The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Discipline, Part 1

by the Rev. Canon Parker
(Principal of the Theological College, Gloucester.)
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 162-163

THE word discipline may have a restricted or a more extended meaning.  Strictly speaking, I take it, the word has a significance wide and comprehensive.  Discipline means learning--the learning of anything and everything, the learning of anything that is unknown and can be known, and that can be taught and can be learned.  And when it is used of men and women it refers to the learning of anything and everything that it is useful to men and women to know, and useful especially to them in their several positions, occupations, and duties of life.

But it was in my mind when I chose this subject for our con-sideration to somewhat narrow and limit the meaning of the word, both as being more to the convenience of my treatment and your discussion, and also as more in accordance with the modern and accepted use of the word.

I propose, therefore to narrow the word to the learning of one particular thing--the learning to obey, the learning to submit, the learning to recognise the supremacy of law, the learning to yield unquestioning and implicit obedience to law, as being altogether right and good.

I am aware that even now my definition, though I think fairly exact in itself, is not quite in accord with the meaning popularly ascribed to the word ; nevertheless, it will I think on consideration be found that my definition does really cover and include the popular meaning, and that the ordinary use of the word will be found to be included in one or other of the sides of the definition which I have given.

Discipline then is the act, or means, or process, by which the disciple learns obedience to law : learns it not as a theory, but in practice ; not as an ideal, but as a habit. We are most familiar with not only the idea but the reality of discipline in those two great occupations or vocations of life in which men are trained, and learn on sea and land to contribute all their energies and powers of body and mind, of limb and life, of patience and endurance, of absolute inaction or rushing onset, in subordinated and connected harmony and unison to strenuous defence of fatherland. The thin red line at Waterloo, in its prolonged and strained endurance, and the death ride at Mars-la-Tour in its headlong rush are each in their peculiar character evidences of the absolute perfection which can be reached by discipline, and of the momentous results which it is possible for a perfect -discipline to produce.

I would, however, endeavour still to define even more pre-cisely the exact nature of discipline, as applied to the character and lives of men and women in ordinary society. Discipline for all means the learning the supremacy of law, the ready, perfect obedience of law. But there is this difference between the discipline of the soldier and that of the merchant or professional man, or their wives and daughters, that in the case of the latter they are not only to learn to obey, but are to receive their orders from the officer within their own breast. Their own character is to be trained and developed, that the law of what is right is written upon their hearts : they become a law unto themselves : their own will issues marching orders to the members whether of body or mind, and those members have each and all learned to obey.

To learn the law, to have learned the law, to obey the law, to obey it unhesitatingly, at whatever cost, and however irksome and difficult it may be, this is the aim and work of discipline.

It may then next be considered, how can those who are responsible for the training of men and women bring about this end? How can they promote and develope this discipline.

That it is of the utmost importance is evident from the analogy of the regiment ; until the will of the commanding officer is respected and obeyed ; until the powers of each soldier are disciplined and trained to instant and complete obedience, they are not a regiment, but a mob ; they have no rex, no king, no law, no obedience, and like the Dutch Belgians at Waterloo, are not included by the commander-in-chief amongst those on whom he may rely in actual warfare. In like manner the powers and activities of the boy or girl, the man or woman are a disorganised and tumultuous mob, useless for real work, until they have been disciplined into submission and obedience, and the act that the establishment and maintenance of dis-cipline are of such vital importance in the army or navy as to justify the most extreme measures of severity, even to the drumhead (sp?) court-martial, does suggest by analogy that no means should be neglected to produce and maintain the discipline of obedience to law in the powers and activities of men and women.

We proceed next to inquire what are some of the means which are most available and most useful for inculcating this discipline.

It is here of course that our difficulties commence. Military men are not agreed as to details of discipline, and educationists, however agreed they may be as to the object and aim in dis-cipline, have a difficulty in seeing clearly and agreeing as to the most effective means of attaining it.

I will content myself on the present occasion with indicating, so far as I can, the main lines on which, as it appears to me, a right discipline should proceed ; trusting that my outline will be corrected or completed by those of greater experience than my own.

For convenience let me divide the process of discipline into means introductory and means corrective.

By introductory means I would imply all those means and influences which lead up to and introduce to the discipline of obedience, whatever paves the way for obedience and inclines the will to obedience, whatever tends to reduce to order and discipline the various powers and passions whether of body or mind.

Amongst these introductory influences I would include first in order of time those influences which required obedience simply as obedience. By which I mean all those commands which are given, and which are to be obeyed because they are commands, whether the reason for them be understood and known or not. This unreasoning obedience is obedience comparatively of a low order, but it is obedience, and has its value in accustoming and habituating the character of discipline to the act of obedience; in fact it contributes to the formation of the very power of obedience.

At the same time care should be taken to make it evident that the commands are not in themselves unreasonable ; that the very fact that they are given carries with it no only a presump-tion but a certainty that they are reasonable, and that there are very good reasons why the reasons of the command should not be always made fully apparent to the disciple.

But as soon as possible this elementary stage should give place to something higher. The object to be aimed at is to make each individual a law unto himself, and it is well, as soon as possible, to begin to sow the seed of self-discipline and self-control, and voluntary submission and obedience to law.

The boy or girl must be led to feel the influence of certain principles of action ; in other words, to be moved to obedience by certain causes which have found entrance into their minds, and henceforth become to them motives of action.

These motives are various, and may be enumerated in an ascending scale.

But it is not necessary that each and every child should be led to entertain all these motives at any time, or always in the same precise order.

But to enumerate them : They resolve themselves into the conception of law, and the sanction of the law.

There is, first, the conception of law as a thing which is incon-venient and irksome perhaps, but still in existence ; an evil, but, as things go, a necessary evil, so far at any rate, that it cannot be left out of count ; and so the child recognises the existence of law and bears it in mind, and feels it on the whole desirable not to disobey it more than it can help, because to the breach of the law certain unpleasant consequences are attached. The child does not care a rush for the law in itself ; were it not for the unpleasant consequences it would utterly disregard the law, and it will disregard it just so far as that disregard is likely to be unobserved, undetected, and not productive of the said unpleasant consequences. Such discipline is clearly inadequate and imperfect, but it has its use in producing to some extend a recognition of law as existing, and in contributing to the formation of the power and habit of submission and obedience.

There is next the obedience to law, which is rendered with more or less readiness and completeness because the law is the expression of the will or wish of a parent or teacher who is personally the object both of respect and of affection. This discipline, again, is useful, but useful only in degree.

If it goes no farther, it is inadequate. It is dependent on, and it may be conditional upon the personal character and personal influence of parent or teacher. Thus a child will obey the law which comes from the lips of one teacher, but will not obey the same law if it comes from the lips of another teacher. The child obeys the law, not because it likes the law or desires to obey the law, but because it likes the teacher and desires to obey the teacher. The inadequacy, therefore, of this motive is abundantly apparent : the teacher is removed, the parent dies, the boy leaves school, and goes out into the world ; the girl leaves home, and marries ; the governing, restraining influence of parent or teacher is withdrawn, and obedience to law is yet unknown. at the same time, even this motive, though imperfect, is yet useful in the development and growth of character. The child has learnt that there is law, has learned to associate obedience to law with the pleasure of receiving the approval and avoiding the disap-proval of some one who is respected and loved ; and has habituated itself to the practice and habit of obedience, has, in fact, learned that it is under certain circumstances possible and even pleasant to obey.

The next motive is the motive of Duty. The child learns to recognise law as law, as that which is right in itself, as that which ought to be obeyed, altogether independent of the person from whom the particular command proceeds. The child will thus respect and obey the command which is given by a junior teacher just as loyally and readily and submissively as if it came from the head teacher. It will obey a law or command which comes from a teacher it likes as readily as one which comes from a teacher it does not like. It obeys laws even when disobedience would not be detected, and would not entail unpleasant con-sequences.

And this attitude only needs the sanction of religion to make the discipline perfect. In the religious motive all lesser motives find their representation, their perfection, and their completion.

In religion the law is law, and disobedience will entail con-sequences which it is well to avoid.

But in religion the law is the law of the true teacher and the true parent, for whom there is the most perfect respect and the most perfect love, who never leaves the disciple, and from whose presence and helpful influence the disciple is never separated.

And the law of religion is the law of that which is everywhere and at all times in itself true and righteous, a law which claims the obedience of all who would be among the upright and virtuous.

And, lastly, the law of religion is the law of God-the law which is not only true and righteous, but true and good ; the law of moral and spiritual excellence and perfection and utmost human happiness. And under this motive all obedience which is rendered to the law is the obedience of love, of love of the lawgiver, and, because of the lawgiver, of the law itself.

(To be continued.)

Vol III - No 3 - p241 - Discipline - Pt 2

(Principal of the Theological College, Gloucester.)


WE have seen that the ultimate end and object of discipline is the learning by the disciple the existence of law, and the for-mation of the habit of ready obedience to law.

It will be recognised by all, that just in proportion as this ideal is a lofty one, so it involves no little time and no slight endeavour to make much progress towards it ; consequently the parent or teacher cannot afford to lose any time in commencing this course of discipline, cannot afford to lose any opportunity during that course, and cannot afford to neglect the use of any means which may tend to contribute to the desired end. To this end it will be imperative to accustom children as soon as possible to the reign of law. As soon as they can understand it, and so far as they can understand it, the univer-sality of the reign of law should be explained to them, with the advantages consequent upon the observance of order, and the disadvantages which ensue upon disorder. It may be shown how and why the sun sets, and the seasons follow each other in orderly succession ; how and why the leaves burst from the buds, and the blossoms open, and the seeds form, and the leaves drop ; how and why the rain falls, and the winds blow, and the frost and the snow succeed in their order. It may be shown that the sun and the moon and the stars have each and all their law assigned to them, a law which cannot be broken, and it is only on their enforced obedience to that law of their Creator that the harmony and beauty and happiness and life of all created things is maintained. and then it may be shown that there are laws of bodily well-being, by obedience to which we may avoid pain and disease and death, and secure a moderate amount of health and life ; laws of society by which we may secure affection and happiness ; and, finally, laws of moral truth and goodness, by obedience to which we may attain moral health and goodness. But this great and all-important truth can be best, and at first only, taught, not in theory, but in practice. The child should as soon as possible be made to feel, to know by actual personal experience, the existence and the prevalence of law.

The child should live in an atmosphere of law. There should be nothing arbitrary, fickle, capricious, or unreliable in its surroundings. The experiences with which the child comes daily and hourly in contact should be such that the identity of the experience should so press itself upon the unconscious mind that the child gradually learns to regard the experience as a matter of course, and of regular and invariable recurrence--one that must be practically taken into account. Thus the child learns experimentally that invariably and without exception the sun is hot, and the ice cold, and the rain wet, and the stone hard. Thus the child learns experimentally that fire burns, and wet feet result in cold, and excessive surfeit of pudding in internal discomfort. And in like manner he may learn that at a certain hour every day dinner is ready, or a lesson has to be learned. To which end law and order should pervade the life, whether at school or otherwise. At such an hour the child gets up, by a certain hour he is down ; breakfast is at such an hour, work begins at such an hour ; and thus the whole week, and every day of the week, is mapped out, and the time-table arranged with its respective work for each hour of the day. And this reign of law should exist, not on paper only, but really and actually in practice, and should be so constant and effective that any breach of order should be instantly and actually felt. The law should so reign that the child feels it the most natural thing in the world to obey the law, regarding the law as law-a thing not to be questioned or reasoned with, but to be obeyed ; a law which will take no refusal, which must be obeyed sooner or later, and may therefore just as well be obeyed at once ; a law which never makes itself felt as irk-some or burdensome as long as it is obeyed exactly and fully, but a law the very least departure from which is immediately and assuredly followed by discomfort of some sort. And at length the child learns to regard the law as absolutely para-mount, as not dependent on the pleasure or caprice of the teacher, and from which it is impossible to appeal even to the teacher, for the teacher is not the master but the servant of the law. But to secure this, teachers or parents must have learned to be themselves servants of the law. They must themselves be seen and felt to be governed by law, and they must themselves be seen and felt to be, not kings and tyrants governing with uncertain and changeful temper, with arbitrary judgment and caprice ; but, as far as is possible for them, calm and firm administrators of law. To be this the teacher needs a constant self-control ; to be himself disciplined ; to be himself a repre-sentative of law, with even and consistent action, so that it will always be known what he will be, and say, and do. He will be consistent ; unvarying, even as the law is unvarying ; he will not overlook a breach of the law one day, and take notice of it severely another ; neither will he speak and act as if the dis-obedience were against himself-he will rather try to concentrate the child's attention upon the law, and make the child feel that the law has been broken, and that the law must be obeyed ; that no breach of the law must overlooked ; that the law must be obeyed everywhere, at all times, and by all.

Discipline therefore essentially consists, first, in placing full and clear before the eyes of the taught the solemn majesty of the law ; and secondly, discipline consists in a firm and watchful teacher being always at the back of these laws, superintending the way in which obedience is rendered to them, and never allowing an act of disobedience to pass unnoticed.

Much might be said of the singular readiness with which even the youngest child falls at once into the habit of obedience to law. A visit to a well-ordered infant school would soon convince the most sceptical that obedience to law and order can be very soon taken as a matter of course, and obeyed as a matter of course, certainly without discomfort and almost without effort even by the very young.

I must, however, pass on to consider the not altogether remote possibility that the said watchful representative of the law may discover some representatives of lawlessness among his subjects, and may discover some acts of disobedience to laws established--may discover unpunctuality, inattention, idleness, obstinate refusal to learn a lesson or to execute a particular command. I have said that under good discipline there must be a practical certainty that a breach of law will be discovered and will not be overlooked. The action of law must be invariable, consistent and absolutely reliable. Good discipline must operate so that as long as the engine keeps the rails all goes evenly and smoothly forward ; but that any and every attempt to leave the lines is immediately and certainly followed by a crash. Now, what is that crash to be? On this experts differ. Each generation of exponents of the law has its universal remedy : our forefathers extolled the merits of the rod ; our present generation of teachers has adopted the ingenious device of impositions which have the doubtful merit of shortening the hours of physical recreation, tiring the brain, and spoiling the handwriting. Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his little book on educa-tion, holds that teachers and parents should in their correction and punishment adhere, when it is possible, to the principle universally observable in nature, according to which there is a natural connection between the breach of law and punishment, so that the one follows the other as a natural consequence; for example, if a man tread upon hot coals, his feet will assuredly be burned.

We must not overlook the fact as indisputable, lament it how we may, that there will always be many whom this gradually enlarging discipline will never deeply influence, and some with whom it will altogether fail. Into the question of what is best to be done with such failures I need not now enter. Rather let me emphasise the thought that it should be the earnest effort of every parent and teacher, by prudent and wise discipline, to make those failures as few as possible.

In order to avoid as much as can be the possibility of failure, it is necessary to be aware of certain dangers on either hand. The object of discipline is always one and the same-to form and fashion the character, to educate and inform and strengthen the will ; to unfold and inculcate the highest ideal of law, and the highest sanction of law. But the means by which the object is to be attained must be regarded as distinct from the object itself. The certainty that our object is right does not always carry with it the certainty that our particular means are right.

If all children were exactly alike, and if all ages of the world were exactly alike, the matter would be easy and simple enough ; but as these two factors introduce elements of almost endless variety, abundant scope is afforded for the exercise of watchful study of individual character, quick perception as to what is suitable or otherwise in the case of different individuals and under different circumstances.

On the one hand, the teacher must not allow himself to be the sport and plaything of the transient fashion of every passing age ; nor must he allow such freedom to the individual child as that the child shall be tempted to abuse his free will in licence and lawlessness. On the other hand, he must be careful not to suffer the reign of law to become the reign of mere machinery ; rules and laws must not be the empty husks of systems, once full of force, but long since superannuated and obsolete-the outer form, which has outlived its inner meaning ; neither must they be laws simply for the sake of being laws, utterly irrespec-tive of the consideration of whether they are wise and good and prudent, for such laws, if they are thought or felt to be the expression of caprice or despotic tyranny, not only do not win respect, but awake vexation, resentment, and resistance. Rules and laws must be instinct with life and reason, so that the mind of the child, as it year by year opens and expands, recognises more and more the wisdom and excellence and usefulness of the law, and learns to accept it voluntarily and thankfully, and becomes a law unto himself.

Thus the aim of the teacher is not by a cast-iron system of legal and irritating restrictions to bind and fetter and im-prison the will of the child, to repress and kill out all spirit and energy and individuality, and to reduce the child to a tame and lifeless and colourless thing ; but rather to give full play to the utmost spirit and energy of which the child is capable, to awaken and develop in the child the idea of obedience to law as the absolutely necessary condition of the highest usefulness and the highest happiness-in fact, to put into the child's hands the bit and bridle wherewith to curb and guide himself, and show him why and how to use them. It only remains to say that if the view that I have taken of discipline be approximately correct ; it is a work not restricted in its operation and influence to the days of childhood and youth, but a work continued throughout the whole course of life ; not only administered to the boy or girl by the teacher or parent, but pressed upon the man or woman by the course of Divine Providence. The Providence of God acts by laws, and it takes a lifetime to learn those laws, what they are how to obey them. But it is clear that if the discipline in mature life is to be watched for, and listened to, and obeyed, the habit of teachable-ness and obedience will be more possible and easy for those who have learned more or less of it in childhood and youth. Thus the fixed and final results of life are more or less determined by the influences which tend to moult the child:

"Look, the clay dries into iron ;
But the potter moults the clay.
Destiny to-day is master ;
Man was master yesterday."