Friday, December 21, 2012

A Different Look at Discipline

Discipline is the dimension associated with doing the right thing, even though it may take a little extra time or effort rather than taking short cuts, the path of least resistance or the easy way out.

Many things in life are simple to understand but hard to do.  They require discipline to avoid problems like obesity, smoking, insufficient savings for college and retirement, gambling, alcohol or drug abuse or “addictions” to videogames and smartphones.  Everyone knows that as a society we should be eating less and exercising more and, in general taking better care of ourselves physically, emotionally and financially.  The consequences of obesity, smoking and the rest are well understood and well publicized.  Nevertheless, problems persist and in some cases are worsening.  This is most often the consequences of a failure in discipline.

These are not the only symptoms of an America weak in discipline.  Here is a picture that was sent to me a couple of weeks ago of a car parked near a strip mall.  There were at least 7 empty and legal parking spaces near the car.  Instead the driver chose to park illegally on the striped lines, perhaps 10 feet closer to the store (but he was only going in for a minute – or some other excuse).  Behavior like this has no immediate or long-term consequences; it just shows a general disregard for rules that were set up to keep our society running smoothly.  It was a little too much trouble to park legally and walk the extra short distance, but I’d be willing to bet that the driver could have benefited from the exercise.

How about those people who abandon their shopping carts in the parking lot less than 15 or 20 steps from the collection area, blocking a space for someone arriving later?  This is another example of behavior with no direct consequences, but showing a weakness in discipline that likely carries over to other situations and contributes to our belief that America is heading in the wrong direction.  How do we solve the big problems if we can't even behave properly in small areas?

Should it surprise us then that a survey of 23,000 high school students shows that more than half admit to cheating on a test and lying to a teacher about something significant?  Where would they get the idea that taking the easy way out was acceptable?  Ironically the authors of the survey saw it as a good sign that the percentage dropped for the first time in a decade and cite it as the possible positive trend – a trend of one data point?  Come on.  Over half cheated, and it’s been that way for at least 10 years.  There’s not much good in that news.  Rather it’s more evidence of America's poor discipline trickling down to the next generation.

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