The problem with too much discipline in schools

Design: Faisal Bin Iqbal

Back in class six, a boy came into class sporting long hair. That day, the school prefects, who were ninth graders, came to our class for a routine attire check. Seeing the boy with long hair, they humiliated him in front of everyone by tying his hair with a hairband. This episode, albeit frightening in hindsight, elicited no noteworthy reaction from me.

Students spending hours in the sun or classrooms as detention wasn't uncommon in my school. They were harshly punished for things as innocuous as the watches they wore, the colour of their shoes, or even for not attending assembly properly. Such draconian disciplinary measures are quite common in schools and have extensive consequences.

As teachers instil a sense of fear in children on the pretext of maintaining discipline, their relationship with students takes a toxic edge. Instead of a relationship built upon trust, mentorship, and affection, the teacher-student dynamic veers to something unhealthy. Students might be put off from interacting with teachers even in class, thinking of the potential repercussions if their attire wasn't perfect.

The implementation of absolute discipline might make students wear their name tags and do the drills correctly but at the cost of the interpersonal relations which make our school lives worthwhile. In turn, they might start to loathe schools altogether. Many of my classmates who left school echoed the same thoughts.

I have seen my classmates wear proper uniforms when the teachers were around and as soon as they left, normal service resumed.  Over time, fuelled by changes during adolescence, students might even resort to morally questionable activities to challenge the existing social norms.

The toughness might make students temporarily adhere to rules, but it does more harm than good. Excessive discipline ultimately makes students drift away from the concept, undoing any progress they might have made in terms of maintaining discipline.

Growing up in a state of total discipline, the fear instilled in some children prevents them from being expressive, especially in fashion and the arts. They fear the potential punishment they would be subjected to for simply trying out a new hairstyle or look, writing, or drawing something new.

For this, their creative senses are left in limbo due to the absence of defined personal styles. Identity crisis can be damaging to a teen's self-confidence and might haunt them for the rest of their lives.

This fear might also make it tough for them to adapt to lives outside campus. This is something I have painfully experienced after leaving school. Having spent my schooling in an iron grip, I had a tough time adapting to life outside school once I left.

I don't mean to imply schools shouldn't uphold discipline. Rather, it should be balanced and rational. Humiliating students publicly is never the solution. Students must be allowed to express themselves reasonably, gently guided by their teachers and senior peers. Schools should also be a place students look back upon fondly, not a totalitarian regime they would grow up to hate for the rest of their lives.

Inqiad is a passionate Bucks fan and Giannis stan. Contact him at [email protected]