Discipline As Folklore Essay, Research Paper
There is no need to argue whether discipline has a role in society. The types, severity, and appropriateness are debatable, but it surely serves a purpose. This applies on a global scale, with groups such as NATO and the UN, all the way down to individual households. The family unit acts as a training camp for upcoming members of a community by teaching children what is expected of them through example and discipline. Though the methodology varies from household-to-household, culture-to-culture, place-to-place; we all have had to answer to authority at some point or another. The methods and lessons passed from generation to generation are preserved in the retelling of our own experiences to one another. These stories can also serve as a badge of honor; proof that we have survived the storm and are worthy members of society.
An inspection of the interview answers reveals variation between the types of punishment that disciplinarians, mostly parents, chose to use. Though not well reflected in the transcript, those who were disciplined harshly, with one exception, express that they afford their parents less propriety and do not see themselves emulating the approach of their elders. [Appendix B] It is interesting to note, however; that the offenses themselves tend to be similar. Five of the eight recorded responses list lying as a punishable offense. Disrespect or getting in taboo situations seems to be a common thread as well. The majority of respondents’ share views about the intentions behind their parents’ actions, more specifically, they recognize that discipline is a means for parents to “?teach me what they considered the right way to act – based on their moral and religious beliefs.” [Appendix A: What do you think were the motives behind their actions? #2]
While collecting the data, I was surprised to see how eager people were to share such private aspects of their lives. I handed out interview questions to some friends in the library (campfire) who quickly began reminiscing about childhood experiences. The conversation attracted the attention of nearby studiers and passers by who stopped to listen or throw in a personal anecdote or two. I found myself playfully competing with my interviewees over who had the most, the funniest, or the wildest stories.
By telling their story, people reveal themselves. Their personality is highlighted by the kind of story they tell and the way they tell it. Explanations for an individual’s behavior may become evident in a functionalist sense: ‘Why I am the way I am’ is explored through an expression of feelings and bottled up emotions through references of the past. This directly relates to Phenuminology and Znamiecki’s discussion of knowledge of self. Some responses reflect a change in consciousness such as: “I was caught. I realize that my dad was pretty slick and if I was going to do going to do something I wasn’t supposed to, I had to be more careful and look at all the possibilities of getting caught.” [Appendix A: What made this instance stand out? #6] Another important aspect of the telling of the story is in reinforcing the immediate community. By jokingly sharing our humility, we have the opportunity to strengthen our familiarity and bond with each other as Swarthmore students.
The relationship between discipline and folklore may seem vague at first. The key to bridging the gap lies in the way the correlation is set up. Instead of finding similarities between the two, it is necessary to view discipline as a form of folklore. Thus affording discipline all of the rules and stipulations of its assumed parent. The story that the interviewees tell is a clear example of a personal narrative. The characteristics of folklore regarding the hero pattern, as it concerns a persecuted youth who survives the wrath of the “evil witch” [Appendix A: What did you think of them at the time? #3], are satisfied in most accounts. This is paramount to ‘fairy tales’ such as Cinderella, which display the evil stepmother. The similarity between the two implies the manifestation of real life situations in the mythical tales. Discipline mimics the kiss that turns the frog into a prince. The authenticity of this kiss comes from lips that kissed, or in plain English, these are not a product of technology or translation by a foreign tongue. It is a direct reflection of a culture’s values as taught to those who will become the meat of the aforementioned culture.
When asked about the motives of their disciplinarians, the interviewees generally agreed that discipline, like folklore, is a method used to teach. This follows Piaget’s studies that suggest that there are basic steps in a child’s development that are universal regardless of the society they come from. The similarity across cultures would lend to a monogenesis of humanity. Discipline, as folklore, instructs us how to be civilized and well mannered. It is the essential part of developing into a respectable member of the human race.