One of the things that alarmed me when I went to parent-teacher night at Sweet M's school was that they've instituted something called "responsibility room."
If a child doesn't finish his or her homework — or if, in the estimation of the teacher, hasn't done his or her best work — then they go to responsibility room instead of going to recess.
These kids are 8-year-olds. With learning disabilities. With sensory processing issues. Many with multiple psychotropic medications.
I can understand having a study hall or homework make-up room — though I'd question even that for 8-year-old LD kids. I can understand having a breakroom or a "crash room" if you don't feel like going to recess. But responsibility room?
Onto the fact that someone is having some sort of troubles getting their work done, the school is loading a whole load of assumptions — and guilt — about individual agency, about individual self-control. Contrary to popular delusions, humans actually don't have a lot of self-control. We are creatures of habit and creatures of instinct, and exercising self-control is something that is far more difficult than any of us are willing to say. But we are a culture that has large-scale fantasies about individuality and self-control and self-making. And Sweet M's school has bought into that idea big-time.
When I expressed my concern about responsibility room, I was told that our kids need some sort of discipline.
Fair enough. But if you're like me you've probably noticed that the word "discipline" comes from "disciple." The root of any sort of discipline worth engaging is a relationship, a loving, engaged, affective and sometime passionate relationship.
But something happens when the relationship is not a loving relationship, but a relationship of bureaucracy to individual, or institution to individual. Then discipline is anything but loving. Instead it is punitive.
If I'd felt that Sweet M's teachers had a loving and engaged relationship with her I might have been less alarmed about this construct, but seeing what I've seen so far, responsibility room looks like the first lesson in Kafka's Metamorphosis, the first lesson in acquiescing to institutional power.