Discipline and Punishment in Schools

Authored by: Bryan R. Warnick

Handbook of Philosophy of Education

Print publication date:  October  2022
Online publication date:  October  2022

Print ISBN: 9781032000053
eBook ISBN: 9781003172246
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter addresses the fundamental ethical and conceptual issues concerning school discipline and punishment, defining punishment as expressing moral disapproval and discipline as employing penalties to reinforce school conventions. It argues that there are powerful arguments against punishment in school, but punishment can still be justified because of its potential to open up needed conversations. Further, while punishment expresses moral disapproval, there are other problematic messages – “secondary expressions” – sent by specific sorts of punishments, such as corporal punishment and suspensions and expulsions. Also sending a problematic moral message is the “punishment gap,” the troubling disparities in how different groups are punished in school. The chapter concludes that restorative justice is a promising approach to school punishment because its processes and symbolism cohere with the educational ideals of reason, cooperation, personal responsibility, and mutual understanding.

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