Concept of Discipline in Educational Philosophies


Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D.

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Mrs Sudha Rani Maheshwari, M.Sc (Zoology), B.Ed.

Former Principal, A.K.P.I.College, Roorkee, India

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
Jim Rohn

The word “discipline” is derived from the Latin root “disciples” meaning a pupil or disciple. Naturally, the problem of discipline was taken to consist in bringing the conduct of the pupils into conformity with ideas and standards of the master. The pupil had to develop the virtue of docility and plasticity so that the teacher might impress his personality on them and mould them in his own image. This was the conception of the relationship between pupil and teacher everywhere.

Discipline is an art that requires knowledge, skill, sensitivity, and self-confidence. Like any art, it is one that you will acquire through training and experience and it becomes easier with practice.

Discipline is the required action by a teacher toward a student (or group of students), after the student’s behaviour disrupts the ongoing educational activity or breaks a pre-established rule created by the teacher, the school administration or the general society. Discipline, guiding children’s behaviour, or setting limits are all concerned with helping children learn how to take care of themselves, other people, and the world around them.

Purpose of the discipline is also develop the attitudes, habits, ideas, and code of conduct through the medium of the social life of the school which should be organized on a cooperative basis and inspired by higher ethical teaching of religion.

It gives realization to the school that it must be reconstructed on the lines of the development and conscious pursuit of common ends in a cooperative spirit, each member contributing to the common good in accordance with special gifts. Life in the school thus organized becomes similar to the, and continuous with, life in democratic society, and discipline becomes co-extensive with the whole of school life.

Its modern concept is very broad and inclusive one. Discipline is a major component of education because, if the teacher does not maintain the discipline in the classroom, the teaching and learning process cannot be accomplished. It is a first step in creating a learning environment.

Philosophical Theories of Discipline

In his book, The Child’s Path to Freedom, Norman Macman and Adams in his book, Modern Development in Educational Practices have classified discipline into three categories according to various philosophical doctrines.

(1)   Repressionistic Discipline.

(2)   Impressionistic Discipline.

(3)   Emancipationistic Discipline.

Repressionistic Discipline

Repressionistic discipline is based on the ancient doctrine of repression. According to Jermiah a child is basically evil and mischievous. Have fear and punishment must be used to control and modify the child. Despotic rulers, in those days, used to enforce obedience through harsh, fearful and rigid laws. In the same way authoritarian teachers took recourse to very hard rules to enforce obedience and discipline in the class. These educationists believed that to develop a child to a higher stage of life, it was essential to rigidly and absolutely control and modify his basic instincts into predetermined channels of thinking and behaving. Teachers in schools used the hardest and often crudest means to enforce obedient and discipline among children. Their slogan was ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Such was the practice in Europe and India in old times.

Majority of teachers believe that there is no better medicine to educate a child than fear and punishment.  Punishment can reform even the most mischievous child.  Harshest punishment must be given to reform the indiscipline child. Fear of punishment keeps children away from unsocial behaviour towards others. Without fear there is no love. Hence a sense of fear must be inculcated in the child by the teacher.

But it is also a fact that  repression creates a feeling of hatred in the child. He becomes a rebel and indiscipline. Constant fear and punishment scares away the child from education and he drops out. Repression creates mental complexes. Repression mars the normal development of a child. Repression creates forgetfulness. Fear may compel obedience in school, but not outside. Repression is the antithesis of freedom.

In a democratic set up, feelings of equality, fraternity and social justice are to be developed in children. Which cannot be developed through repression. Hence there is no place for repressionistic discipline is this age of democracy.

Impressionistic Discipline

Based upon the philosophy of Idealism, the votaries of impressionistic discipline oppose any kind of punishment in education. They emphasize that to maintain class order, the teacher should exercise the influence of his personality. The teacher should try to structure a model environment before children, by means of his own ability, conduct and character,

so that they form a character of high order by imitation of the teacher. Under the influence of the profoundly creative personality of teacher, the problem of indiscipline will not arise at all. The teacher should try to develop discipline by love, affection, sympathy and consideration towards such children by the examples of his own conduct and character.

Actually  the process of educational development goes on smoothly under impressionistic discipline because the relationship of teacher and children is based upon love, sympathy and regard. Children imitate the achievements of teacher and behave in a desirable way. Children develop normally and naturally as it is a mid way process between arbitrary freedom and authoritative repression .Impression promotes self-discipline.

Impressionistic discipline gives greater importance to teacher who is likely to develop sense of self-conceit and snobbery. He may consider himself to be the sole creator of a child’s character which is likely to mar the development of both.

As the child is not able to develop according to his own inherent nature, impression is worse than repression and emancipation. The child becomes a carbon copy of the teacher and thus loses his own mental freedom.  The child becomes a blind follower of teacher. He loses the capacity of independent thinking, understanding, initiative and self-assertion.

It is difficult to find model teacher today.In modern times such teachers are few in number whose character and conduct can be put before children as ideals and examples. Hence impressionistic discipline remains an ideal far removed from realization.

Emancipationistic  Discipline

The basis of emancipationistic discipline is psychological. Its slogan is freedom. Its protagonists agree neither with repressionistic nor with impressionistic concept of discipline. They believe in the inherent goodness of child. If free environment is provided for development, children will develop like flowers. Moral qualities will develop in them through a natural and divine process of growth. Rousseau and Herbert Spencer acclaimed emancipatory concept of discipline as the best one. Children should be allowed full freedom to develop according to their natural tendencies, interests and tastes so that they freely express their inner urges and develop themselves to the fullest extent possible.

As a child does all his activities freely and learns by doing and experiencing, the traits of self-discipline, self-reliance and self-dynamism develop in him naturally. As freedom is the birth right of a man, it is improper to impose restraints over the child and circumscribe his freedom. Emancipatory discipline leads to self-discipline in a suitable and smooth way.

Emancipationist discipline does not create any emotional complex in child. He remains mentally and physically healthy.

But the innate tendencies of a child are generally animal instincts. If he is allowed to express his raw instincts, he will harm society in various ways.  A child is incapable of distinguishing between good and bad. The interference of some mature person is essential to foster this capacity.  Undue freedom may harm the child himself. Indentifying freedom with his rights only, a child becomes indifferent towards his duties and obligations.

Freedom often develops self interest which in turn gives rise to indolence and indifference towards his responsibilities. A child is not born with the sense of self-discipline and self-control, which cannot be developed providing him all freedom in the very beginning. It is neither good to the child nor to the society.

Though a child needs freedom for proper development, this does not mean that he should be allowed freedom without limits and control. Only so much freedom should be given to a child as is essential for his development in the right direction.

Idealism and Concept of Discipline

As for the discipline, majority of Idealists finds sheer discipline which is separated from the constructive teaching process as undesirable. According to him, discipline should be considered as an end product instead of an input and at the same time is a part of the teaching process and should be in the personality of the teacher. One should achieve discipline through freedom not  behavior should have internal control rather than external control. For them authority begins by being external, but should end in becoming internal through habit formation and self-control.

Thus in brief it can be said that in idealism, the aim of education is to discover and develop each individual’s abilities and full moral excellence in order to better serve society. The curricular emphasis is subject matter of mind: literature, history, philosophy, and religion. Teaching methods focus on handling ideas through lecture, discussion, and Socratic dialogue (a method of teaching that uses questioning to help students discover and clarify knowledge). Introspection, intuition, insight, and whole-part logic are used to bring to consciousness the forms or concepts which are latent in the mind. Character is developed through imitating examples and heroes

Naturalism and concept of Discipline

Punishment should be constituted by natural consequences of wrong deeds; should be certain, but tempered with sympathy. As we should teaches in accordance with the rhythms of Nature, so we should also punish as Nature punishes.

Naturalism emerged at a time when education was confined within the rigid rules of discipline by the influence of Idealism. Naturalism aims at making education free from the bondage of rigid discipline under which children were tortured.” A child born lives and dies in a state of slavery.  At the time of his birth he is stitched in swaddling clothes and at the time his death he is nailed in a coffin. And as long as he preserve the human form he is fettered by our institutions. Man was born free and everywhere he is in shackles.”- Jean-Jacques Rousseau Naturalism, as a philosophy of education advocates maximum freedom for the child and further stresses in freeing the child from the tyranny of rigidity, interference and strict discipline.. The freedom of child disciplines him and he is naturally controlled by his own learning and experiences. There is stress given to discipline by natural consequences.

Since classroom discipline usually is associated with methodology the naturalist asserts a fourth characteristic of sound teaching, namely that all discipline should derive from the natural elements of the situation. The situation will provide a form of innate discipline that should replace that of the teacher. To illustrate, a child learns to avoid hot objects because he has experienced the discomfort and pain which follow his touching them the pupil learn to cooperate with other pupil when he finds himself ostracized by his class mates. .for example- Every time a child puts his finger into the candle flames he gets a burn. Always it happens; always it is a burn. Their are no harsh words, no snapping and snarling, just a burn proportionate to the size of the flame and the extent and duration of the contact. But always there is that much. By this means Nature quickly teachers the normal child the dangers of fire, and exemplifies for parents and teachers what is desirable in corrective relations with children.

If a child is slow in dressing, for a walk, leave him at home. If he breaks a window, let him sit in the cold. If he over -eats, let him be sick. In fact, let him suffer the consequences for which he is responsible himself for going against nature.  When a child begins to expect such consequences as certain to follow if he does not measure up to what is expected of him, he will act so as to enjoy the benefits which follow from appropriate conduct. Furthermore, when punishment of this sort is used, ruffled feelings do not get mixed up with discipline. It is easier for parent or teacher to hold a firm position with the child and yet not lose rapport with him completely. Even the disobedient child should feel that he has not lost all the sympathy of his guardians. But in the common snapping and snarling of parents, the emotional break between parent and child is too sharp and may do more damage than the punishment does good

Realism and Concept of Discipline

Discipline is adjustment to objectivity. It is necessary in order to enable the child to adjust himself to his environment and concentrate on his work. Bringing out change in the real world is impossible. The student himself is a part of this world. He has to admit this fact and adjust himself to the world.

A disciplined student is one who does not withdraw from the cruelties, tyrannies, hardships and shortcomings pervading the world. Realism has vehemently opposed withdrawal from life. One has to adjust oneself to this material world.

The student must be disciplined until he has learned to make the proper responses. Wild says of the student that it is. His duty…. to learn those arduous operations by which here and there it may be revealed to him as it really is. One tiny grain of truth is worth more than volumes of opinion.

The existentialists want to give full freedom to the child. But the child should know the nature of his ‘self’ and recognize his being and convert imperfection into perfection.     They do not want the child to become selfish, autocratic and irresponsible. Freedom is needed only for natural development. Education should be provided according to the child’s powers and the needs. The relation of the child with his ‘self’ should be strengthened rather than severed. The child has to make ‘choices’ and decisions.

Child thrives better when relieved from intense competition, harsh discipline, and fear of failure. Thus each child can grow to understand his own needs and values and take charge of the experiences for changing him. In this way self-evaluation is the beginning and end of the learning process, as learning proceeds, child is freely growing, fearless, understanding individual. Primary emphasis must always be on the child, as learner and not on the learning programmed. Child needs positive evaluation, not labels.

Humanism and Concept of Discipline

Discipline is adjustment to objectivity. It is necessary in order to enable the child to adjust himself to his environment and concentrate on his work. Bringing out change in the real world is impossible. The student himself is a part of this world. He has to admit this fact and adjust himself to the world. A disciplined student is one who does not withdraw from the cruelties, tyrannies, hardships and shortcomings pervading the world. Humanism has vehemently opposed withdrawal from life. One has to adjust oneself to this material world.

Pragmatism and Concept of Discipline

Pragmatism does not believe in external discipline enforced by the superior authority of the teacher. It supplements discipline with greater freedom of activity. They feel that discipline which is based on the principles of child’s activities and need is beneficial. They want that the interest of the child should be aroused, sustained and satisfied

Pragmatism does not believe in the traditional maxim “work while you work and play while you play”. Rather it advocates a discipline that can be maintained through play as work. According to the pragmatists, it is the mental attitude which converts a work into play and play into work

The pragmatists believe that the learner’s freedom is not anarchy or allowing the child to do anything without considering the consequences. Rather they believe in the purposeful co-operative activities carried on in a free and happy environment. c control comes from the cooperative context of shared activity In pragmatism there is no place for rewards and punishments as every activity is to be pursued in a social setting .

Marxism and Concept of Discipline

Yesipov and Goncharov, two well known Communist educations theorists, maintain that discipline must be an “inner condition.” Even when fear and punishment are used these should not be considered the best means of achieving true discipline. Rather, the pupil must live the disciplined life in school so that he will live it in adult life.

In the Marxist system, discipline is conceived as a virtue essential to achieve the goals of Communism. The school must insist on discipline not only because it is necessary for successful study and learning but also because it is necessary for life.

The characteristics of true Communist discipline are : (1) It must be based on an understanding of the necessity for norms of conduct. (2) It must be self-discipline, not one of obedience for obedience’ sake. The person will have so disciplined his will that he will always be ready to perform his duty in the best possible manner without waiting for the command to do so. (3) In its most perfect form, discipline will reflect as state of unquestioned obedience to authority when the situation demands that orders be given. (4) Discipline must habituate the individual to the performance of group (collective) activities. (5) True discipline must be founded on mutual respect for all members of the collective. (6)  Finally, discipline is “resolute, that is, it surmount difficulties, prompts the completion of every task, subject conduct to high purposes and conquers motives of low degree.”

The discipline of pupils is nurtured by the general practice and the whole content of the work of the school : skillful teaching of school subjects, strict regime in for the entire school life, unwavering observation by each pupil of the Rules for School Children’s collective, and rational use of measures and rewards and punishments. The leading role in this work belongs to the teachers.

The “Rules For School Children” mentioned in the quotation form an integral part of all teaching-learning methods. The student should study well, be on time for classes, pay attention to the teacher’s lecture and fellow pupils recitations, and do his own homework well. When a pupil is reciting he should stand erectly and remain standing until the teacher gives him permission to be seated. If he wishes to answer a question he should raise his hand and wait for the teacher to call him. All students must rise when the teacher (or visitor) enters or leaves the room. The “Rules” also cover dress, health habits, use of language on playground, courtesy to visitors at school, and deportment to and from school. In short, they control the behavior of school children during all their waking hours.

Perennialism and Concept of Discipline

Because man’s highest characteristic — the one differentiating him from the lower life forms — is his reason, he must use it to direct his life and control his instincts. Men are free, not determined. They are responsible for their actions. We cannot excuse a child’s actions because of his environment or personal problems. Because men are rational, they must live rationally. Hence, children must be held to the standards of reason, and this is one function of education

Students should be taught hard work, respect for authority, and discipline. Teachers are to help students keep their non-productive instincts in check, such as aggression or mindlessness. Discipline in the classroom is essential to learning. A noisy classroom is not a desirable place for learning to take place. Order is vital.  Students cannot always think of the future. Consequently, teachers and parents must help students overcome their desire for immediate ends and direct them to future objectives. Self-discipline is fine, but most of the times it is insufficient. Adults therefore must give direction.  The classroom is teacher-centered. The teacher as a professional is far more likely to know what her students will need to know in the future than do they. She/he is responsible for the education and intellectual growth of his/her students. Education requires the mastery of content, of subject matter.

Education requires mental discipline. Study is hard work. Concentration and effort is required. Students must therefore being cultured in the process.

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


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