Archive for June, 2022

Military School – Discipline Is Not Synonymous With Punishment

June 10th, 2022

Discipline is amongst the leading reasons parents state for enrolling their son or daughter in a military school. However, it has been joined and in some cases supplanted by the following: low self-esteem, problems with authority, poor friends, addicted to video games, drugs, not doing well in school, not following rules and a variety of ‘D’s (ADD, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, etc.).

Has discipline become less critical over the years? Is it better managed in the home and schools than it was 15 or 20 years ago? Do parents feel for various reasons that discipline is not as formidable an issue as it once was in their home? Are we, as a society, doing better at discipline and therefore it is not the weighty issue it once was?

Discipline is a set of rules used to maintain order. It is a system of expectations predicated to provide predictability and hence stability in our society so that we can function as positive members of that society. Knowing the rules is of critical importance. Knowing what the expectations or rules are for our conduct universally and specifically in certain situations, conditions, habits, etc permits us the option of informed right choice. These rules as a statement comprise the law and general mores in our society. They are the map co-ordinates by which we navigate freedom – the exercising of right choice.

If this is what discipline is and if parents site it less and less as the primary reason for their applying to military schools, then can we be assured that it is in fact less of an issue for them, their sons or daughters, and indeed our society? Or might we examine carefully their other primary reasons and find them to be authored at least in part, by discipline, or more specifically, the lack there of? Is self-esteem, or rather self-concept in part dependent upon measuring yourself against certain standards? What if those standards are not clear or not known to the individual?

At many military schools discipline is an integral component of all facets of daily life. Boarding school communities thrive on order, predictability and each member knowing the rules, their place in maintaining those rules, and how we convey them in our actions with each other and the world beyond.

Discipline is a system of rules extended from the laws of our society, founded in what I have identified as these five values: Loyalty, Labour, Courage, Commitment and Honour. These represent the expectations for ethical behaviour by which we prosecute and accomplish our mission. In addition to these five values, rules are founded upon the following principles: the equitable treatment of all students, faculty and staff; the preservation of mutual respect; cooperation and understanding the notion that the practice of right choice in regards to obedience to the rules increases ones freedom and options; that this is inherently good for the individual as well as the group; that wrong choice will lead to sanction and perhaps dismissal from the group.

It is of critical importance that every member of a school knows the rules as soon as possible upon entering and that all (students and faculty) are reminded of them frequently. Equally, that those who lead in this community do so by their example.

Discipline is not synonymous with punishment as many in our society seem to believe, nor is it synonymous with reward. But rather, it embraces both of these as active outcomes of individual choices regarding compliance to the rules. Students should be actively encouraged to make right choices by presenting rewards for right choice and sanctions for wrong choice. Ensuring students know the rules, the attendant rewards and sanctions, and accompanied by experience, provides the clarity of environment that authenticates it as consistent and unbiased. Confusion about the rules, or the misrepresentation of them or their expectations by those in leadership roles, is NEVER good and must not be condoned. Faculty, staff and other leaders must actively subscribe to the rules and their founding values and principles in order to effectively discharge the mandate of their office.

Students are often at differing developmental stages from one other and from the faculty. In order to truly appreciate this faculty and staff may need to accurately reflect upon their own stages of adolescence and how they expressed their needs for autonomy, control of their environment and how they interacted with authority.

If one examines the reasons parents now site for applying to a military school, each has its roots deeply planted in the domain of discipline. This concept is critical to understand if we are to provide the kind of learning and living environment that has order, health, opportunity, and success as its hallmarks. Many students come from environments that have been chaotic, easily manipulated, unclear in expectations and standards, and have lacked the willpower to motivate them to make right choices.

One last observation: Experience has taught me that I have learned more from those things that I didn’t want to do but came to recognize that I ought to do, than from those things that I immediately wanted to do. Many of today’s youth come from a world of instant gratification that feeds them the fast food of what they want, when they want, and how they want. In so doing it has burdened them with unrealistic views of themselves, their importance, their rights, and their powers, as well as burdening them with the weight of having to catch up, learn lessons they should have learned long ago, and being resentful towards us and their parents for them finding themselves in this state. Regrettably, many of their parents have sent them to military school because they are at the end of their emotional resources – and their children know it! To add insult to injury they perceive they are there as a punishment. They have become angry, immature, manipulative, budding narcissists who hate the idea of their changing and certainly those who would dare impose this change upon them – us!

Such reflection might lead to some very important rules about maintaining the rules:

1. To know the rules, believe in their reasons for existing and the principles upon which they are founded, and live them will equip a staff member with much of the authenticity to prosecute his or her mandate fully. To not know or to not believe in this makes you a phony functionary that students will happily identify and exploit to your compromise. Students must never be confused about expectations for their conduct and demeanor. Therefore, staff must know the rules and how to properly communicate these.

2. Instruction and correction (albeit at times so very often repeated) are the highest form of affection.