Free Essay on "Discipline in the Classroom: Past and Present"

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Free Essay on "Discipline in the Classroom: Past and Present"

 "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.            









     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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Image of Child Receiving Corporal Punishment