Thursday, 17 September 2009

Control, Discipline and Psychological restraint: Learning Need be Only a Very Poor Relation

Above are some pages I scanned some time ago from a book on disciplinary techniques in my possession. I hasten to add that I was not the writer, nor did I have any input to its creation (although I do wish I had been the author). I must also hasten to add that these pages are taken somewhat out of context and that elsewhere it is made abundantly clear that wherein the authors use the term 'child', what is meant by that term is young ladies of late teenage years or even in their early twenties.

Although terms such as 'schoolroom' and 'school' are used fairly freely, it is clear that the disciplinary techniques and methods of control laid out, especially as pertains to the discussion of the psychological effects of the various disciplinary impositions and non-physical punishments described, are intended for - and are most amenable to - young ladies living under controlled and - shall we say – somewhat 'enclosed' circumstances, well removed from the public eye.

So one imagines an heiress and her sister living under the close control and watchful eye of their strict governess and seldom seen outside of the wing in which they are confined, let alone the main house - and never outside the security of the grounds, quiet and subdued and with complexions pleasingly pallid, being free of the unrequited kiss of sunlight. Or one thinks of the privately setup and discreet, seemingly scholastic, institution whose true reason for being is to teach discipline for the sake of discipline, but more importantly for the satisfaction of others.

Or perhaps there is scope within another field, that of experimental psychology. Perhaps there might be some secure institution where runaways might volunteer to enter for a few weeks respite from the frozen winter city streets or where girls, deemed likely to fall into 'moral danger', might find themselves placed by a charitable agency ‘for their own good. Indeed might there not be some who for one reason or another would be well willing to actually pay for a girl to be placed in such an institution?

It is more in the context of the latter vein that I have been leafing through the work in recent times. In terms of the three pages set out above, the parts that stood out most in my eyes I have placed together to the left. To understand where I am coming from with this the thing to do is to look at it in the context of the so-called 'monster study' of the 1930s (which I've mentioned before) in which stuttering was quite deliberately induced in test subjects simply by making them self-aware of such deficits as hesitations and repetitions of words, no matter how slight such deficits might have been to begin with.

This was accomplished merely by halting the subject, pointing out the stumble or hesitation, making the subject repeat herself at that point and offering advice that was, in actuality, intended to make the subject even more self-aware of her deficit. Now imagine, in a suitably secure environment, a young lady not only exposed to such therapy but also undergoing a regime of constant reinforcement outside of the psychologists room - which of course she is obliged to attend each day - by means of the instant retribution of the cane or the strap across the palms of the hands, backs of the thighs, or indeed the bare buttocks. As one of the extracts says, "[under such circumstances] it is common for more mistakes than normal to be made due to nervousness and the pressure of the occasion".

And for a petulant, once stubborn young thing, sadly afflicted by confidence-devastating speech deficit, how much more difficult it must seem to stand up against those that would seek to curb her, impose their will and discipline on her and keep her there in that institution under their care, whether she should like it or not, behind the barred window.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey- this is fantastic stuff. Would you be able to post more pages about "written impositions" from this book ?