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The Fallacy of “No Excuses” Discipline Approach in Education

By Ayla Sullivan

Any educator should realise the impact of their actions and its correlation to student shame, particularly with adolescent youth. Not only is the “no excuses” asinine, it perpetuates a cycle of violence, streamlines the school to prison pipeline, and solidifies white supremacist, hierarchical structures in education. The ideal disciplinary structure is based on community engagement and restorative justice.

The overwhelming perceived maturity gap between adolescents and adults is not only an outdated belief, but it is a dangerous value to hold as an educator. Despite years of rumour, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. In fact, the only present data on the relationship between teens and adults proves every stereotypical idea of youth capability is false (Moshmann, 2011). Once considering this, it is clear that youth make rash decisions not more than, but as much as adults; have impulsive thoughts indicative of their humanity rather than their age; have as much self control as the average person; encounter peer pressure comparable to that within adults; and require a disciplinary structure that supports them, rather than institutions that uphold the culture of power.

As defined by Lisa Delpit, the culture of power begins in the classroom and is solidified by the rules of the setting (Delpit, 1988). To place an oppressive disciplinary structure that is inherently indicative of capitalist and white supremacist values dehumanises students and draws a clearer line between those with and without power. Of course, the students without agency feel the effects of this culture rather than those who hold power (Delpit, 1988). It is an educator’s duty to positively impact their students and the ideal disciplinary practise lies in restorative justice.

As described in the 2014 NPR Podcast, “instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.” (Westervelt, 2014 ). Students who are held accountable with justifiable consequences and being an active participant in their discipline

THE FALLACY OF “NO EXCUSES” DISCIPLINE APPROACH IN EDUCATION 3

(rather than shamed or abused) become more emotionally articulate. They are no longer “othered” by the group, but welcomed and integrated within the classroom community. Not only has this been proven to work in Oakland, CA, “ the percentage of students suspended at schools that have fully adopted the program has dropped by half, from 34 percent in 2011-12 to just 14 percent in the following two years” (Westervelt, 2014); but it also secures an environment of positive learning where mistakes are acceptable (Nasir, 2008).

The foundation of education should be that every student should be given the opportunity to succeed. There should not need to be an addendum. It is obvious and has been grossly apparent that students cannot succeed when entrenched in a culture of power. It is the duty of educators to uplift students at risk of violence and inspire habitual rulebreakers paths towards healing. Students should not be thrown into positions of shame, but be an active participant in how they are represented, reprimanded, and reintroduced into the classroom. Therefore, the disciplinary practise most needed in schools is restorative justice.

Works Cited

Delpit, L. (1988) The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s

Children. 21-27. Print. Harvard Educational Review.


Moshman, D. (2011) ‘Adolescents and their Teenage Brains.’Human Development. 203.

Print. Lincoln, NE: University of Lincoln.


Nasir, N. (2008) "Everday Pedagogy: Lessons from Basketball, Track, and Dominoes."

Phi Delta Kappan 529-33. Print.


Westervelt, E. (2014). An Alternative To Suspension And Expulsion: 'Circle Up!'. nprED.

Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/12/17/347383068/an-alternative-to-suspension- and-expulsion-circle-up?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=education