Punishment in education

I’m reading Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins”. He is arguing for a different outlook on hell & the way punishment is conceptualized. Rather than seeing punishment for those who don’t believe the “right” things, he is seeing jesus’ words as helping people understand that when our hearts are not as they should be, the state of things is punishment. Rather than fear to motivate belief, Bell seems to be arguing that Jesus wants people to understand, not fear, that life can be hellish if we make certain kinds of choices. That is, Jesus wants people to understand that their words & actions have consequences here & now, for themselves & others.

Turn this to education. Educators often use punishments to scare kids into compliance. Yet, what we really want is for kids to understand & consider the consequences of their actions. Perhaps helping kids make better choices is an issue of helping them understand rather than one of fear & consequences.

A consequence prevents me from doing X again, an understanding transfers to more than just X. Just like there is so little value in hoop-jumping the curriculum, there is likely equally little value in hoop-jumping behavior concerns.

Instead of giving johnny a detention the next time he throws something across the room, consider asking him how his action might affect others. Who knows, maybe Johnny never thought about it that way before.

PS. I have NO interest in discussing the theological merits of Bell’s new book on this site.

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5 Responses to Punishment in education

  1. David says:

    Jerrid, if you haven’t already, check out “Real Restitution” as a codification of this description of classroom discipline you are formulating here. I totally agree with you, punishments teach nothing really. If our objective is to move students towards a more adult way of resolving problems and issues. If Johnny throws a chair across the room, Johnny should learn to do what an adult might do, which is to make amends for his action, and think about what the consequences were. The restitution for such an action might include some time spent by himself cooling down, but a simple behaviourist reaction doesn’t lead him to deeper learning and improvement of his self-managing behaviour.


  2. Jerrid Kruse says:

    Thanks David, I’ll have to check out “Real Restitution”. I’ll be honest, this isn’t so much something I’m formulating as much as something I did when I taught. I was just interested in the connection between what Bell is saying about the teachings of Jesus and a better way to help kids make better decisions.

    Also, I’m glad you could make sense of the post. I wasn’t really happy with the way I wrote it, but wanted to share the thoughts I was thinking.


  3. Sam Greeno says:

    Can I discuss the theological merits of Rob Bell’s book during office hours??


  4. Ben Hoffman says:

    I think the problem is that students are not taught that they are both individuals and members of communities (multiple communities for that matter). As Bartholomae would say: “We make a mark on a text and a text makes a mark on us.” We no longer (or perhaps we never did) look at/consider the relationship between our actions. Much like in our Methods course, we discuss both standards individually and then collectively. I would argue people in genera, are not taught the politics of every interaction they make; they do not understand what is gained/lost through these interactions. From a content standpoint, not a punishment standpoint, I think the writing pedagogy “Sustainability” helps to make us aware of our communities and the interactions between them.


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