One definition of discipline: a set of consequences for bad behavior, often unpleasant, that will make a person change his or her behavior. The ultimate goal of discipline is to become self-disciplined.

America’s schools have experienced decades of bad behavior. The bad behavior problem  appears to be growing worse with each new decade. As a person who went to grade school in the 50’s and 60’s, I would say there is a huge difference, with each ensuing decade. Teachers retiring in the 80’s and 90′ referred to the 50’s  and 60’s as  “the good old days”  or  “the time when teaching was fun.”  The bad behavior, defiance, indifference, and lack of respect shown by students to school personnel in schools today would never have been  allowed or tolerated in the 50’s or 60’s. How did we get to this terrible state of affairs in our schools? How are we different and how are we the same in terms of how we look at discipline today as compared to the 50’s and 60’s?  How can we bring discipline and mutual respect back to our schools?

In the 50’s and 60’s, proper manners and respect for adults was demanded of students. Every adult was to be addressed with a “no maam” or “yes sir.” As in the military, you were expected to show respect and salute the uniform of the teacher. Any challenge to a teacher’s authority lead to severe consequences in the assistant principals office. These consequences, whether the paddle or a firm scolding were unpleasant enough to effect a change in behavior. Students maintained good behavior because they did not want to face these unpleasant consequences. As a result proper manners, good behavior, and mutual respect was the normal state of affairs in the classroom and school.

The 60’s and 70’s brought the Civil Right Movement, the Vietnam War Movement, and the Behaviorist  Theory Movement to American Schools. These movements greatly changed American schools. Each movement brought positive and necessary changes in thinking and behavior to America and America’s schools. As with all great issues there were  negative changes in thinking and behavior that accompanied the positive and necessary changes. In a future post, I will address the negative aspects of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War on American Education. The Behaviorist Theory, while bringing  many positive ideas and thoughts to America’s Education System, has also had a huge negative result on America and America’s Schools.

Behaviorist Theory Advocates believe that by paying attention to good behavior, you reinforce that behavior. A parent or disciplinarian should never display inappropriate behavior, anger, frustration, or disappointment. By displaying or paying attention to bad behavior, you reinforce that bad behavior. A parent must use only positive reinforcement, create a positive environment, smile, and turn the other cheek when hit in the face. By not reacting or paying attention to negative or bad behavior, you do not reinforce that behavior. Therefore, if you wish to extinguish a wrong behavior, do not acknowledge or punish bad behavior.

The Behaviorist Theory believes students who misbehave are seeking the reward of attention. Even as a child’s behavior gets worse and more dangerous, a parent must not reinforce that bad behavior. Eventually, the child realizes he can not get what he wants through bad behavior and extinguishes the bad behavior.  A student changes his behavior through positive reinforcement and rewarding good behavior. Only with positive reinforcement can a  student develop a positive self-image and attitude. With a positive reinforcement approach, students avoid the mental and emotional damage done by negative reinforcement.  Behaviorist Theorists believe negative reinforcement such as verbal confrontations, scolding, sarcasm, corporal punishment, etc. causes students to develop poor self-esteem, accept hitting as a way to solve problems, creates mental and emotional depression, and will scar their relationships with parents, friends, and society throughout their lives.

This Behaviorist Theory, which might work well with toddlers, has  became the underlying action plan and philosophy for America and America’s schools. If you find this hard to believe or have never heard of the Behaviorist Theory before, consider what has happened to discipline since the 1970’s.  In the 50’s if you misbehaved in public you were disciplined with a public spanking. Other adults would approach your parents and tell them they had done the right thing. The equivalent of the African proverb ” it takes a whole village to raise a child.”  Today, if you spank your child in public, people will write down your license plate number and call Child Protective Services. In the late 1980’s, I was talking to the dad of a physically abusive boy (Bully) that was making life miserable for other students. I suggested he use corporal punishment. The dad told me he had used a belt and the son had gone to CPS and reported on him. CPS had shown up at his house and warned him if he spanked his son again, they would take all his children from the house. He informed me that when it came to his son, he was no longer in the discipline business.

As the Behaviorist Theory inundated the school systems of America, discipline in the schools broke down. Students discovered that they could display a wide variety of bad behavior and expect little reprimand. Students learned they were relatively immune to any severe consequence and quickly lost respect for any adult in the school. Laughing at teachers as they try to maintain discipline with positive reinforcement becomes a game of seeing how far a teacher can be pushed before they break down or explode with anger. Beware  new teachers who are fresh out of college, you are armed with the Behaviorist Theory and you are facing students that have very little empathy or respect for adults.

Teachers are expected to maintain order using positive reinforcement. A teacher,who gets angry, shouts at a student, uses sarcasm or any negative reinforcement may be reprimanded by school personnel for destroying a student’s delicate emotional and mental balance.  It matters little if  the same student is destroying the emotional and mental balance of everyone in the class. Administrators look at discipline problems in the classroom as the result of bad classroom management or bad teaching techniques. Bad teachers are considered poor practitioners of  positive reinforcement techniques. Many administrators look at discipline problems in the classroom as consequences of negative reinforcement. A teacher who reprimanded a student may have destroyed his emotional and mental stability, along with his self-confidence causing his discipline problems to increase. Teachers end up in a no win situation–damned if they do and damned if they don’t use behaviorist theory.

Effects of the behaviorist theory are everywhere in school policy and philosophy. The idea that students should not receive F grades and the policy that students can not receive below a 50 on any school work have a Behaviorist base.

How can we bring back discipline and mutual respect to our schools?  Schools need to scrap-heap a large part of the behaviorist theory. Unpleasant consequences for bad behavior must be allowed back in schools. By now you must believe I am an advocate for corporal punishment in schools. I am not an advocate for corporal punishment for students in grades six through twelve. I don’t believe in corporate punishment after the age of eleven.  Teachers must be allowed to confront students and challenge students about their behavior. Adults must not be forced to cuddle discipline problems, but be allowed to call a jerk a jerk.

Great school discipline starts with the simple process of recognizing bad behavior and challenging bad behavior every time it is encountered. The simple paradigm shifts of not avoiding bad behavior, but instead attacking bad behavior and not asking for good behavior, but demanding good behavior will affect huge changes, for the better, in education. The next process is to show up time after time and provide an increasingly unpleasant consequence to stimulate a change in behavior. The concept that says by not paying attention to a problem and the problem will extinguish itself must be stricken from our educational philosophy. Follow these procedures and philosophy and  good discipline and mutual respect will return to our schools.

Advertisements



Teachers of America where are you? Where is our collective voice? Why do we allow others to define the problems of our education system without speaking out?  How are solutions to education problems put forth, which often do not work, with little or no voice from teachers?  Will we ever stand up together  and say enough is enough?

Teachers of America, I am calling  you out. We must step out of the classroom and speak up. If we don’t speak out and come together, the consequences will be dismal and tragic for U.S. schools. Only through strong collective teacher voices and actions can our education problems be solved. The “experts of education” can not solve our education problems, without a strong teacher voice. Quite likely, these ” experts  of  education” helped create most of the problems in our educational system. Only by thinking and working together can we come up with solutions and new paradigms on how to solve our education problems.

This blog offers new paradigms in thinking about teachers and educational problems. As a bonus, this blog identifies our main educational problem and offers a battle-tested solution to the problem. When the main educational problem is solved, we are on the road to solving all other education problems.

New paradigms about teachers and teaching must be created. The teaching profession is too easily divided by the tags of “Inner-City”,  “Low-Performing”, and “Bad Teachers”. Teachers in these environments need to stand up and speak out with pride about their struggles and accomplishments. The “Experts of Education” would not last six months in these situations or environments. However, these “experts” see “Teach for America” as the solution for these problems.

Suburban teachers: the next time you encounter an inner-city teacher say “Thank You” and give them a hug, or a handshake. Most suburban teachers would not last two years facing the hardships of inner-city teaching. Inner-city teachers are truly one of  America’s true unsung heroes. Inner-city teachers: it is time to stand up with pride and speak out.

The “Teacher Tags” within each school that divides teachers must be eliminated. Most “low-performing teachers” within a school would do well with Honors classes, and just as many high-performing teachers from Honors classes would be labeled low-performing, after teaching low-performing students. Of course, the “Experts of Education” will get rid of bad teachers by using the results of test scores.

Within each individual school, Honors teachers and low-performing teachers must come together with a united voice. Inner-city teachers and suburban teachers must work together to solve America’s education problems. Finger pointing and blaming each other for the problems in education has only made us less capable of solving these problems.


This blog  has new paradigms on how to look at the problems in education and teaching. This blog also provides possible solutions for most of America’s education problems. This blog is a small first step in the process of uniting teachers in common purpose and voice.