My wife and I have had a unique opportunity lately, taking classes in order to become foster parents. In the classes, we have seen and heard the modern secular humanist ideas of what “discipline” is. This is the model used by the public school system. It’s a mockery that they call it discipline, because it’s anything but. The basic premise comes from your friend Abraham Maslow, who made a hierarchy of needs. His basic premise, however, is totally flawed. It begins with humans who are “good” and if they have their needs met, they will achieve more and be better. This this flawed foundation, we approach destructive and evil behavior as being simply a break in the hierarchy, and the person needs to be helped to learn to trust and be safe and secure, ultimately building self-esteem to the individual can move upwards.
Now I believe that it’s important for people to learn to trust, and many have broken trust. I believe that it’s important for people to feel safe, and I think encouragement and support is important. I work with people on all those things, but here is the fundamental difference. I don’t think people are good. The Bible teaches EXACTLY the opposite, that all have fallen short, none are righteous. If you take a sinful person and increase his self-esteem, he is a sinful person with a healthy self-esteem who still does evil.
The problem comes when this philosophy begins to seep into the church. Now I am a firm believer that discipline should be handled by parents, not teachers. When a student becomes unruly, the best option is to have the parent intervene. That is not always practical. Sometimes it’s good to just redirect or often even ignore, but we cannot reinforce negative behavior with rewards. We must also be careful that we don’t punish those who are behaving well with consequences of those who are acting out. Children learn though conditioning. It’s basic, a kid touches something hot, gets burned and learns an important lesson. In church, kids come to Sunday School and sometimes get burned. If a kid is acting up and is removed from the class, looses a privilege or has a negative consequence, that’s important. We cannot reinforce negative behavior, yet so often we punish the entire class. This teaches the children that justice is ignorant and your behavior doesn’t matter. If you are good, but everyone else is acting out, you still get punished. Children learn through conditioning.
In your church, in your classroom, in your ministry, remember simple rules. Seek Justice, Love Mercy and walk Humbly with God. If we seek to make things just with a spirit of mercy, we will correct behaviors for the benefit of the student. We want the behavior to improve so they learn and do not repeat the same behavior in a context with someone who does not seek justice and love mercy. Our discipline should be for the benefit of the child. I am not sure the school districts and secular humanists quite understand that concept. What do you think?