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Transcript of School Discipline
Prior to the 20th century, discipline of children was based on memorisation of biblical teachings, fear of punishment, humiliation and sense of shame.
This authoritarian form of discipline was then carried in to the schooling system.
The main form of discipline used in the early to mid 20th century was corporal punishment.
However, corporal punishment was abolished in 1987 in most states, and 10 years later in independent school
This ban of corporal punishment made way for a new kind of discipline, a type of discipline that still promoted teacher dominance but was not physical. This type of disciple was suspension and expulsion.
There are many factors currently influencing the issue of school discipline.
On the macro scale, things such as legislation affect the type of discipline seen in Australian schools.
The NSW DET states that "continued disobedience such as refusal to obey staff instructions; defiance and disrupting other students" is reasonable grounds for suspension. Very broad don't you think?
The media also affects school discipline on a large scale with an estimated 37% of newspaper articles on education being associated with discipline.
On the micro scale, things such as SES, the teachers personal schema on discipline and the schools code of conduct are big contributors.
The Interpretivist Perspective
The functionalist perspective
School discipline is a way of maintaining order in the learning environment. It is a set of rules and regulations that encourage appropriate behavior that is in line with the school curriculum. It aims to control the students actions and behaviors.
There is much disagreement as to what is the best way to discipline students. There are various factors that influence this such as the schools area, average SES and the teachers personal schema on school discipline.
Functionalism and social justice.
Most functionalists believe that the existing inequalities in society are socially just.
They argue that since there are social inequalities in all known societies, these inequalities must serve a function.
They say that those people who are more skilled and talented must be matched with jobs that are of a higher functional importance.
Interpretivism and social justice
An interpretivist would view social justice differently depending on the society.
They would argue that social justice is a social construction. Meaning that different societies have different ideas on what social justice is.
Therefore what is seen as just in one society may not be seen as just in another.
Social justice and discipline.
Functionalists believe that all children should be treated as equals in the school system, with no consideration to factors which may influence a student's behaviour.
Therefore, functionalists would see punitive forms of discipline as socially just as they serve the function of teaching children how to behave as an effective part of society.
Through a sociological lens...
In a recent OECD study, Australian classrooms were voted some of the noisiest in the world. Many Australian educators and policy makers are responding by reinforcing our already favoured punitive methods, mainly detention, suspension and expulsion, there has even been mention of placing CCTV in many public schools.
But who is right and wrong in this situation? Is there even a definite right and wrong? Is this punitive form of discipline that Australia seems to be favouring effective?
Through looking at this issue though different sociological lenses, we are able to gain a deeper insight in to discipline in Australian schools, and a possible solution to this issue.
Fields, B. (2006). School discipline coverage in Australian newspapers: impact on public perceptions, educational decisions and policy.
Hirschfield, P., & Celinska, K. (2011). Beyond fear: Sociological perspectives on the criminalization of school discipline. Sociology Compass, 5(1), 1--12.
To gain a deeper insight in to the effects and possible solutions to this issue, we must look at it through different sociological lenses.
We will be looking at the perspectives of both functionalists and interpretivists.
Functionalism is the theory that all aspects of a society serve a function and are necessary for the survival of that society. Came from Darwin's Theory.
With respect to school discipline in Australia, functionalists would view discipline as serving a vital function to both schools and society.
Functionalists would state that although some forms of discipline may be harsh, the discipline is a result of their actions and is therefore justified.
Functionalists believe that society is made up of a number of mini systems and that all must function for that society to work. Functionalists would therefore believe that school discipline serves the purpose of correcting dysfunctional behaviour that negatively impacts on the school system.
functionalists would also argue that schools disciplinary systems reflect that of the nations penal system, thereby preparing them for their future in society.
Interpretivism is an approach that focuses on the subjective, everyday lives of people considering their biases, emotions, beliefs and their capacity for subjectivity.
They believe that what constitutes discipline differs greatly depending on the school and the individual student and teacher perspectives
They would see discipline as something that should be specific to the social constructions created by both the policy makers and the individual schools, teachers and students.
They would ask why the student acted the way they did and would strive to understand the meaning and the social constructs behind the students actions.
They believe that the idea of 'what is wrong' and 'what deserves discipline' is socially constructed i.e the child may not see themselves as acting out where the teacher does.
They would see excessive use of punitive methods as impersonal, although if it is these methods that the majority agrees are effective, they would back these methods.
Social justice and discipline.
Interpretevists however, believe that social justice is socially constructed, and so each child and teacher's view on it is different.
Therefore socially just discipline would be different in every school.
Hence for discipline to be the most effective, the way they are disciplined should reflect their individual views.
As you can see, the issue of how to best discipline children in Australian schools is a difficult one to solve. However, though looking at this issue through different sociological lenses, we are able to shed new light and perspective on to this confusing issue.