The Use of Discipline in the Education System

In his book Discipline and Punish, Michael Foucault discussed the relations of disciplinary mechanisms seen in educational institutions. Foucault brings up clear and reliable points seen in the education system that have intentions towards discipline. Although the institution of learning is an invisible disciplinary of power, teachers are the ones who express visible sovereign power. Teachers and other superiors to students are in control of a few main parts of the way in which control is possessed in the institutions; classroom settings, timetables, examination techniques, and hierarchical techniques. With all these variables combined, achieving power and control to create well-conducted students is easily achievable.

Being a student for the last 15 years in a public school background, it is clear to me that the disciplinary mechanisms that Foucault writes about has definitely applied to my education. Firstly, classroom settings and timetables create spaces and time that allows for greater control. Teachers mainly, who have this control, understand that by using these techniques they have the best possible power. Foucault explains that discipline requires enclosure in a protected place and a school is definitely one of these places that can provide what it takes to maintain power. In my experience of being a chatty-outspoken adolescent, I understand that the purpose and use of classroom settings such as assigned seating to be useful. A talkative student like myself is specifically placed beside a shy, timid student in order to balance personalities out as well as allow control to be given to a teacher. Not only do teachers have the power to control your seating arrangements, but time is crucial in discipline as the division of time provides control of the body. One of the many reasons there are school monitors during break times at school is to ensure that at the end of the break students are back to where they must. Given too much freedom with availability of too much time and leisure to move around, control is unattainable. Considering school as an institution that enforces discipline, it is understandable why classroom settings and timetables are enforced as well to encourage proper learning.

Foucault also goes into depth when writing about hierarchical observation and examination techniques to explain the importance of power of visibility and the gaze. The use of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon is an example of making power visible. The panopticon is a building with a tower in the centre from which it is possible to easily see everyone surrounding the tower. This keeps people actively aware that they are being watched, giving power directly to the ones in control/in the tower. This can be seen in relatable examination periods where teachers or older students are forced to keep an eye on every move you make. Personally, I have never been caught for cheating. However, I have seen why it is important to keep a visual lookout during examination periods because cheating is not tolerated in the school system for many reasons. Constantly being watched at school is something that has become almost a norm for me. Being a student for most of my life, it is understood that being watched is a useful tool of power yet there are many downsides to all of these techniques of enforcing discipline.

School as an institution may enforce useful discipline that generates well-educated and respectful students, but there are many parts to the techniques that take away from individuality. Students often lack choice of expression due to identities that are predefined for them. The use of dress codes, timetables, lack of class selection, classroom-seating arrangements all restrict individuality in students from a very young age that give power away that could be used towards individual growth. There is definitely a line that should not be crossed when it comes to discipline in the education system, but Foucault makes it obvious that the reasons for doing so are intentionally beneficial. It has created self-discipline that is ultimately needed throughout life.

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