Of In Loco Parentis and Demerits

In Loco Parentis
With the July 1, 1971, ratification of the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age to 18 from 21, the process began at the various levels of government to lower the legal age of adulthood from 21. Before the lowering, schools with students between 18 and 21 (depending on the given State's laws) could be and were expected and required to act in loco parentis. In other words, since the founding of the Republic, colleges and universities were legally on the hook for their residential students just as if they were the students parents. So, yes, there were many and various good (legal requirements in some cases) for Fundamental schools to have what today are seen as seemingly pharisaical sets of rules. They are better viewed as paternalistic. Remember, in many States, you still needed your parents permission to marry if you were under 21. If you were under 21 you could not enter into a legal contract (enroll in college or university) without your parents' permission.

Demerits

No, Dr. Bob Sr. did not pull them out of his ear. They did not appear ex nihilo at the founding of Bob Jones College. The demerit system has a long and honored tradition in US higher education. This is especially true for schools which see leadership traing as part of their mission. thanks in no small part to the US Military Academy at West Point and its follow ons the Naval Academy, Virginia Military Institute, and the Citadel.

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dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Rob Fall wrote:
In Loco Parentis
The demerit system has a long and honored tradition in US higher education. This is especially true for schools which see leadership traing as part of their mission. thanks in no small part to the US Military Academy at West Point and its follow ons the Naval Academy, Virginia Military Institute, and the Citadel.

I went to a Christian school with demerits and survived it just fine, so I know they can "work," however, the "long and honored tradition" you mention has not led to noticeably high moral and spiritual values among students of the institutions you mention.

I think it's important to realize that demerits really serve to keep a student in line and provide external punishment and motivation, and when used in a "spiritual" sense can cause confusion when for example an infraction for forgetting something can be seen (by the count of demerits) to be "equal" to something with spiritual significance (like a bad attitude). Military schools have completely different goals than Christian schools. Even though some things (development of leadership and character) may appear to be the same, the desired product is much different. The idea that character can be molded sufficiently by molding externals is one that is common in our society, but should not be brought into our Christian schools. External molding is helpful, but should not be the primary method of character building.

Discipleship and demerits CAN work together, but having seen first-hand the same spiritually toxic environment that was mentioned by a poster on another thread, I can say that demerits unfortunately usually substitute for good discipleship rather than enhance it, as it's much easier to give an off-the-cuff admonishment and a few demerits than it is to come along side a student and really try to help them. Even though I survived a school that used them, and even learned to thrive (in a fashion) even with them in place, it was clear to me that as long as the externals were seen to be good, what was in the heart was assumed to be good as well. The key to being seen as a good student was "keeping your nose clean." Many people (including myself) could do this easily even with a bad heart attitude. The whole environment was about "turning people in," supposedly for their own good, when no real concern was (usually) shown for fixing the heart issues that led to the infraction that resulted in demerits. There were some notable exceptions to this, and those exceptions are the men and women I remember as having really helped mold me while at school.

I don't think having or getting rid of demerits is the real issue. They are a tool, nothing more, one that can be used well, or badly. If Northland believes they can disciple more effectively without them, then this change might work for them. The real issue is how real discipleship is done, and maybe they believe the lack of demerits will help *force* them to do real discipleship as the alternative would be to overlook failures and sin in the lives of the students. When discipleship is done right, they could have demerits or not have them, and still see much better results in the lives of their students.

Dave Barnhart

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Demerits are a tool, but like any other tool, in the wrong hands they can do a lot of damage. It's much easier to slap someone with a pink slip than deal with underlying issues. They are also, in my experience, a means of extortion and retaliation instead of discipline, and quite often the student has no means of redress because any protest is viewed as further evidence of rebellion.

Come to think of it, maybe this is actually good practice, because for many people it is exactly the situation they will face when dealing with church leadership. Hhmmmmmm... http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-think005.gif[/img ]

In any case, systems of discipline and order should be allowed some individualization. Zero tolerance policies show no discernment or reason, and that is as far from Biblical discipline as you can get.

I think it's important to recognize how certain practices came to be, and whether or not we should continue with those assumptions and their corresponding systems. Same goes for adolescence, which is an idea that http://books.google.com/books?id=w_bxaRCOe9IC&printsec=frontcover&dq=g.+... ]G. Stanley Hall pulled out of his ear around 1904. Even though much of it is hogwash, our society has not only embraced adolescence, but created a sub-culture around it and extended it indefinitely. ( http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200703/trashing-teens?page=3 ]"Trashing Teens" interview with Robert Epstein, Psychology Today )

While I agree with those who often point out that we have to deal with what is and not what was or what should be, I see no reason not to try to start in the church at the family level to rectify some of the problems our young people are having, so that in years to come, our colleges are not faced with students who have been infantilized for the last 18 years and so are forced to have policies in place to deal with immature children in adult bodies. I also don't see why we can't implement some paradigm shifting in colleges as well, so that as they marry and start families, they aren't trapped by faulty but ingrained notions that sinful society has perpetuated and the church ignorantly adopted.

Rob Fall's picture

say the demerit system was the best of all possible worlds. Nor did I posit it was a good tool to develop spiritual growth. In a Christian school environment, the admin has other tools in their tool box for the encouragement of spiritual growth in their students.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Louise Dan's picture

Susan R wrote:
Demerits are a tool, but like any other tool, in the wrong hands they can do a lot of damage. It's much easier to slap someone with a pink slip than deal with underlying issues. They are also, in my experience, a means of extortion and retaliation instead of discipline, and quite often the student has no means of redress because any protest is viewed as further evidence of rebellion.

I fully agree with your assessment, Susan. Well put.

Joel Tetreau's picture

I for one am grateful for Rob's notation here.

It's important to remember the historical setting of anything. When you consider that the leadership of the last generation, or the one that is just now passing of the scene, inherited the leadership of institutions in a day when their was a legal responsibility to reprent "mom and dad." I think it does suggest why some generations see the demerit system as "normal," and even consistent with "wisdom." Younger generations that are used to thinking of autonomous (legal and otherwise) 18 year olds - would not have the same "view" as those who come from a generation that see 20 year olds as essentially "mobile minors." Some of this debate then is sourced in a generational debate. Thanks Rob - the point is an important one.

This is not to suggest that their aren't other discussions as to a philosophy of Christian discipline and such.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Rob Fall's picture

Joel, from the other comments, you'd think I was endorsing flogging.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Don Johnson's picture

But that would be a separate thread, no?

I think the key to understanding a demerit system is something Rob noted in his original post: the objective is leadership, not spirituality.

BJU, for example, used to be proud of being called the "West Point" of fundamentalism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Rob Fall wrote:
Joel, from the other comments, you'd think I was endorsing flogging.

I've personally experienced the equivalent of flogging with demerits. And since it didn't leave a mark, I couldn't do anything about it.

Rob Fall's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
But that would be a separate thread, no?

I think the key to understanding a demerit system is something Rob noted in his original post: the objective is leadership, not spirituality.

BJU, for example, used to be proud of being called the "West Point" of fundamentalism.

Those who use demerits to build spirituality are using a ten pound sledge on screws. In my time at Maranatha (77-81), the administration understood the difference. Over the years, I've called MBBC, West Point on the Rock (River) and BJU, The Citadel on Wade Hampton Blvd. If you think of the schools as endeavoring, in part, to to be schools of leadership (2LTs and Ensigns graduate at the same age as Bachelors from MBBC and BJU), various points of their disciplinary systems start to make sense.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

rogercarlson's picture

First of all, I will say that I loved my time at BJU. I had no problem with the demerits. But i did then, and still do have a problem with people thinking these made you spiritual. When I was at BJ, the administration didn't proclaim that they did. There were some there who thought the rules help make people spiritual, they were dead wrong. My first three years I was at BJU, I was unsaved. I did tie my "spirituality" to rule book. i was a pharisee of the pharisees. Then the Lord graciously saved me. He changed me! My approach to rules changed. I still kept them, but I realized their intent - functional not necessarily spiritual.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Mike Durning's picture

I've been waiting for someone to talk about "in loco parentis". Do a little Googling. It has an interesting legal history. I don't know that it says anything spiritually profound, but it does explain what the folks at BJU were thinking when they proclaimed it.

Rob Fall's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
I've been waiting for someone to talk about "in loco parentis". Do a little Googling. It has an interesting legal history. I don't know that it says anything spiritually profound, but it does explain what the folks at BJU were thinking when they proclaimed it.
Could you provide us some of the fruits of your google-fu? Biggrin

Further, what schools needed is\was enforcers the rules not martinets.

Also, the age of majority in the UK also changed from 21 to 18 in 1971.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

for in loco parentis got me this (snipped for relevancy):
The term in loco parentis, Latin for "in the place of a parent" or "instead of a parent,"[1 ] refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. Originally derived from English common law, it is applied in two separate areas of the law.

First, it allows institutions such as colleges and schools to act in the best interests of the students as they see fit, although not allowing what would be considered violations of the students' civil liberties.[1 ]

Second, this doctrine can provide a non-biological parent to be given the legal rights and responsibilities of a biological parent if they have held themselves out as the parent.[2 ]

The in loco parentis doctrine is distinct from the doctrine of parens patriae, the psychological parent doctrine, and adoption.[3 ] In the United States, the parental liberty doctrine imposes constraints upon the operation of the in loco parentis doctrine.
SNIP
Cheadle Hulme School, founded in Manchester, England, in 1855; adopted in loco parentis its motto, well before the world's first Public Education Act of 1870. The school was established to educate and care for orphans and children of distressed parents; during times when the average longevity of Manchester factory workers was twenty years old.

In loco parentis had only precedent legal meaning for wards of court. The founding of Cheadle Hulme School, otherwise known as Manchester Warehousemen and Clerks Orphans Schools, became the first time the expression was used with legal standing in the educational field.
SNIP
Though in loco parentis continues to apply to primary and secondary education in the U.S., application of the concept has largely disappeared in higher education. However, this was not always the case.

Prior to the 1960s, undergraduates were subject to many restrictions on their private lives. Women were generally subject to curfews as early as 10:00, and dormitories were usually entirely one-sex. Some universities expelled students—especially female students—who were somehow "morally" undesirable. Some universities even insisted that a male and female student sitting on the same chair have at least two feet on the ground at all times.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_loco_parentis ]In Loco Parentis Wikipedia
As I tried to say in my OP, the ilp was not invented by "Fundamentalist Schools" to oppress their student bodies.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

And I agree- ilp wasn't invented by Fundy schools, and rules are not necessarily in place to oppress students- but Fundy schools and churches have adopted nearly ever social construct and cultural practice that has come down the pike seemingly without nary a moment of consideration or peep of protest. What we need to ask ourselves is not only "Why did this come to be" but "Is ilp in our Fundy colleges necessary and/or beneficial?" which is what I was trying to say in my response.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Susan,

A quick thought. Your statment I'm sure is sometimes true - but I don't think it's a universal norm that ministries don't first of all consider the source or context of "social norms/practice." Especially because when you change anything along those lines - people will struggle one way or another (just on change alone). That being the case most leaders count the cost before adopting social "change in course."

My guess is here, most Christian institutions that adopted the demerit system were looking for some way to help back up order vs. chaos. I think you and others have done a good job of showing there can be another way, and I'm not locked in at all on the demerit system.....but I think Rob's point does a good job of explaining the historical setting as it developed.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Rob Fall's picture

Susan R wrote:
And I agree- ilp wasn't invented by Fundy schools, and rules are not necessarily in place to oppress students- but Fundy schools and churches have adopted nearly ever social construct and cultural practice that has come down the pike seemingly without nary a moment of consideration or peep of protest. What we need to ask ourselves is not only "Why did this come to be" but "Is ilp in our Fundy colleges necessary and/or beneficial?" which is what I was trying to say in my response.
What I am trying to point out is until the early 70s it was a legal expectation. Now that we are a generation or so beyond the divide, it is a principle that is dying a slow death.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Mike Durning's picture

Rob Fall wrote:
Mike Durning wrote:
I've been waiting for someone to talk about "in loco parentis". Do a little Googling. It has an interesting legal history. I don't know that it says anything spiritually profound, but it does explain what the folks at BJU were thinking when they proclaimed it.
Could you provide us some of the fruits of your google-fu? Biggrin

Further, what schools needed is\was enforcers the rules not martinets.

Also, the age of majority in the UK also changed from 21 to 18 in 1971.

Sorry guys. I have a few thoughts and citations based on my search. You've already hit some of the highpoints since this post. I have a bit more to add, but it's going to have to wait a few days. Slammed by 1000 details and emergencies right now. In fact, I just posted a prayer request about it here at SI.

In any case, I will be back to comment.

Rob Fall's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Sorry guys. I have a few thoughts and citations based on my search. You've already hit some of the high points since this post. I have a bit more to add, but it's going to have to wait a few days. Slammed by 1000 details and emergencies right now. In fact, I just posted a prayer request about it here at SI.

In any case, I will be back to comment.

Mike take your time. Real Life(tm) can be complicated.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..