Discipline means learning to obey necessary rules of conduct. The very essence of discipline is obedience- obedience to rules; and pupil or follower is derived from “discipline”, a learner, or follower of a teacher.
We may discuss the question from two points of view: the discipline or training of an individual, and the discipline, or order maintained in a society or body of individuals.
The training of a child is a good example of discipline in the first sense. To be of any use in human society, a child has to be trained by its parents and teachers from its earliest years.
The first lesson it has to learn is obedience. Then it has to be taught how to behave – how to avoid conduct, which is considered unbecoming and wrong, and how to form good habits. The methods of training are parents’ instruction, example and punishment.
In the same way, domestic animals, such as a dog or a horse, have to be trained before they can be of any use to men. Like the child, they must first learn to obey; the horses must learn how to carry a man and draw a carriage, and dogs how to guard the house and look after flocks of sheep.
When we come to maturity, we have to learn self discipline: how to govern and rule ourselves. This is the hardest task of all.
When men wish to act together in societies or companies, they have to agree upon certain rules of conduct. The enforcement of obedience to these rules is called discipline. A society that has no rules or which does not see that its rules are obeyed, will soon fall to pieces.
Rules and discipline are necessary even in games. If a batsman refuses to go out when he is bowled, if the players defy the referee’s whistle when he gives a foul or off-side, there is an end to the game of cricket and football.
A regiment or an army without discipline is a mere mob. Soldiers have to learn to act together as one man under the command of their officers; the object of military drill is to make their obedience to orders so perfect that it will become automatic.
In the same way, no school can exist long where discipline is not enforced. If the boys can do as they like, it will render teaching impossible, and education a farce.