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Humanistic Teaching

An approach to learning English

October 04, 2009


How much violence is there in your classroom? This is a question I have been contemplating about my own classes recently. Despite avoiding competitive activities here's more than I would like and I'm wondering what I can do about it. But what, exactly, is violence? How many of the following statements do you agree with?

1.    Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.

2.    The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.

3.    Violence and smut are of course everywhere on the airwaves. You cannot turn on your television without seeing them, although sometimes you have to hunt around

4.    No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded.

5.    Violence isn't always evil. What's evil is the infatuation with violence.

6.    Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn't merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence.

7.    From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities. This enterprise is on the whole successful.

8.    It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.

9.    Our most important task is to transform our consciousness so that violence is no longer an option for us in our personal lives, that understanding that a world of peace is possible only if we relate to each other as peaceful beings, one individual at a time.

10.    I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.

11.    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

12.    In some cases non-violence requires more militancy than violence.

13.    Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

14.    Democracy don't rule the world, You'd better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that's better left unsaid.

These 14 statements are, of course, quotes. Just for fun see how many surnames of the people responsible you can find in the following wordsearch. Can you match the names found to the quotes above? Be careful as there are more names to find than you actually need.


If I had included the authors' names as blanks with the quotes then I would have been near to a worksheet format I have just started experimenting with.  I think the format of mixing a wordsearch with a short story containing blanks has a lot of possibilities. The puzzler can use the context of the sentences as a hint for which words to look for and if each individual letter of the missing words is replaced by an underscore that can further narrow down the search. Where words have the same number of letters the context can dictate which word goes where. A picture clue can be included for learners who need more help, but I digress. Back to violence.

I agree with Krishnamurti who links violence with fear. A put down, a scowl, a sneer these are forms of violence. I also think that all too often authority is latent violence. If those with power demand something from those without it at what point does that demand become violent? Under what circumstances is authority not violent? For example, last week one or more children made their way into our school loft. We have a board at the top of the stairs with a sign in both English and Japanese stating that the loft, which we use as a store room, is off-limits. Twice a year for Halloween and Christmas we build a tunnel in the loft and it may well have been anticipation of this tunnel that led to the transgressions. But regardless of the reasons, what do you do if a child has gone somewhere and refuses to come out? Isn't an angry voice violent? And any threat of retribution or punishment surely is. Once a situation of defiance is created what else is there but violence? Yes, one can argue that the child "broke the rules" and that in itself is a form of violence but what's the old adage, two wrongs don't make a right? Or do they?

End of Part One

P.S. If you would like me to turn the wordsearch above into a fully-fledged worksheet just let me know.

« All Or None | Main | Violence (Part 2) »


While I applaud any attempts to reduce violence in the classroom and would love to see more discussion about this topic (particularly ways that non-Japanese teachers, as outsiders, can help deal with childhood bullying) I don't think it's fair to link violence and fear so completely. Sometimes people fear things without reason or without having been intended to. If someone fears a man with tattoos and lots of piercings because they think he looks scary, has that man committed violence? I don't think so.

I also think punishment is not automatically violence. Actions have consequences, and for children to function in our society they have to understand that. HOW you punish and WHY you punish is crucial. Punishment can be violence, but it can also be a loving way of helping people grow. Whether or not you are punishing someone for defying you or punishing someone because they've done something destructive and don't understand the consequences of what they've done can make all the difference in the world.

Thanks for the comment, Jon, and my apologies for being so slow in replying. I was caught between replying directly and taking up your points in full with a a complete entry - and then got over taken by events. I agree that if we fear a stranger because of his or her looks that the stranger is not committing violence, but one can ask where does that fear come from. I think that at its root there will be some other violence, possibly that committed by parents. Isn't prejudice largely inflicted upon the young by the old?

Regarding your point about punishment and consquences I find it difficult to agree. Natural laws have consequences. If I close a drawer on a finger (as I did recently by accident) that damages my finger. There is direct cause and effect. But if an adult hits a child for being noisy (as happened to an entire class I was in while at secondary school) there is no direct relationship. The adult is choosing to act in a particular way. In this sense the violence becomes pre-meditated or worse, ritualised. All to often punishment teaches children that violence is the natural solution to problem solving. How is punishment not really just revenge?

I absolutely agree that your case of an adult hitting a child for being noisy is violence, and in my opinion completely unacceptable in school.

I believe the difference between punishment and revenge has everything to do with the mindset of the person giving it out and how lasting the consequences are. If it's harm that comes from a person's anger that they've been defied, it's revenge. If it's something meant to help people to grow and be better, and does not cause lasting harm to the body or the mind even if it's for the moment not fun, then it's punishment.

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