School Discipline vs Prison Discipline

What is the prison experience?

The gate is heavily guarded. There is an eerie silence prevailing. There is a formal process of meeting the inmates or the officials. You can't go any place you want. There are strict rules for movement. There is a meeting area where you need to go, fill out an application, only then you get to meet the person you have gone there to meet. The whole meeting is conducted under watchful eye(s). Prisoners are herded from one place to another under strict supervision. They are not allowed to move on their own. They are punished for any small infringement of the rules. As no wants to be imprisoned, and deprived of his liberties to act, move, play and do whatever they like. Coming out of the prison is, therefore the day of deliverance, happiness, exuberance and joy.

Does this sound familiar? Can we connect this experience to our visit to our child's school!

Let's see what environment a supposedly good school provides. When we enter such a school, there is no sound coming out from any where. The teacher is held accountable for any noise coming out from her room and is liable to be thrown out of the school if she can not maintain silence in her class room. The environment therefore is eerily silent. A visitor must go through a formal process of taking an advance appointment, filling out a prescribed form to meet the officials or teachers or the students. You can't just walk up to any room. There are strict rules for movement; where can one go and where one can't. You need to fill out a form stating clearly the purpose and get a prior appointment before you can meet any one. Students are made to walk (if ever) from one room to another under the watchful eyes of the teachers. Students are not allowed to go any where even to bathroom without permission. Students are expected are shown the rule-book for any small infringement. Students often dread going to the school (burden of tests, homeworks, dreary work). Packup time is the most happy time, the time of deliverance, there is laughter and gaity when the students rush towards the gate as if they have been freed from the prison!

Should not the school experience be different from a prison experience. Why is the experience similar? Is it because the students are held against their wishes? Are made to work against their wishes?

Should not it be possible for a school to be a place where children want to go, are excited to go, where work is so interesting and engaging that they do not want to leave! The environment is happy and filled with joyful children actively and vigorously at work without being herded around and guarded. Should not the children be allowed to select the learning activity they would like to select, should not they be allowed to improvise, improve, modify and replace a given activity with much more interesting and thought provoking activities? Isn't it possible for the school to have a welcoming environment that encourages the visitors to become participants of the learning environment and contribute. Why can't the management perceive the parents as their allies and supporters and why can't the parents think of the school management and teachers as their partners in the joint enterprise of the their children's future?