Punishment

One would think that there have been enough studies done that have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that negative discipline, or punishment, does not work. All negative discipline, and the threat of it, does is to create stress in the person at the receiving end. And there have been enough studies that show that a person’s stress doesn’t just disappear. It is internalized and manifests itself in other ways. For example, there was a massive study done on morbidly obese people that discovered that more than 75% of them were seriously sexually abused as children. The stress manifested itself as eating disorders of all kinds.

So, one would think that we would have, by now, decided not to use such archaic and useless threats to get people to obey us. That is, if one thinks, which, it turns out, people in education don’t. Yes, my focus is going to be on the education system, though it is equally true of the so-called criminal justice system, and Capitalism in general.

Since I began using Internal Family Systems Therapy, with it’s non-shaming, non-pathologizing methods, I have become increasingly aware of just how often teachers use fear to control their classrooms. From my youngest son’s Special Day Class to my college courses, teachers use no other method of dealing with behavior they do not like except punishment, yelling, berating, humiliating, you get the picture.

From the beginning of this pandemic, we students have been told time and again that the schools will be understanding of the stress we are under and that we should be willing to be flexible with others as well. But teacher flexibility is definitely not what is happening. Almost constantly, with two exceptions this term, all the teachers I come into contact with are controlling by fear.

A teacher of one of my children sent out a notification to parents over the weekend detailing her new approach to making sure students are on time to Zoom sessions and are focusing on the lesson. Of course, it had to use punishment, it couldn’t just be a reward based system. She had to threaten. I could see the effect immediately on my son. Sure, he’s there on time, but damn, he’s stressed because he might be punished if he steps out of line even once.

A college professor called an emergency Zoom meeting because she wasn’t pleased that not a single person in her class did an assignment correctly. Of course, if you are a thinking person, this says there was something wrong with the assignment, but, no, she berated us, on our time, for nearly an hour. Yesterday, she assured us she was going to get screaming mad if more people didn’t show up to class prepared. All this after assuring us on the first day that she understands how stressful our lives are right now and she will be understanding. I need the class to graduate in the spring, or I would have dropped by now.

The problem, I realized in July after receiving a shocking email from one of the schools, is that these educators got their degrees, then they stopped learning. It goes all the way up to the superintendent of my daughter’s school district. This woman is an anti-masker, COVID denier, and she has a PhD. College professors must have at least a Master’s Degree. Special Ed teachers receive education over and above what a regular classroom teacher receives. Yet, here we have people who decided that when they got their degree, that was their claim to being right at all times, even when new evidence was available.

The new evidence that has come out since most of these people went to school is that PUNISHMENT DOESN’T WORK. Punishment creates more discipline problems. Punishment creates a negative learning environment which leads to lower grades and test scores. Punishment actually creates more contempt for the teacher. In short, punishment is stupid.

But don’t try to tell the teachers that. They have their degrees. They know everything.