Discipline in the Christian School

By Dr. Roy W. Lowrie, Jr.

The Christian School Administrator and Teacher (Fall 1977)

The seventh annual Gallup Poll of public attitudes toward education is significant reading for every parent and for every teacher. One of the findings was considered so important that it was printed on the front cover of a recent issue of Phi Delta Kappan, a major magazine for school administrators.

The finding said, “A growing reaction against low standards of behavior in the public schools is reflected in the response to a question asking where the respondents would like to send their children to school. A special school with more strict behavioral standards appeals to all groups…Every major group of the population, by overwhelming majorities, would require students to attend a program on the effects of drugs and alcohol.”

In a newspaper article entitled, “The Decline of Our Schools,” a teacher from St. Louis said, “Discipline is not merely a problem. Discipline is a nightmare. The courts have made it just about impossible to suspend or expel a disruptive child. Some of the students know more law (or think they do) than a lot of lawyers, and they openly sneer at threats of punishment. I could have taught another ten years, but I quit in June. I’d had all I could take.”

The saddest comment from the same article came from a recently retired teacher in Akron who said, “Older teachers take the new ideas and teach in spite of them. Young teachers aren’t aware of what is missing, mainly discipline, order, and facts. You are correct when you say that standards will steadily diminish.”

George Gallup wrote the following recently in Today’s Education: “Each year, for the last six years, the organization which I represent has conducted a nationwide survey to learn more about Americans’ attitudes toward the public schools. For five of the last six years, the number one criticism of the public schools has been their lack of discipline. The discipline that most people have in mind is a matter of obeying rules, respecting the authority of the teachers and school administrators, and being considerate of fellow students who wish to learn in a peaceful atmosphere. The other kind of discipline which an increasing number of the nation’s top thinkers and writers are thinking of is mental discipline-acquiring the knowledge and skills needed in today’s world even though such learning is often difficult and boring.”

Christian schools are disciplined schools, for they believe that God endorses discipline. The schools follow the biblical commands regarding respect for authority. Students are taught to obey their parents, civil authorities, and those who are over them spiritually in the Lord in their churches. In the classroom the teacher and principal represent the parents, and the directives of the Bible about child-parent relationships are applicable during school. The teacher is also viewed as being placed in a position of authority over the student by the will of God, so the directives to obey those who have spiritual authority are applicable.

Christian schools believe that a minimum number of behavioral rules are necessary to allow students and teachers to live and work together in a peaceful, orderly environment. Respect for these rules is required, and students or teachers who refuse to comply are dropped from the school. The school does not permit a disruptive student to impede the education of the entire class. This does not imply a fearful, coercive atmosphere which would stifle students. It simply means that the schools think that education is best accomplished under conditions of rather strict behavioral standards. The schools know that students are actually happier when there are clear rules which are consistently and fairly enforced, for then students know what is expected of them. This gives them security.

Christian schools believe that each student is an individual with God-given abilities which are to be developed to their fullest for the glory of God, while acquiring the knowledge and skills needed in today’s world. This requires the mental discipline of which James Howard, headmaster of Blair Academy, Blairstown, New Jersey, wrote in his article, “Learning is not Always Fun.” He said, “To say that learning is, can, or should be fun is either foolish or downright dishonest. Of course there is excitement in learning, and I should like to think that every student has moments of pleasurable if not thrilling revelation. Moreover, I believe that the experience of education would be, by and large, enjoyable. But make no mistake: learning is hard work. It requires the kind of sustained, concentrated effort which is comprehended by that good word discipline.”

The Christian schools believe that the methods of teaching students behavioral discipline and mental discipline must be the methods which God gives in the Bible for training children. The schools are aware that these methods are rejected by contemporary psychologists and educators. However, the schools believe that the biblical methods for discipline are the valid ones, and that all non-biblical methods are wrong, regardless of their originators or of their proponents.

To illustrate this, the book of Proverbs includes the following about discipline: (1) The parent who does not discipline his child hates him but the parent who loves his child disciplines him. Proverbs 13:24. (2) Parents are to chasten their children while there is hope, and not spare because the children cry. Proverbs 19:18. (3) Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child: but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15. (4) Parents are not to withhold correction from a child, and if he is beaten with a rod, he shall not die. Proverbs 23:13. (5) The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings his mother shame. Proverbs 29:15. The school works closely with parents in applying these and other scriptural injunctions on discipline in the school, even as the parents are following these injunctions in disciplining their children in the home and in the church.

From all indicators, standards of behavioral discipline and mental discipline are declining in education in general today. It seems reasonable to conclude that this decline will accelerate rapidly during the next few years as veteran school teachers and principals who believe in high standards of discipline retire and are replaced by beginning teachers and principals who do not believe in the same standards of discipline as the veterans.

Christian schools stand out clearly in the world of education as institutions who do not, and will not, permit the decline of discipline standards. They believe a disciplined school honors God, and is best for the students. God is honoring these schools with increased enrollments, for the evangelical Christi schools are experiencing unprecedented growth. They give the disciplined education which the Gallup Poll shows is wanted by most parents today.

Last updated by Lisa Lanpher Aug 20, 2013.

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