Was listening to the Oral “examination” discussion today and I believe it provoked some thought. The topic of discussion was “Punishment in Schools”, but that won’t be my main focus for this post as I wasn’t interested in whether punishment is apt for schools or not. A large portion of what I shall talk about today wasn’t discussed at all.

What the panelists actually talked about during the “speech” component wasn’t really interesting, as I thought most of the points were either rather obvious or repeated (examples include punishment being a deterrent, the fact that irrational punishment is harmful and the notion that teachers should exercise responsibility when meting out punishments). The Q & A session was really the one I started to think – about three issues that I shall attempt to discuss. The third point is actually something I have been thinking of for rather long, but since it might be pertinent I shall put this in.

(Yes I know this is funny because I look like an ex-convict with my hair, and I’m talking about punishment – maybe I came out of Changi Prison feeling reflective)

Identifying the “crime”

Perhaps (after looking back, I emphasize the word PERHAPS) this will be a very short point. I raised the point during the discussion (though a little too late, the panelists had no time to talk about it), though I felt no one knew what I was talking about (this is terrible it happens too often, perhaps I beat around the Bush too often). To put it simply, meting out punishment involves two decisions on the “authority”‘s part. Firstly, the “authority” must identify the crime. Secondly, the “authority” must decide what punishment is appropriate for the crime. Building linkages between the two decisions, the severity of the crime actually puts the “authority” in the position to decide what punishment actually is proper. So the crux of determining whether a punishment is appropriate lies in the “authority”‘s initial judgement, though some of it is dependent on how sane the authority is (time to forget about opening and closing the inverted commas)

What makes a crime? Can it be narrowed down as what Marcus pointed out as breaking the school rules? I don’t think there are limits to a crime (given the current definition and usage of the word) can be, and thus there are really no rules to define all crimes. The example I raised, that if in class you choose to sit in a corner and not face the teacher, is something permitted under school rulebooks (I believe no school would be so absurd to add this in). However, this is probably something punishable and recognised as a crime. Much of the definition actually falls to the discretion of a teacher. Wonder if teachers are taught how to handle offences, it certainly is a valuable skill in school.. (actually this is just a poor ending I have formulated because I am busy playing Scrabble now)

Scolding as a punishment

The discussion today actually evolved onto whether “scolding” actually is a punishment. Won’t try to define scolding and punishment (use most of the time its accurate). To me, scolding is indeed a form of punishment. It does help in deterrence and rehabilitation, and perhaps may foster a greater realisation on the part of the offender. No matter which kind of scolding (whether it is a purposeful choice to scold as an attempt to punish, or an emotional response), it does serve its objective of conveying the message that well, something is wrong and should be changed (whatever the crime is).

However, how do we know when scolding is actually “purposeful”? Whenever we “scold” someone, is it a conscious choice of our own to yell at the person to try to change him, or is it just an explicit emotional reaction? Given the assumption (that I always make in all my posts) that everyone is perfectly rational in terms of understanding (and something which many people dispute), scolding is rarely the best way to convey a message. Very often, a softer approach is favoured because of the reduced emotional damage scolding might cause.

So where does the “emotional” scolding arise from? I’ve always believed that whatever we do now is a 100% product of the education we receive, from parents, school etc. From young, we have been exposed to shouting as a means of releasing anger, venting frustrations (especially on someone) and perhaps solving problems. A child would view scolding as something which evokes fear, especially after personal experiences. Has this been the reason why many of us shout at each other when displeased, or even use Caps Lock to mimic scolding?

Causes of violence and crime (made out of anger)

Extending the “argument” from the previous point, is it then possible that all the violence and crime (made out of anger) we see now is only a product of the education we receive? From the movies we see on TV, the fights we see in real life, the battles we learn of in history and the wrestling we watch (had to include this =p)? When we were young, we learn that a punch (I’m referring to the kind you give to others out of hatred) can firstly cause pain, and secondly demonstrates one’s prowess over another. However, do we have to express anger by causing hurt? In the example of the punch, besides the two objectives, does a punch in its pure form (i.e. without societal influence) tell the other that one is angry?

It is undebatable that a punch in its impure form (after societal exposure) serves as a vengeful attack on someone though. Whatever the impetus is for the punch, it is certain that the society has educated us that a punch tells someone you’re not happy, just like killing someone or committing suicide has now become a renowned method for expressing anger/ depression, albeit in a rather extreme way. I hope this further proves my belief that whatever we learn to do is mostly a product of societal influence.

To develop this into a “how anger is expressed” logic, is violence a result of anger expressed in the wrong way? And if so, how might we reform this method of expressing one’s anger? One is certain though, that if such a change (that is to find another method of expressing anger) is to be effected, major changes must be implemented – a total deviation from the way our society educates us today, that violence is a way of expressing hatred. The things which people see will be totally changed (like no fights in movies), and they must be exposed to a safer method of expressing extreme anger from young which is both explicit and harmless. If such a thing were to happen and the modes of which anger is expressed were redefined, don’t you think violence would be eliminated from the world?

Well, such idealistic dreams are only distant realities. For the real present, please go read up about anger management if you’re feeling angry =p.

Everytime I churn out something like this, I always get the feeling one or two days later that I should never have posted up something like that. Hmm…

One for all, All for one, Venturez’ 06.

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