Random Thought/Discussion: Does School Detention Even Do Anything?

This is something I’ve pondered for years. While I was the good student and very rarely got in trouble, there were a few times that I was threatened with detention, but I never actually was made to go to detention. Throughout my high school years especially, I noticed that many students were afraid of getting detention, as though it were some big, scary place where terrible things happen to you. I, of course, had heard about what it actually was, and had experienced minor group detentions in elementary and middle school (mostly just teachers keeping the entire class 30 minutes late after school, which hardly counts), so I never really understood what people feared about it.

At my high school, they always made light of detention and had funny videos that they made to try and encourage us to stay out of detention. They would play them over the school’s daily announcement video feed, and they were often hilarious to watch. However, what I was told and what was depicted was basically this: depending on what you did and who the teacher was, there were two kinds of detentions you could serve. One was directly with the teacher who originally gave you detention. This type of detention basically consisted of you going into the classroom after school and just sitting there being bored for however long the teacher had pre-specified (anywhere from one to two hours, usually), or working on homework during that period of time, or getting lectured by your teacher regarding whatever the situation that landed you in detention was. The radio and TV teacher always said that if another teacher gave you detention, you should ask if you could serve it with him instead, because he had a lot of computers and technology parts that needed cleaning, etc. So not really sure how that qualified as a punishment, or what it was meant to teach you.

The other type of detention was served “to the school,” and was either given because you did something “worse” that merited that type of detention, or the teacher that you got in trouble with just didn’t want to deal with having you serve the detention with him or her. Or you were late. That was automatically a detention if you parents forgot to call out and excuse you from classes when you were sick. Anyway, with that type of detention, a teacher who was typically in charge of handing out the disciplinary slips would come to your classroom and ask to talk to you. You would go out in the hallway and talk with him or her, about the situation. Either way, you would get a detention slip telling you the date and time that you were to serve your detention. However, if the person handing out the slips understood that it was something outside of your control, like your parents had forgotten to excuse you from class, they would still give you the slip, then just say to have your parents call the school and clear it up. Which happened to me once, and I never ended up having to serve detention. Well, in that situation, my parents hadn’t called in until later in the day, after one or two class periods had gone by, but because they called in the next day and cleared it up, I didn’t have a problem.

Anyway, in the second type of detention, there was also a specific teacher who was in charge of running the detention. You’d go in, give him your slip, he’d mark off your name to indicate that you had shown up (you got more detentions if you didn’t show up), and then you’d basically just go sit down, and you were expected to do classwork for whatever amount of time the slip specified that you were supposed to stay there. From what I could gather, and what I had been told, it was very boring.

So my question is this: how is detention an effective punishment? What exactly is it supposed to teach kids? It is literally time-out, but for older kids/teenagers. True, it gets you to focus on your studies, or it teaches you to do hard work, but at the same time, teaching kids that they will be made to study hard or work hard only if they do bad things doesn’t prepare them for life. And putting them in a room and just making them do classwork or stare at a wall for two hours just makes them bored, it doesn’t really teach them anything. I mean maybe if you’re with one of those teachers who lectures you the entire time, then maybe it could be effective, but I doubt it.

Honestly, the only type of detention that I could ever truly see being effective would be a P.E.-based detention. One where you have to show up at the school’s gym and run laps, do circuits, certain kinds of exercises, boot-camp style workouts, etc. Maybe that would be effective, but as for just sitting there being bored, I don’t think so.

So what’s your take on it, everyone? Do you think that school detentions are effective? What about suspension? Doesn’t that just encourage kids to keep doing bad things, if they’re the type that don’t want to be in school in the first place? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, so join the discussion.


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