Could Detention Lead to a Life of Crime?
On an uneventful Monday, a student at my school was sitting at the oddly-shaped, wooden "news" desk that characterizes every production of the morning announcements at Kellenberg. Sifting through announcements written on paper slips, she found one for a club she had co-founded earlier in the school year. The announcement only stated when the meeting was, and not what was being discussed. Having confirmed the topic with the moderator, she quickly wrote in "we will be discussing the intersections between ethics and psychology." The next afternoon she was in detention.
Although spending one hour after school isn't a big deal, it was to her. It seemed like an injustice that resulted from the disfavor she had acquired with our school's faculty because she often questions teachers-because they knew she had some beliefs they disagree with. The week before another student had done the same thing as her on announcements, and no one even noticed.
Regardless of why she was punished for this minor mistake, this occurrence opened my eyes to why detention can be ineffective: it lacks predictability. With no comprehensive rule code, my school and other schools can punish and ignore whenever they feel it is fit. Students hear that other kids were ignored for the same offenses, and have no better option than to assume that this punishment was meant personally. Many may believe the administration is biased against them for their race, gender, or beliefs. There is no full rule code to prove otherwise. This leaves the teacher-student relationship fractured, if not broken. It takes a lot to repair trust, and students may not want to listen to the punisher ever again. This distrust fosters a group of students who receive detention over and over again, and feel the school is against them. Or, in the case of students who rarely get punished, the lack of predictability leads them to watch their every move in paranoia. Nearly every study on detention shows that it only increases the chance a student will misbehave in the future.
Even when we do have a law code in the real world, there is unfortunately still room for punishments to be skewed against certain groups. So why would our schools make this issue worse by ruling that anything can be punished? More importantly, why would they start entrenching students in a punishment system in high school rather than teaching them how to behave better (the purpose of school)? Our schools have begun to create their own “in” and “out” groups by the means of punishments, setting apart students who feel the school supports them, and those who feel it exists in opposition to them. The entire student body will only flourish once schools renew their commitment to teach and support all students. For the facts and a possible alternative, see my next article (coming soon).