Schoolboys and college students dislike the word “discipline”. This is because to them it means simply punishment. When they are fined or kept in or otherwise punished, they are told it is in the interests of “discipline”. But, though punishment is part of discipline, discipline means much more than this. This word comes from “disciple”, a learner, pup or follower of a teacher; and it means properly training. A disciple puts himself under a teacher to be trained and taught.
If a disciple is to learn anything from his teacher, he must be ready to obey him and follow his instructions. The very essence of discipline is obedience. We may say that discipline means the learning to obey necessary rules of conduct. To be of any use in society, a child has to be trained by his parents and teachers from his earliest years. The first lesson he has to learn is the lesson of obedience. Then he has to be taught how to behave – how to form good habits, and how to avoid wrong and unbecoming conduct.
The methods of such training are patient instruction, good example, and, when necessary, punishment. The child has to be taught how to behave well – what he must do, and what he must not do. If he refuses to learn or disobeys orders, he has to be corrected by punishment of some sort. This teaches him that disobedience brings unpleasant consequences. He will learn still more from a good example set before him by his parents and teachers. He will then try to copy them and their behaviour.
When men wish to act together in societies or companies, they have to agree upon certain rules of conduct; and the enforcement of obedience to such rules is called discipline. A society that has no rules or that does not see that its rules are kept will soon fall to pieces. A regiment or an army without discipline is a mere mob.
Even in games, rules and discipline are necessary. If a batsman refused to go out when he was bowled, or footballers defied the referee’s whistle when he gave off-side or a foul, there would be an end of cricket and football. In the same way no school or college could exist long without discipline.
Lastly, there is self-discipline – the hardest task of all. Each of us has to learn how to govern and rule himself; how to control his passions, resist his evil desires, and obey his conscience. “He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.”