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There has been a long time for the public who hold discipline education in a comparatively narrative way that merely perceives as a combination of rules, rewards, punishments as well as examination. However, discipline education is way too more than that.
As every coin has both sides, disciplinary education has its pros and cons in school practice. This paper examines critically from both bright and dark sides taking reference from recent practices that happened in U.S, UK, and Japan, integrating the concept of behavior management, zero tolerance, and restorative approaches.
A proposal regarding the amendment of current educational flaws is attached in the last section.
Discipline is a good thing since it helps human beings distinguish themselves from animals (Kant, 2003). In other words, discipline seems very compelling in combating the animal instinct of human nature as Kant (2003) points out. The animal instinct of human nature accounts for “independence of law” (p 3), and thus every citizen should be disciplined or raised by restrictions.
The earlier, The better. Durkheim furthermore explains discipline in a sociology framework, elevating the significance of education to another level where education serves as the foundation of society because Durkheim believes a universal moral standard can help every citizen grow as a qualified citizen (Pickering, 2014).
Noticeably safety problems and the rise of youth crime rate increasingly captured our attention and warned us the importance of discipline education in a school with a staggering number of youngsters being dishonest, violent or becoming addicted into drugs (Lickona, 2009). These anti-social students indeed caused a revival of interests in discipline education by parents and teachers who strongly stand in a row to call for a more strict education system because of behavioral problems of students, scattering from England, North America to Sweden and Australia (Haydn, 2014).
Then, school is the perfect place to start with discipline education. In school, children are asked to follow instructions from teachers who play a more significant role in teaching them how to be obedient, well-behaved or tractable with a more severe impact in their adult life (Kant, 2003). Once disciplinary systems set up in schools, students will be assessed and evaluated according to school rules and laws which can help tackle trouble students who may be prevented in the elementary level if proper training and actions taken are by educators. Prevention is always better than dealing with crisis since there are abundant techniques can be harnessed in schools to alter students’ attitude which can help turn crisis into opportunity. Undoubtedly, when discipline issues sprout in a classroom, it is the right time for teachers to terminate them immediately with educational leadership power in hand (2018).
Besides, A more than three-decade study has confirmed that self-control in early life holds a positive relationship corresponded with happier and healthier adult life, provoking some expert advocators who weigh self-discipline the most crucial part in childhood education (’30 scientific ways your childhood affects your success as an adult’, 2018). Moreover, early experience may contribute significantly to brain architecture or lifelong health proved by abundant pieces of evidence from multi-disciplinary studies (Shonkoff et al., 2011).
Also, childhood education plays a critical role in shaping moral character. In general, childhood is divided into two stages with the first one appearing in their family or nursery school and the second in primary school, where children are forced to team up with their peers on a broader circumstance when moral characters start to develop (Durkheim, 2012). As a consequence, public schools especially elementary level should take the primary responsibility. At this point, Japan did a superior job if we examine its history and analyze comparatively against U.S who allocated fewer resources in moral education and discipline (HILL, 1996). Back in 1958, the establishment of moral education was proposed and formally written into Fundamental Law of Education of Japan, with a louder voice on the necessity of moral education which uplifted its position in the whole academic field in Japan (Hiratsuka, 1980). This difference in moral education earns Japan the top player in mathematics literacy among developed countries including the U.S, and more evidently this situation remained unchanged for years (2018). The Japanese academic achievements provide us with a solid base to dig more into the side impact of moral education. Moral education, as Aristotle early found, can equip people with admirable qualities which are highly recommended for offspring to be learned as virtues, coincidently matching our mainstream traditions including both Aristotle and Christian value (Noddings, 2018).
As a consequence, educators carry ‘examination’ to master our system and regard it as compulsory part in training discipline, even fueling a generation who deem examination success as their way-out in schools. There is no question that examination could push students to learn professional knowledge hard to pass school tests and acquire the sense of discipline as a result. Using expert knowledge can assist students in their whole journey of life because some specific subject is helpful and valuable to develop critical thinking skill, an essential ability to judge fairly toward social or economic policies (MacAllister, 2017). For this reason, schools to a specific degree shoulder responsibilities of equipping students a well-rounded skill-set when they walk out of school and enter society.
However, discipline also needs moderation. If children are disciplined in a ferocious approach with severely detrimental consequences, children may be more likely to grow aggressive, anti-social and even result in violent offense in their adolescent life (Weiss, Dodge, Bates & Pettit, 1992). Another way of saying this is, in the long run, the society has to suffer or pay a massive price for harsh penalties in schools because students encounter punishments fiercely before are more plausible to have significantly poorer performance in the study and develop a sick way of connecting or socialising with other people (Reynolds & Gutkin, 2009).
It is apparent from records that zero-tolerance policies implemented in schools are not rewarding due to its contribution in boosting the number of drop-out students who break school rules leading to the rise of “restorative practices” in the U.S which contradicts and reveals the failure of the “zero-tolerance” approach in current education system (Joie Acosta, 2018). Back to the mid-1990s when zero-tolerance policies took place, schools and institutions have stretched its scale with many misbehaviors included (‘Amid evidence zero tolerance doesn’t work, schools reverse themselves,’ 2018). Also, this ironically brought a deteriorating school environment, increasing dropout rates as well as significant falls in the academic performance of students (Skiba & Knesting, 2001).
In American, particularly, this impact of zero-tolerance even had a spill-over influence concerning racism issue, which represented a more close correlation with color people (Smith, Fisher & Frey, n.d.). Subsequently, antagonistic arguments are on a steady rise of popularity with some opponent claimed zero-tolerance policies as “ultimately problematic” (MacAllister 2017, p 128). After reviewing recent practice in both UK and US, there is more significant likelihood that when educators are encouraged to penalize students for smoothing their behaviors, their educational concern seems to care less about moral education, exerting a deeper and more profound impact in students’ life (MacAllister, 2017).
Over and above that, there are some convincing opinions against zero-tolerance policies which mostly put focuses to two essential impacts; First and foremost, drop-out students tend to be more problematic in hunting a decent job due to their educational background. The other concern is when restorative practices carry out, students may have a lifelong change or their behavioral problems can be dealt with fundamentally, using “circles” in school which supplies these deprived students with an open atmosphere where three tasks should be fulfilled, from expressing how they feel, recognizing rights out of wrongs to self-remedy in the end (Joie Acosta, 2018). The sad truth is the traditional approach is still heavily accepted and adopted in schools since school expulsion seems like one of the most effective cures so far to suffocate ill-behaved students yet with no consideration taken about its long-term effect by its advocators (Mullet, 2014).
In the UK, discipline education has not generated satisfactory results which identically resemble the U.S according to previous statistics since education policy and practice in the UK has been nationally implemented for years (MacAllister, 2014). Understandably, students turn their focus away from shouldering their responsibility for what they did and thus students would not be motivated or sparked for their own interest. External factors such as rewards or punishments from teachers do not spur students’ interests or stimulate motivation according to ample investigations (‘Factors Affecting Students’ Learning Motivation,’ 2018).
It means there is no other factor could put motivation behind because motivation plays the most decisive role in the academic success of students (Dörnyei & Csizér, 1998). Furthermore what motivation or self-interests contribute is far more than what any external factor could play. It has been recognized and addressed by many academic works of literature ever since this century began (Krapp, 1999). For example, textbooks should be designed in a way to tailor students’ interests in an effort to motivate them because a fundamental goal of intensive focus on conveying knowledge itself cannot promote learning efficiency in practice (Cheung, 2001).
In a broader context, the disciplinary mechanism seems to disappoint us more based on a four-year case study in the UK, named Ofsted inspection service which has adopted disciplinary measures and finally proved as a collapse (Perryman, 2006). It is an examination practice from officials to schools who are suspected of being “less disciplinary.’ Under rigid inspection, teachers and schools have to act to avoid being downgraded which means their efforts and time are spent in how to win inspectors’ love rather than engaging into true teaching itself. It seems more apparent this inspection cannot provide any insights for further studies because each school has a considerably predictable performance even with its school reports speaking in the same accent as Ofsted did (Perryman, 2006). At the moment of being supervised, teachers could not perform their real profession. Instead, acting skill is more mandatory in inspection regime. That on the flipped side reminds us a further exploration and re-consideration about discipline mechanism.
The proposal of restorative practices gives educationists a brand-new insight to investigate school discipline. The scheme of restorative practices also could find its roots in the cultivation of empathy. The advancement of human compassion or empathy plays a paramount role in human communication which means we could understand others much deeper if people are more compassionate or emphatic, switching from self-focus to a mode of being caring and loving (Wallis, 2014). At present, with the arrival of the digital era, people can break distance barriers, along with nationality, ethnicity, religion as well as culture to establish bonds with each other who may live in a long distance. In other words, the physical boundary would disappear some day and be less worrisome. This led to online communities where the relationship is the only matter. To be more specific, people sharing caring and sentimental values are more likely to gather together or engage in the same community online, restoring their strength from each other’s support (MacAllister, 2017).
Additionally, this led to the prevalence of Macmurray’s opinion which strongly recommends humanity as the core in education, and we should educate students to fight against our nature of selfishness or egotism. In his words, if people start to be supportive and think about other people’s interests, the society as a machine can operate for making maximum profits and pave the way for better (MacAllister, 2014). As MacAllister (2017) suggested, institutional disciplinary mechanisms play a non-substitute role in raising students as a social member. For this to happen, schools should design curriculums in a way to nurture students beyond pure knowledge itself or not necessarily restrictive in school settings.
To conclude, discipline education should be widened and extended into a broader concept more than a narrative of manipulating students into current social norms. Ideally, it should be a whole body of essential qualities, social awareness, and sufficient knowledge base to contribute a better atmosphere instead. Simple governance over behavioral problems or conforming into current social norms would suppress the potential and possibilities of students that in the end subtly blocks the development of democracy from a macro perspective of society. So this should deserve further researches into how to reinvigorate the concept of discipline education and get our old-fashioned approach refreshed.
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