Discipline in School

Posted Oct 19, 2002
Last Updated Oct 26, 2011

Walking up to a school recently, I was stopped by a cop in his car. The officer said, "What are you here for?” His tone wasn’t necessarily friendly.

"What?” I asked, returning the not-so-friendly tone.

"What are you here for?” he asked again.

"A student,” I said, giving him the look that let him know that I did not appreciate the interrogation.

"Do they know you are coming?” he demanded.

"Why yes they do,” I said, now very annoyed.

"Well you’d better check into the office,” ordered the cop.

I turned and went into the school. The encounter was not a warm welcome, and it gave a bit of a knot in my stomach. Inside the school I talked with a couple secretaries for a few minutes before I asked, "Do the cops here always interrogate people when they come in?”

Before the secretaries responded, the cop had walked in and angrily said, "We do whenever someone walks up to the school with a camera.” Then he left.

Now it was only a couple years ago that I could walk into a school and feel moderately welcome. Now it seems that paranoia has gripped the schools so bad that anyone in the community wanting to come into a school and be a friend has to strip down to the bone and be held by the untrusting hands of schooling administration. It’s not really that bad, and the elementary schools still give a feel of friendliness, but our high schools are not high on community etiquette these days.

When everyone is clamoring about the need for safety and stricter policies, one must wonder whether the new policing atmosphere of schools is helping the goals of schools. From my observations, it seems that the attitudes taken by high schools is detrimental to education in the long run, and the attempts at tightening security are a false remedy to the real threat of violence that sometimes dwells in adolescents.

The open show of policing force in schools, through the use of security cameras, walkie-talkies, hall pass check points and such, creates a strong atmosphere of mistrust and intrigue. You can imagine those measures being taken in the Pentagon and airports, and in prisons and war zones. But in schools, it is very hard to say that those devices are an integral part of education.

Safety and discipline is the reason, yes. But the whole concept of discipline is warped in schools. Kids are repeatedly told they have to conform to given sets of rules and standards that often have little bearing on life or the real world—they are relative only to schools themselves. So we have rules about no gum and hats and book-bags, and forced cooperation on things that may have no relevance to students, upheld always in the name of discipline.

But discipline is just a mask for the schools for the sake of convenience. If discipline were genuine in schools, kids would all need to get 90% to pass and they would fear doing things harmful and stupid because they would know that the natural consequences would fit accordingly. The discipline of our schools right now will slap a kid on the wrist for starting a fight, yet whole schools are bogged down with the intense concentration on "keeping the order.”

In a school with good discipline, standards would be higher than anyone is willing to call for, and rules will be around real issues. If you start a fight, you get spanked. That’s what my son gets, and I’d hope that the schools would have enough sense to do that to him when he gets to school.

The whole issue with teenagers in school being held under the heavy fist of policing is an issue of respect. The high schools have done a poor job in obtaining the respect of students, and the result is that respect now has to be enforced in an artificial way. If schools were done right, there might be higher standards and tougher consequences, but there would be much less need for enforcement. A kid who respects his teachers, like his parents, will not cause problems. It takes a good parent to gain respect, and the same for teachers and schools. It is the failing parent that resorts to tyranny, just like our schools.

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