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Discipline

May 26, 2012 (under construction)

Discipline means a branch of knowledge or teaching, or training that produces moral or mental improvement. However, the more prevalent meaning is control obtained by enforcing compliance or a systematic method to obtain obedience (as in army discipline). Most parents think that a disciplined child is one who "keeps still" and who "keeps quiet". Such discipline may very well meet the goals of the parent to continue without interruption the phone call of a friend, cooking, business meeting etc. However, it fails to meet the goals of education of a child to open his mind, experiment, to acquire new information, to create new ideas, to share them with others. These goals conflict with the disciplinary mindset that equates discipline with "keep quiet and keep still".

Opening up the mind of the child often requires allowing him to ask questions (often awkward and at awkward times), establish unwanted connections, to  explore and probe closed areas. Goal of experimentation and testing means that child will break toys and things as he tries to turn the knob the wrong way, poke his fingers in areas that may cause injury, bang the things on different surfaces to hear the difference in auditory signals. The acquisition of ideas and their sharing often require that he would talk and interact with his friends in class, in parties, or in situations where we want him to be quiet. 

Pursuing a discipline as a branch of knowledge requires that we do not get distracted by irrelevant events and details. Hence the need for training to concentrate and not waste time in frivolous activities. Hence, there is a need to enforce discipline (as in removing distractions) in a class. 
But, this was when development of intelligence was narrowly defined as acquiring knowledge in a limited set of books covering mathematics, sciences and language. However, today intelligence is much more widely defined to cover additional areas such as the inter-personal and intra-personal skills, nature, arts n craft, rhythm and music, sports and kinesthetics. 


Recognition of the wider meanings of intelligence means that developing skills for befriending, socializing, talking (communication), playing, and even dreaming are now recognized as legitimate areas of knowledge. These activities were often regarded as distractions in the traditional scheme of studies. Not so, now. Each one of these areas are now disciplines in their own right to be mastered and acquired just as arithmetic and reading/writing. 

We mutilated the meaning of discipline in our normal discourse. The word discipline had been hijacked in to a military academy context where it is commonly equated with the mindless, slavish obedience of the commands of the superior. [This meaning had been challenged even in the military circles when the slavish obedience of the superiors was challenged in the famous Nuremberg trials after world war 2. The trials held that the followers of the Nazi high-ups were equally guilty when they were killing the civilians although they were following the commands of the superiors.]

However, many parents generally believe that discipline means obedience to those in authority. This is 


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