“WRITE OUT 100 TIMES –
I MUST NOT GIVE BRAINLESS PUNISHMENTS!”
The storm had cleared as the delegates gathered for the after-dinner session of The Great Discipline Debate. The afternoon summer light brushed the high cirrus fleeces with gold dust. James Boanerges introduced the next guest; she was an administrator of a large mental hospital – Doctor Barbara Biturate.
“… and she’s going to’ advise us on some of the techniques used to control the inmates – or is that patients?” said the Chairman turning to a strongly built woman with an elaborate hair style. She wore a stiff white uniform and sensible shoes.
“Clients,” she replied without smiling “it ‘ s all a matter of attitude, if your self- image is one of a patient, then you become one. But if you’re a ‘client’, you join that modern fraternity who have their very own analyst. Now I’m here to explain our many services for your difficult children. There are wonder drugs today that can turn a tiger into a tortoise – and vice versa. Designer drugs which tailor the individual to anything you want – uppers, downers, middlers – name your cocktail.
”But that’s only the beginning, then there are the therapy sessions; here we dig away at the child’s subconscious with a spoon, revealing all the disgusting detail s of the soul. The group might take part in ‘expunge the guilt’ sessions where they issue punishments which are public displays of the victim’s – er, I mean the grateful recipient ‘s recognition that he is the grubby little sod he now knows himself to be.
“Oh yes, there’s a lot of crying, pleading, and carrying on – but that’s good! Some of the punishments are really very funny – there’s the old ‘clean the toilets with a toothbrush’ – ha, ha – (another one with a keen-edged wit) and a whole range of sensory-deprivation options. Oh yes, I – ha, ha, hee, haw – almost forgot the sand shoveling for those that shirk kitchen duty. We get them to move a ton of sand from one place to another, then – haw, haw – shovel it all back again – ho, ho, cough – if they won’t do it, we promise them a dose of the old E.C.S.T. You see, the punishments must have no meaning, otherwise the ‘client’ forgets he 1s being punished – enjoying it even. Now, questions from the floor.” concluded Dr. Biturate, pushing back a tight curl into the suspiciously wig-like coiffure.
“All my observations lead me to the conclusion that you represent a pseudo-science.” said an athletic young chap with curly blond hair.
“Many children have been taken out of my care over the years to – ‘therapy’ – and without exception, they came back worse than they went, with the psychiatrist recommending a continuous course of treatment due to the ‘seriousness’ of the condition. An endless source of income more like it – up to and beyond 10 years in some cases!
“I can bring emotional stability to the same children through say, nature and the arts, in a matter of weeks in many cases …”
“Excuse me?” it was Ms. Uncial “Did you just publicly accuse a respected profession of being a ‘pseudo- science’?” she said, smelling a story.
“I’m sorry, I really meant to say, ‘sinister pseudo- science’.” The dabbling with the soul by people who do not even acknowledge that the soul exists, have destroyed more lives than wars this century.”
Curly continued “Speaking generally, the psychiatric ‘profession’ does not heal at all – it scrambles.
The soul is the Mansion of the Divine in Man, here he has converse with the first level at least of the Spirit – the Angeloi, his Guardian Angel in particular. This Being is the protector of the most profound realm of human existence – Destiny. An aspect which, on an intimate level, should only be shared with our most dear friends and family- with many people, only their life partner.
“These are matters which do not in the least concern every Tom, Dick and Barb we may arbitrarily meet at a group therapy, or biographies session. When this sacred–trust with our Guardian Angel is broken, He (She? It?) sadly withdraws; your destiny, embodied in its wisdom, falls into tatters, with the inevitable family break-ups and the like. This tampering with the soul by ‘outsiders’ is responsible for a large percentage of broken homes, with people running off to this or that ‘personal development’ course, where the inadequacies of their partners are usually top of the agenda.
“One of the strictest maxims of a schoolteacher is ‘No Trespassing!’ – the second invocation of the Lord’s Prayer. The sacred grove of the soul of the child must remain unexplored. The word education means ‘to direct outwards’; we do, not ‘educate’ by breaching the soul’s defenses, we violate it. A way of helping the disturbed child is to present external pictures, speaking figuratively and literally, these can be irresistible to the child, who shyly peeks out to meet the world in a voluntary, and subsequently joyful way. These ‘pictures’ might be story images, painting, or exciting activities like rock climbing. The universal curriculum, where head, heart and hand are equally appealed to, is the best possible ‘script’ for mental health’. No drug can cure the soul – only more ‘soul’ can do that; like an intelligent, creative and balanced learning program.”
“Ahem,” the Chairman thought to intervene at this point “Don’t you think that’s getting a bit off the track? After all this conference is about discipline, not mental health. Although to be sure, a lot of bad behavior is related to psychological problems. Comment please on the area of punishment – especially the Fifth Punishment Principle – that of Standardized Expiation, paying the penalty according to a set formula.”
“Okay, I’ll start with a song, remember this one – da, da, da, da, da, da, da – the punishment fits the crime? That’s it, Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance. That is an ever-wise punishment policy for modern schooling. There must be a punishment mechanism. (‘Boo! Not so!’ from the left) It is a sad reflection on modern life that this is so, but a system of retribution is necessary to maintain the spirit of justice. But the punishment must be intelligent, or better still, creative.
“An example of an ineffective punishment is the issuing of lines for some trivial misdeed ‘I will not write on toilet walls’ written 100 times convinces the young W.C. wordsmith that the world is less clever than he is. Nobody benefits from this; indeed, how many trees have been felled over the years to provide wood pulp to become in turn literary pulp for ‘line’ punishments? No, true justice benefits everyone, the victim (in this case the toilet), but especially the wrong doer. A more positive outcome might be not only does the child have to clean up the mess, but give the whole toilet wall a new coat of paint as well! Strangely enough, after an initial pained response, resentment even, there is one of fulfillment. ‘Do you like it?’ the child says as I come to inspect ‘I did a bit extra over near the door. If I had more paint, I’d do the skirting boards a different color.’ This kind of thing actually happens; all punishment must have a constructive result – or it is mere vengeance, and as the Lord so jealously saith ‘Vengeance is mine.’ But punishment for erring children is ours – and we must dispense it with wisdom. (All quiet from the left.)
“Then there is ‘Inverted Punishment’, or reward for wrong-doing – this can only be applied very judiciously. One child was distressed (from home events actually, see ‘biographies’ above) and vent her spleen on a well-meaning teacher by swearing at him. It was lunch time, and with eyes blazing, he ordered her into his car. Where was he taking her!? To the police? Home to her father? A girl’s home even?!!! None of these, they merely went up the road to buy his lunch, and he thought he’d take young gutter-mouth along for the ride. They went into the milk bar and, to her surprise and immense relief (herein lay the efficacy of the Inverted), sat down, and had a milkshake together! They chatted about this and that, nothing serious mind you, and certainly not a word about the ‘incident’. On her return to school her dismissive reply to her clamoring friends ‘We just had a milkshake that’s all’ must have been more delicious than the milkshake! Her prior idea that ‘Adults suck!’ had vaporized – her soul was calm.
“Another teacher had a problem with children being cheeky to one of the parents. This clever lady made them pick a beautiful bunch of flowers, write a little verse, and present it to the surprised but still suspicious mother next day. One thing we must never do with children is give them an advanced course in hypocrisy. Never force them to apologize; if they say they’re sorry (and we can delicately bring them round to this view), they’ve got to mean it. One cannot compel a child to feel any positive emotion – sympathy, affection, or contrition! It must come from the heart in the spirit of regret …”
Ms. Uncial interjected again “That’s all very well, but I cover court proceedings for my newspaper, and some of the two-legged vermin I see confirm the ‘bad seed’ theory – some people are born wicked.”
“Not as I see it,” went on Curly before Dr. Biturate could endorse the statement, nodding furiously as she was. “Negativism is imposed on a child from the moment of birth – it arises from experiences of all kinds. An unsympathetic and insensitive delivery perhaps; an infancy joined at the chest to a television set – and it goes on from there. More crime is hatched from communities lacking a high level of culture for instance. A child might be subjected to a home of unwholesome thoughts, feelings, and deeds. A good way to start on a life of ill-conduct and later even crime, is to convince him that he is ‘bad’.
“We do this every time we say, ‘You are a naughty boy!” What an affirmation – ‘You are: This is assumed by the child to be a fact, as he unhappily but erroneously believes that his parents/teachers must be right; this exploits the principle of (for the 7-to-14s at least) Authority. ‘I am a naught boy’ – being such, he models his behavior to fit the imposed image. By saying it we help create it – better to correct the phrasing to refer to the act, not the child ‘that was a naughty thing to do’.
“A slight phrase change only, but a world of difference in effect. Who knows how far the influence of parents and teachers extends – lifetimes perhaps? A word, and more especially an attitude, can make a great difference. This negative affirmation extends into other areas as well ‘You’re not very smart.’ – ‘You’re cruel’ – ‘You’re clumsy’, name your poison. Rather we should continually build a child’s sense of self-worth by positive comment – ‘Praise youth and it will prosper’ says the proverb. ‘That was a reckless thing to do for someone as intelligent as you. ‘Here we attack the objective act, not the immortal Spirit of the child.
“This imposed ‘sin’, which descends like a malodorous blanket over children as years go by, is designated in spiritual life as the Doppelganger – the negative ‘double’. He who, as he grows strong on a diet of blame and perversity, whispers ill-deeds into our ear. ‘He’ is an Astral entity who, according to the third appeal in the Lord’s Prayer, leads us into Temptation. The original statement should rather be ‘You’ve got a naughty Doppelganger!’ With very young children, this necessity to separate the guilt from the act can take the form of light-hearted personification ‘Messy Bessy’s dirtied the table again. Send her outside where she belongs!’ (Thanks to Susan Whitehead for this one.) And the child – ‘Go on Messy Bessy – go away!’ This is not make-believe, it is Truth – a guilt- free higher reality. An act of redemption for the child’s increasingly encumbered soul.
“Another ‘punishment fits the crime’ scenario has to do with freedom. We come into the world as prisoners of our own helplessness. As we grow, liberties unfold for us right up to 18 years of age or thereabouts, when that oh-so-subtle Ego approaches like a Ghost of the Sun (as my son titled a music album he created, an expression of the arrival if his Ego). These slowly opening gates of freedom must be earned with corresponding advances in responsibility. Universal suffrage still does not extend down to kindergarten! Adults give children their freedoms, and in most respects, the more the merrier – although there is a polarity which must be recognized. At one end is the child who treasures freedom and, in every way, vindicates, with responsible, constructive behavior, being…
…given it. (Actually, more children than not are of this ilk). But then there’s the other hand – represented by the rascal who must be held with a tight rein – for his and everyone’s peace-of-mind, and safety even! All children are equal, but in the freedom stakes, some are more equal than others.
“Control is generally maintained through the gradual creation of broadly accepted rules or laws; laws tend to be of a higher status than rules, enshrined in legislation – or Nature. We do not speak of the ‘rules’ of nature, rather of Her laws. In school we strive to conduct our affairs by obeying the laws of ethical behavior and social obligation – and keep the rules to a minimum. As the saying goes ‘rules are meant to be broken’. The saying does not quite work if we replace ‘rules’ with ‘laws’. A home is generally run under the auspices of laws rather than rules. Thank heaven – the word ‘rules’ has an unsavory etymology, from the same Latin root as ‘rectum’ (straight). And that’s pretty well how most soul-healthy children view them! And so should a school be governed, under the protection of laws – laws of common sense! Not what I mustn’t do, but what may I do? Not ‘Don’t run in corridors’ but ‘Move around the school safely and quietly’.
“It is a good policy to give children maximum freedoms initially and as they sadly show that they can’t handle it in some aspect or other, withdraw these. An example …”
Ms. Uncial had her hand up “I’m sorry, I wonder if you could just hold it there for a few minutes? I’ve got to go out and, er …” she blushed as she grabbed her bag and hurried through the door, the one with the picture of the little lady on it. Soon she returned “I had a thought while I was … anyhow I thought ‘What an indignity for children to have to publicly ask permission to answer the call of nature.
No one else in the world has to do it – and even children in a non-school environment are trusted with this small responsibility. Why can’t they just get up and go?”
Curly looked askance at the journalist, wondering what wavelength she was on to tap into his thought stream like that “Just what I was going to say,” he said “We begin with trust, children can go to the toilet whenever they like.”
“I should think so, it should be a school rule, er law – whatever, that no child be prevented from obeying one of nature ‘s most fundamental LAWS!” Ms. Uncial was gaining confidence on this subject – ‘Too much confidence’ thought Curly as he patiently continued.
“Anyway, one child abuses this freedom – he then has to catch the teacher’s eye and make a little T with his fingers. A small loss of freedom ney? Again, he stays too long and is found playing on the trampoline – his freedom-ls further curtailed, now he has to put up his hand and – ugh – ask. Freedoms removed can always be returned when progress in responsibility has taken place.
“Sometimes the message has to be driven home forcefully. My children were given a lot of liberty on an excursion, but when it was time to go home, some of them couldn’t be found, making our return late and somewhat embarrassing.
“Next day the bolters were confined’, not to the verandah, but each to one small concrete square of same. The message was clear – the next day they had the run of the WHOLE verandah; the day following, a small area round the building – only after that, when penitence was observed, were they allowed to play anywhere they wanted again, it was like the enactment of a folk tale. In fact, as well as my overt response, I wanted to well-and-truly sheet the lesson home, even to the subconscious, so I wrote a story, not recognizable by them of course, called The Keeper of the Gate. (Published in Magic Mangrove Seed, by Alan Whitehead.)
“I always approach a new group of children with a statement along the lines of ‘You can do anything you like’, but if what you do compromises learning, or inconveniences someone, then you will lose certain freedoms.
“With children, consequence is important – when a teacher establishes a behavioral perimeter of some kind, it must be defended – to the limit. Say there is a law, based on the loftier principles of human conduct, that everyone in the community (teachers and pupils) strive for a high standard of verbal expression (no swearing et al), then anyone who flagrantly transgresses must be brought to book. This is a law originally agreed to by the whole community. To allow someone to get away with say, name- calling, weakens the fabric, and hence good order, of that community. How often do we hear ‘He didn’t do nuthin’, sneered by a contemptuous offender. Or on the other hand ‘You can’t get away with anything with her’ in tones of respect.
“One teacher asked a child to pull his socks up; the teacher was ignored; some time later, without any reference to the first request, the teacher asked again – same thing; and yet a third time! The child knew that there was no consequence to its disobedience, that the request was mere words. This is a recipe for disrespect, and its big brother, bad behavior.”
“I guess that means, ‘lf you say something, mean it.’ Well, I mean to conclude this session right here” said the Chairman firmly “Supper is being served on the verandah. And what a lovely night it is; we meet again in half an hour.”
“Psychology is a hodge-podge of abstractions.” Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 1923.
Important Earthschooling Notes
Copyright Alan Whitehead & Earthschooling: No Part of this book, post, URL, or book excerpt may be shared with anyone who has not paid for these materials.
Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss.
Alan has presented dialogue in his writings in an expressive form, where he tries to capture the accent of the person he was with to give his writing more authenticity and to allow the reader to “be with him” in his experience. In no place in his writings is he using expressive language to make fun of or demean the speaker. So, as a person with a linguistics and anthropology degree I find this enriching and informative to me as the reader. Thus, we have made the decision to leave all expressive writing in its original form.