cover of book

Spare the Rod: Punishment and the Moral Community of Schools
by Campbell F. Scribner and Bryan R. Warnick
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-226-78567-7 | eISBN: 978-0-226-78584-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-78570-7
Library of Congress Classification LB3025.S37 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 371.50973


Spare the Rod argues against how school discipline is increasingly integrated with prisons and policing, instead they argue for an approach to that aligns with the moral community that schools could and should be.

In Spare the Rod, historian Campbell F. Scribner and philosopher Bryan R. Warnick investigate the history and philosophy of America’s punishment and discipline practices in schools. To delve into this controversial subject, they first ask questions of meaning. How have concepts of discipline and punishment in schools changed over time? What purposes are they supposed to serve? And what can they tell us about our assumptions about education? They then explore the justifications. Are public school educators ever justified in punishing or disciplining students? Are discipline and punishment necessary for students’ moral education, or do they fundamentally have no place in education at all? If some form of punishment is justified in schools, what ethical guidelines should be followed? 

The authors argue that as schools have grown increasingly bureaucratic over the last century, formalizing disciplinary systems and shifting from physical punishments to forms of spatial or structural punishment such as in-school suspension, school discipline has not only come to resemble the operation of prisons or policing, but has grown increasingly integrated with those institutions. These changes and structures are responsible for the school-to-prison pipeline. They show that these shifts disregard the unique status of schools as spaces of moral growth and community oversight, and are incompatible with the developmental environment of education.  What we need, they argue, is an approach to discipline and punishment that fits with the sort of moral community that schools could and should be. 

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