I am not yet a classroom management historian, perhaps I’ll become one, but I am quite certain that there are certain insidious motives behind it. While many classroom management techniques are necessary, I submit that their genesis has roots in behaviorist techniques based in social control. This certainly should be an almost redundant statement as some might understand public schooling was born out of the intention of managing and separating certain populations. I hope to spend some of the summer organizing these suspicions into some proper research. And, I hope my research proves my speculations wrong beyond doubt. I hope to uncover the benevolence of our current system of education and behavioral management and be made an utter fool. But, until then, I’ll remain a fool in waiting with my somewhat conspiratorial and alarmist beliefs. I most certainly believe, because I’ve seen in numerous arenas, that children in poverty and, more saliently, children of color are treated more harshly. This may not be consistent across the entire nation, but it is in my experience and the extended experiences of colleagues.
I’d be interested to see what your research turns up, but I caution you this: If you go into any research with preconceived notions of what you do and do not want to see, you will inadvertently turn up whatever it is that you are looking for. You may be more likely to find experiences similar to yours and your colleagues’ and more likely to find fault with (or not find) research that corroborates the opposite if you seek out information with the frame of mind you’re currently (and presently?) working in. For the sake of getting the most of your research perhaps you should consider taking it on in partnership with someone who holds opposing views.
But that is not the point I am trying to make. Classroom management is successful only when the following is true in some form:
“The ideas of crime and punishment must be strongly linked and ‘follow one another without interruption… When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters. A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly by the chain of their own ideas; it is at the stable point of reason that he secures the end of the chain; the link is all the stronger in that we do not know of what it is made and we believe it to be our own work; despair and time eat away the bonds of iron and steel, but they are powerless against the union of ideas, they can only tighten it still more; and on the soft fibres of the brain is founded the unshakable base of the soundest Empires’” (Foucault quoting Servan in Discipline and Punish)
Classroom management is a beginning. The roots spread into other realms of existence as the child grows. Is there another way? A better way? I’m not sure exactly what. But, surely there’s something more freeing than silently imprinting allegiance and respect to one’s masters through subtle and consistent enculturation practices. Please prove that my speculations are deeply incorrect. Please show me that my experiences have simply been rare exceptions, and have driven me down a path of cynicism. Please.
This isn’t necessarily an answer to the original question — I could write a thesis paper to answer it and I’ll do my best to respond on another day more thoroughly — but what I would like to know is why many people consistently group all techniques of classroom management into one mental category.
I put to you an analogy with a similar word - discipline - from a parental perspective, which may have the potential for more universal agreement.
Discipline could be as simple and healthy as requiring a child to deal with the negative consequences of a bad choice rather than making those consequences go away. For example, a parent sets a bedtime for a child and has talked with them about the importance of sleep, especially when it comes to performing well in school. The night before a test that parent studies with the child before and/or after dinner. After they go to bed, the child then stays up late reading or sneaking in computer time or what have you; because they aren’t well-rested they do poorly on the test. If the child is honest with the parent about what happened and the parent then demands of the teacher that the child be allowed a retest (or lies and says there was some traumatic reason the child did poorly so that they can have a retest) so that the child gets a better grade, what is that child learning? Nothing. It might generally be agreed upon that allowing the child to face the consequences of their actions is healthy. Maybe they will not make the same mistake again.
Beating the child mercilessly may well also result in the child not making that mistake again, but it’s obviously neither healthy for the child nor teaching them what it is that you supposedly want them to learn (to make responsible decisions).
Would the same people who vilify all classroom management do the same of discipline because of the latter example, ignoring the first? Would the first, because it is healthy, not be counted under the label of discipline? (The same can be said of course of someone who finds shock treatments to be as worthy in a classroom as free homework passes, but I think I can honestly say I do not personally know anyone with that view).
I ask because the more I see on the classroom management discussion, dating back awhile in the #education community, the more I feel that there’s simply a linguistic barrier here: if it’s good and healthy, if it can’t be construed as indoctrination, it isn’t ‘classroom management’. And if it is in fact a matter of language and we can clear that hurdle, I wonder if some of our discussions will have turned out to be about very different, or very similar, things without some of us having realized.