I have had to exercise discipline on others, I have been the recipient of it being implemented in almost every form, from lines to a leather belt, and more than anything I have had to exercise it on myself, often unsuccessfully. I therefore believe punishment in any form is transient, and in excess is self defeating. Take a simple example of shock treatment – having, in the past, worked daily where swearing was filthy and as constant, I am no prude. I was in charge of a large team of men, rarely if ever swearing, and bad language was rarely used in my presence, not because of rules, but I assume, out of courtesy. Something was either done or said which was so criminally stupid that I swore,. The atmosphere was electric and still, and the expressions on the faces of the staff were enough to show the point had been thoroughly made. I was caned regularly in all my schools, by teachers and prefects, not for villainy, more from making fun, mild rebellion, or not suffering fools gladly. We all had to bear caning without malice or stress and accept it as the norm. Life was too absorbing to do otherwise. There were, though, sadists, especially in the teaching profession with egos out of all proportion. One primary teacher, was very keen on ‘may’ being used instead of ‘can’. When a child of nine put up his hand and asked could he go to the toilet, he went through endless torture until he used the word ‘may’ and some in extremis embarrassed themselves. The smile on the teacher’s face said all. One can only assume that no parental protests were made because taking the child from that school was worse for a parent than the child’s ordeal.
Now, on reflection, I believe self -discipline is the nub of the problem; there is no possibility of ‘imposing’ discipline, it can only be administered by oneself, a concept which rarely seems to be taken seriously and certainly never aired in the general context of the matter. I am firmly convinced from my own experience that a beating serves only to put a temporary full stop to a situation; it introduces a feature, so violent, that what went before it is dwarfed. Beating has a minor roll, and is only valid if it is then followed by persuasion to impose self-discipline – though not in those terms. The follow-up is rarely implemented and if there is no other outlet for the energy which has engendered the anti-social behaviour in the first place, and no self-discipline to quench the fires, the punishment as such ceases to have any validity.
The Secondary School Part 2 The educational system, so hacked over today, was relatively new to secondary schools when I started, (See LCC and the Secondary School ) and the philosophy of parents doing everything to ensure their little darlings got the best education was, if anything, more prevalent then than it was in the post-war years until now, the 2000’s. When I was very small my grandmother pushed me to and from school, four times a day, a mile or more away, to ensure I went to what was considered to be the best elementary school, and later when I was able, I walked it on my own. Next, I cycled four miles or more in heavy traffic, suffering two accidents during that time on the way to school, in order to go to the best secondary school in the area. Incidentally I do not believe any legislation, outside a totalitarian state, will ever remove the desire for personal choice completely.
Discipline By The Prefects At my Secondary School, with a prefect hierarchy and the school captain at its head, they had authority to thrash, in certain circumstances – I use the word ‘thrash’ advisedly. The system was severely flawed. The original crime was insignificant, the miscreant was awarded lines to be handed to the prefect by a certain time. I was both a customer of ,and part of a syndicate, who wrote lines for a fee, using a number of pencils taped together. The teachers and prefects never checked closely. Failure to hand the lines in on time doubled the dose. Failure again meant that one was called before the Prefects’ Meeting. This was a dragged-out pantomime, scripted to enhance the status of the prefects and belittle the criminal. One stood outside the library, laughter issued through the door, then there would be the serious mutter of voices and finally the door would open and the lamb would be led to the slaughter. The indicting prefect read out the charge, the School Captain asked the transgressor if he had anything to say – pointless, the decision was already made, any comment would be taken as insolence, and being harangued further and even receiving extra punishment. The malefactor was then asked if he wished to be caned by the prefects, which meant the biggest and strongest one there, with a lust for blood, or have the matter referred to the Head Master, a personage on conversational terms with God, both because of his Doctorate of Divinity, but also because of his exalted position – it was really a rhetorical question. Even though one had taken the opportunity of putting on two extra pairs of gym shorts, it hurt.