MANY OF THE WORLD'S COMMANDING MYTHS explain the origins of human culture by describing the creation of the world as the imposition of order on chaos. The credibility and appeal of the myths have depended in part on our innate sense that harmony must replace discord, that chance must give place to certainty, and that direction must substitute for indirection if human society is to exist. It is also generally understood that incentives and sometimes even coercion are necessary for the creation of order because disorder always resists being rearranged into order. Thus the shaping and maintenance of structure, within the self as well as within society, is always to some extent a painful process, exacting costs even while bestowing benefits. Yet we all seem to agree that some kind of order is needed if any measure of improvement in the conditions of human existence is to occur.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that teaching reflects what society itself demands; it necessitates that disorder-of students and teachers alike, of mind, behavior, and environment - yield to its opposite. Effective teaching requires that, failing their own self-imposed order, students experience the imposition of some outer order so that inner order may develop. This means in practice, for instance, that the goals of classes and courses be clearly set, that they be explained and justified, that the manner of achieving them be clear, that the presentation of materials conducive to reaching them be appropriate, and that all activities be directed somehow to their attainment. It means, too, that students take up their own obligation to maintain the conditions under which learning occurs: quiet in their classrooms, respect for and courtesy toward others, civility of language and behavior, and the like. Above all, it implies structured industry -study and activity that are oriented toward a goal and pursued with perseverance and method. That is,
good teaching requires that teachers and students subject themselves to external and internal control so that learning can take place.
Discipline is part of order. The notion of "discipline," which has so many alarming connotations for so many people, does not deserve its negative reputation, for it means much more than punishment or rules. In teaching, as in so many other things, discipline connotes the kind of training that molds and perfects knowledge and character. It also connotes the very qualities of orderliness, self-control, and good conduct that are essential to learning. Thus, discipline is a positive force, not a mere limitation on behavior.
Discipline must be an attribute of teachers as well as of students. Much classroom discipline has to do with a teacher's acceptance of the obligation to be disciplined in behavior-that is, to be orderly, clear, accurate, and authentic in expression and purpose so as to be able to teach well and to serve the students' good. Few take issue with this ideal.
What kindles objections, what so often summons up grim images of oppression, of tyrants, martinets, and dictatorsof all the villains of history as well as the stock characters of melodrama who oppose liberty and freedom-is the notion of teachers' bringing discipline to their students. Limits on students' freedom of thought, behavior, or expression, we hear it said, threaten their welfare and their natural selves. Yet teachers who exercise discipline prudently never neglect the good of their students, nor are they guilty of "limiting" their students' freedom. On the contrary: the teachers are serving that freedom by creating in their students the capacities to manageby knowledgeable thought, clear expression, considered behavior-the natural confusions of human life.
Discipline is therefore the means teachers must use to impose necessary organization on the potential chaos of all classrooms, and they must do so to create an atmosphere favorable to learning.
Discipline takes many forms: schedules, rules of conduct, exemplary behavior, and clear expectations, as well as an equitable system of rewards and penalties. A system of positive and negative incentives, if it is to be fair and effective and if it is to maintain the right balance between excessive rigor and debilitating laxity, gives students a sense of the bounds within which they may act freely in the interests of learning.
Such discipline, necessary to the creation of order, implies the possibility of punishment. Yet physical chastisement is not acceptable. It is not among most teachers' options, nor is there any need for its restoration; we have come to have confidence that we may spare the rod without spoiling the child. The cruelty of a teacher like Wackford Squeers in Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby is probably even more repugnant to us than it was to the novel's original readers. Squeers is an ignorant, violent, greedy man, totally unfit to be a teacher, a person from whose company society should protect its young. Nevertheless, banishing from the classroom the kind of corporal punishment he inflicted has not -and probably never will-rid teaching of unjustifiable harshness and damaging thoughtlessness. The cruelest weapons today's teachers possess are the tongue and the sneer; what teachers say or fail to say, and the way they offer praise or blame, can determine the degree to which order prevails in their classrooms.
What teachers say, however, whether they mean to approve or to reprimand, is not the only means of achieving good order. Example speaks as loud as words. A teacher who is industrious and punctual can justifiably expect those virtues of students.
Teachers who use their own time to satisfy students' curiosity, who return assignments edited with helpful comments and suggestions soon after they have been submitted, who allow no time to be wasted in or out of their classrooms-these are the teachers who experience the least difficulty in persuading their students to accept and practice the organization required for learning. While the ways to create order are many and differ with each level of student, there are some common aspects of order that characterize all good teaching.
Order requires the exertion of authority. Authority is the principal means by which order and discipline are created and maintained in the classroom. Feckless teachers or those who think of themselves as students' equals are not likely to be able to establish the ordered environment and dependable conditions in which serious learning can take place. Students must be able to depend upon their teachers to maintain quiet in their class- rooms, to proceed in a comprehensible fashion from one lesson to the next, to make learning the central activity of their classes, and to create an atmosphere of equitable and ethical behavior. Without the exemplification of order in teachers' very bearing-an order that manifests itself in attitude as well as idea, in spirit as well as in work-learning is difficult to come by, and its value is discounted.
1.A teacher's first encounter with a new group of students thus bears much importance in this respect. A teacher who is "all business and no nonsense" at the initial meeting of a class risks a certain stiffness in the greater interest of being able to relax once the ground rules for work have been established.
2. Too much familiarity and easiness at the outset are likely to make for greater difficulty later on, when the need for order and authority requires some distance and rigor.