The Obama's "Rethink School Discipline" guidelines had the effect of reducing the number of suspensions and other disciplinary actions.
The administration was concerned that there was a racial discrepancy in the suspension rates.
But a story in the Wall Street Journal reminds us that discipline in schools is actually beneficial to children. The story shows how the demanding discipline in Catholic schools helps the students:
The study cited was done for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute by University of California-Santa Barbara associate professor Michael Gottfried and doctoral student Jacob Kirksey. They look at data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study for the National Center for Education Statistics and compare Catholic schools to public and other private schools.
Here is what they found:
The authors found statistically meaningful evidence that students in Catholic schools exhibited less disruptive behavior than their counterparts in other schools. “According to their teachers, Catholic school children argued, fought, got angry, acted impulsively, and disturbed ongoing activities less frequently,” the authors write. Specifically, students in Catholic schools “were more likely to control their temper, respect others’ property, accept their fellow students’ ideas, and handle peer pressure.” In other words, they exhibited more self-discipline.
The authors have three key conclusions:
First: “Schools that value and focus on self discipline will likely do a better job of fostering it in children.” If other schools “took self discipline as seriously as Catholic schools do, they wouldn’t have to spend as much time, energy and political capital on penalizing students” for bad behavior.
Second: “Assuming that these results reflect a ‘Catholic Schools Effect,’ other schools might consider both explicit and implicit methods to replicate it.” The report notes that some “no excuses” charter schools are already doing this, through the curriculum or the way students interact with adults and teachers who model self-discipline themselves.
Third: “Don’t underestimate the power of religion to positively influence a child’s behavior.” Religion isn’t the only way to foster self-discipline, the authors emphasize, but it’s effective compared to most of the alternatives in channeling youthful energy into productive self-control.
This study should be a boost to the school choice movement.