Order with consequences



Photo credit: http://www.voice-online.co.uk/career-education-article/charity-voices-concern-over-governments-get-tough-approach-school-disciplin

In the podcast Is This Working? different teachers, educators, parents talk about discipline at school and ask very simple but important questions: what is the reasonable level of discipline? Why do we need kids to unpack their bookbags silently? Is all this discipline for a child or for a teacher? And the most important one: What are the consequences of the punishment for discipline violation?

The podcast starts with the question what teachers would do if a boy does not want to take his hat off during the class. And different approaches to discipline are discussed in its three acts with different storylines. Some stories argue that keeping discipline does not prepare children for a real life because staying quiet and obedient is not always a good way to achieve something in life. Other persuade that not punishment but conversations about the offenses work better as children learn to think about their emotions, emotions of others and collaborate in the society and this is exactly what they need in future. These are all wonderful questions, suggestions, ideas to check and prove by research. What I want to share is another phenomenon that I have found in this podcast which answers the question What are the consequences of the punishment for discipline violation?



I learned about the “discipline policies that push students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates—a phenomenon known as the “school-to-prison pipeline“. Moreover, starting from early age black and Latino students are punished more harshly than their white peers and this excessive punishment makes it more likely for them to get in prison once they become adults.   There was a data from College Station at Texas A&M which documented all the suspensions in 2000-2002:

 “And they determined that African American and Hispanic students were twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white peers for their first offense. When they looked at African American boys in Texas, 83% were suspended at least once. And usually, they were suspended a lot more than once. That includes anything a school calls suspension.

And what kind of infractions were they getting suspended for? Most of the time, these were not for big things, like hitting a teacher or bringing a weapon to school. They were for things like disrespect, insubordination, willful defiance, the kind of incident that often begins when an angry kid won’t take his hat off”

What do you think about this data? This is the result of the attitude they get at school. They are punished seriously even for minor mistakes. I immediately recalled the blog written by chsherbakov that I read recently about the intrinsic bias against Black schoolers which is seen even in the language of documents framing desegregation.

What I want to say is the issue of keeping discipline in the classroom can be controversial but there is another dimension of the problem which we should take into consideration. There is an attitude which starting from the very early age creates a special mindset, special environment and changes the future of many little kids. This attitude makes them feel bad and unwelcome in the society. This attitude puts them into the conflict with the school, with their parents, with the law. This makes them look for people who would value them no matter what and, unfortunately, very often these people are not the best examples to follow.



7 thoughts on “Order with consequences

  1. Mariya, thank you for this thought provoking blog. I really liked your last paragraph where you raised your arguments so clearly. Some tautology as this attitude …., this attitude … makes your views persuasive. This way of writing made your writing to be heard by readers. Particularly, it works for me.
    I also think that people along with finding different practices or approaches to discipline children at school should take into account that these so-called solutions to this problem do not hurt the children’s identity, self-esteem. As it is known the formation of the children’s personality begins at school, from the early ages. And the solutions of one problem, as the discipline at school, mustn’t create the another psychological problem in children that can influence on children’s future.


  2. Thank you for the thought-provoking post.
    I think that such examples of institutional racism you have describe above and those happening in the police force in the USA are the reasons behind the distrust of coloured people towards any kind of authority. If you knew that no matter what you did, you would be worse off if you report it to the authority in charge is an oppressive mindset with which those children, sadly, have to grow up.
    This makes you wonder what can be done to change the situation, but I believe that there is a need for a total overhaul of attitudes and beliefs of the society for this situation to change.
    What is your opinion?


    1. Soothsayer, “total overhaul of attitudes and beliefs” is easier said than done! I cannot think of any measure that would miraculously fix the problem. However, I believe that ignorance is the root of many conflicts. When people do not know enough of difficulties of others they are likely to jump to conclusions. They become very creative on judgments rather than solutions. That is why it is so important to discuss problems and give each side the opportunity to express their points of view while getting closer to mutual understanding.


  3. Thank you @mariaminu for touching upon this problem! I think the problem of intrinsic bias and prejudice towards students that tend to misbehave is relevant not only in America, but in other countries too. While in America, as you have implied, racism might be the cause of this bias, in Kazakhstan, where much attention is paid to school discipline, teachers can form negative prejudices towards the students that make bad initial impressions by not complying to some minor rules. In my opinion, instead of confirming their prejudices by punishing these students for their minor misconducts (which might exacerbate the problem), teachers should try to identify the reasons behind their misconduct and solve the problem according to these reasons.


    1. I agree that such problems are not only specific to the USA but many other countries as well. You mentioned Kazakhstan and as far as I know, you study academic experience of Kazakh returnee students. So do you think that returnees get through similar problems in Kazakhstan as it was described in the podcast and this blog post? Do they experience bias and prejudice that have an impact on their academic performance? Maybe you can suggest some studies about Kazakhstan or Central Asia.


  4. Superb post, Maria. You take a controversial topic and apply a rigorous analytical lens to the task of summarizing and analyzing the episode. Your writing comes across as thoughtful, careful, and still personal and urgent. This is exactly the mixture of analytical and personal that I hope you find in your thesis writing. 5/5


  5. Dear @mariaminu,
    Thanks for your thought-provoking post.
    The issue of discipline at school and coping with misbehaviour is of paramount importance because schools are supposed to prepare pupils for the adult life. Discrimination and unfair, inappropriate punishment that some students face, undoubtedly, leave a negative mark on their psychological state. Consequently, later in life such students show themselves off and want to gain respect through money, weapons…They perceive power to be the only tool to make people respect them and obtain what they want.

    Kind regards,



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