different types of discipline studied, Assertive discipline

has the most positive results on students. It has been proven to be

better at stopping students from unacceptable behaviour, as well as not

damaging them emotionally, or physically. Both Physical and emotional

abuse have a very negative effect on students at the time, and the

emotional scars created last a life time.

Bibliography

Canter, Lee and Marlene Canter. Assertive Discipline. Santa

Monica, CA: Lee Canter and Associates, 1992

Hyman, Irwin A. Reading Writing and the Hickory Stick. Toronto:

Lexington Books, 1990.

McManus, Mick. Troublesome Behaviour in the Classroom. New

York: Nichols Publishing, 1989.

"World Book Encyclopedia". Toronto: World Book Inc, 1991

edition. pp.88-89



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