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Religious Schools and Discipline

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Recently there has been a growing interest in faith-based schools (see e.g. The Times, No. 67060, 2 December 2001, pp. 1, 4). Politicians have indicated a willingness to support such schools on the assumption that religion may make a positive contribution to schooling. It is not at all self-evident that there is a clear inter-relationship between religion and education on which the assumption can be grounded. In what follows I shall seek to explore one sphere in which religion can have a bearing on schooling, notably on its understanding and practice of discipline. Before the specifically religious impact can be explored, the complex nature of discipline and reward/punishment in school is examined. The philosophy of behaviourism is rejected as inadequate for the processes of education, not least because of the insights of Nietzsche and Plato. The analysis leads to the identification of three very distinct forms of discipline, namely, authoritarian, moral and 'Socratic'. Whilst in practice schools may resort to all three, they would not necessarily do so in a coherent way as the authoritarian and moral forms of discipline are, in important respects, incompatible. The understanding of what religion is, is also shown to be of a varied nature. Differing views and features of religion can serve to reinforce the school as an authoritarian, moral or 'Socratic' community. Whilst the inherent authoritarianism of religion and the ethical dimension of religion are well known, a 'Kierkegaardian' view of religion would have strong affinities with 'Socratic' discipline and help to support the view of the school as a community for all.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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