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June 30, 2006 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Do schools still make children write the same sentence over and over again as a form of punishment (ala Bart Simpson in the opening credits)?

I remember having to do this several times as a youngster, but it was always on a piece of paper that I had to turn in - never on a chalkboard. It was a great form of punishment, and a perfect opportunity to improve my penmanship. However, that was 20 years ago...

So, does anyone know if this is still done today?
posted by c:\awesome to Education (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They do in the north London comprehensive my flatmate teaches in. It's a completely pointless punishment and therefore infuriating for those it's inflicted on - which I suspect is why they still do it.
posted by greycap at 11:59 AM on June 30, 2006

I had to do it 10 years ago. I think as long as it is shown on tv, and there are teachers that watch tv, and it is not considered an inhumane form of punishment, that there will be teachers that still make kids do it.
posted by ducksauce at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2006

12 years ago I did a variation where I had to solve absurdly long algebra problems by hand on the board.
posted by ChasFile at 12:01 PM on June 30, 2006

When I was in grade School (roughly 1988-1996, in Manitoba, Canada) we definitely were given "lines" to do as punishment though this varied a lot between teachers.

In grade 7, I had to write out copies of Ann Landers' Definition of Maturity. It is the blurb in gray in the middle. This site says the author is unknown but I was told it was by Ann by the teacher.

Grade 8 moved on to writing out entire copies of Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Just hearing the words "Go placidly amid the noise and haste..." makes me nostalgic. Well, as nostalgic as one can get about cramped up hands and countless detentions.
posted by utsutsu at 12:07 PM on June 30, 2006

I should add that all of this was written on lined paper on our own time and handed in to the teacher the next day.
posted by utsutsu at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2006

I'm pretty sure Mr Cobalt's sister knows other teachers who still have students do this, although increasingly it's the 'apology letter' instead.

Of course, where I went to school, our version of the tedious chore was crossing out the 'e's in a portion of the NYT. If you really screwed up, you got the obits/classified.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2006

I definitely had to do it when I was in elementary school - late 70s/early 80s.
posted by surferboy at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2006

In my middle school (1997-2000), if you didn't bring your gym clothes, instead of participating, they'd have you write "I will remember to bring my clothes for gym because physical activity is good for me" on lined paper during that gym period.

They didn't care about penmanship. There was some arbitrary goal (100 repetitions?) but no matter how early you reached that number, you had to keep writing the sentence until the end of the period.
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:39 PM on June 30, 2006

Yes, it is.
posted by cribcage at 12:44 PM on June 30, 2006

The classic method of adding insult to injury for this particular punishment is for the teacher to accept the page, not even look at it, and tear it up in front of the student.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:55 PM on June 30, 2006

I teach high school (English) where the current thinking in workshops/seminars/training (often attended by elementary and middle school teachers) is that doing lines should be discouraged. The rationale is that writing for punishment sets up the wrong attitude about writing.

Whatever - I've been known to assign the odd essay for those people who think they know it all and therefore have the time to disrupt class. However, this is probably more for immediate peace for the rest of us than for one student's learning. (Then again, no one has ever written such an essay twice.)
posted by Liffey at 12:57 PM on June 30, 2006

In 3rd grade (late 70's - well outside of the questioner's time frame, I know) my math teacher, Sister Alexius, the meanest nun in the ENTIRE school, would give as a punishment a little something she liked to call "basic facts 10 times." What this meant was that if you were sentenced to basic facts, you had to write your times tables, from 0 x 0 = 0 through 10 x 10 = 100, ten times each in your notebook. I got that punishment once. Do you know how long it takes to do that? FOREVER, that's how long (when you're 8 years old, anyway).

The worst bit was that the next day, when you had to turn in your notebook proving you did them all, she took a big fat red marker and X'ed out each page with the times tables on them. Oh, the pain. I guess she did that to thwart repeat offenders turning in the same tables each time.
posted by contessa at 1:00 PM on June 30, 2006

Fifteen years ago they were still handing out lines at my school. Which was actually perferable to detentions where you just had to sit there staring at the wall. Talk about cruel.

booksandlibretti writes "if you didn't bring your gym clothes, instead of participating, they'd have you write 'I will remember to bring my clothes for gym because physical activity is good for me' on lined paper during that gym period. "

Too bad they didn't have that punishment at my school. I'd never have done any gym except dance.
posted by Mitheral at 1:43 PM on June 30, 2006

For those wanting to get out of such punishments in a modern way, may I suggest what worked for me once when I was detained in a computer lab (odd, I know):

"Your punishment is to write 'I won't do X' 100 times." (Hands paper and pen to me)
"Oh. Okay. My writing is really poor, may I print it instead?"
"You may."

(proceeds to waste time writing short loop in QBASIC to print out the line required 100 times on the printer)

I guess I only got a pass on that for the pointless ingenuity. But what the hell, give it a go...
posted by shepd at 1:44 PM on June 30, 2006

Too bad they didn't have that punishment at my school. I'd never have done any gym except dance.

That wasn't the only punishment they had on offer. It was just step one, for first-time offenders and generally good kids. Repeat offenders had a whole catalog of levels of escalation, you gym-refusing nogoodnik, you.

posted by booksandlibretti at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2006

Weird -- I was in middle school at the same time as booksandlibretti and got the same punishment for the same thing.
posted by danb at 2:27 PM on June 30, 2006

Which was actually perferable to detentions where you just had to sit there staring at the wall. Talk about cruel.

In my elementary school, if the class was too noisy during lunch, we had to sacrifice part of our recess and do "heads down" on our desks back in our classroom. The rationale, think, for why we had to be quiet was that there was just a divider between the lunchroom and the next room. But the next room from the lunchroom was the gym -- who cares if they could hear the third graders yakking? We could hear them play basketball...

Now, I think to myself how much I would love that extra time to sleep right now!! But also that it was bizarre and kind of barbaric. And the doing nothing was just brutal, knowing that freedom on the playground was minutes away.

Anyway, we had to write lines, too. Not that anyone could read mine.
posted by desuetude at 2:34 PM on June 30, 2006

Oh, elementary school was late 70s-early 80s for me.
posted by desuetude at 2:35 PM on June 30, 2006

Haha..awesome question!! I can tell you that atleast in India, many schools do it. Makes me all nostalgic on the number of times I have turned in such a punishment :-) (1980s)

The way I used to extract revenge was I used to grab two pencils - one between thumb & index finger, and other between index & middle finger -- that way I had to scribble only 100 times for a 200 line punishment. Over time with some practice I got pretty good at it. Let your kid try it the next time he's asked to write "I'll not talk in class". It's not that difficult.

However more than this punishment, I used to dread the "heads down" and "finger on yr lips" punishment. I tell you, it was cruel. Do American grade schools hand out these punishments?
posted by forwebsites at 2:44 PM on June 30, 2006

My Canadian school definitely used the "heads down" thing but it was for when the bulk of the class was acting up in unison. It was rarely used to single out an individual.
posted by utsutsu at 3:12 PM on June 30, 2006

I just finished high school a few weeks ago and the only time I saw that technique used in my K-12 career was in third grade on "pioneer day." The whole class pretended they were in the wild west on that day. We made a cardboard ghost town and created calistoga wagons out of our desks and other things of that sort. If a kid was bad he or she had to write lines. Judging by these other comments it seems the punishment is not as much a piece of the past as my teacher believed.
posted by sdsparks at 3:17 PM on June 30, 2006

I had a *band teacher* in late middle school that decided I needed to write 10,000 sentences (and these were LONG sentences) because I wasn't practicing my clarinet. (I was a sax player, but she decided "I need another clarinet player" and the clarinet was actually broken, but she refused to listen - until much much later in the year where I took the instrument on my own to a music shop and got written verification that the clarinet was in fact physically broken and in need of repair. but I digress..)

I hated that teacher. I took her stupid sentence and wrote exactly one page. I then took that page and photocopied it until I had her required 10,000 sentence. Hey, she only said "I expect to see that sentence 10,000 times."
Well, she got it. She was not amused. I told her to go fuck herself and wound up getting the district administration involved after I proved that the instrument was broken.
Never wrote another sentence in her class. And I won an award for my sax playing.
posted by drstein at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2006

To add to the previous answer, two writing-based punishments at my own school (this is senior school, 1990s) were:

- a "Times leader": copy out the op-ed page from the Times
- copy out the FTSE shares index from the paper. The prefect or teacher would check it against the original to make sure you hadn't faked it.

I also remember a bizarre punishment where you had 5 minutes to rush downstairs, get into games kit, report upstairs, then rush down and get changed into uniform. But then I did go to a private school...
posted by greycap at 3:53 PM on June 30, 2006

In my French Immersion school we had to (and they still do it) copy out pages from the Bescherelle, the french book of verbs. It was excruciating, but I learned my grammaire, that's for sure.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:26 PM on June 30, 2006

I was not encouraged. Usually punishments were detentions with the student sitting and doind nothing. No talking, no working, no sleeping. One teacher who didn't enforce the no sleeping rule would very quietly close the blinds, turns out the lights, set the clock forward three hours, leave and send the janitor in to wake the student.

I did the equivalent by handing each kid a stack of floppy disks and having them low-level format them all.
posted by plinth at 6:42 PM on June 30, 2006

"I must always remember that the classroom is a place in which to learn, and that in order to learn we must follow the classroom guidelines."

This was the common form of punishment for Mr. Ginoffi's 8th grade social studies class back 1991. I had to write it 150 times, and from that point on the worst thing I did in that class was get caught chewing gum, which carried an entirely different punishment of sticking the wad of gum to your nose.
posted by chickygrrl at 8:09 PM on June 30, 2006

At my old public school (2000-2003) a common punishment was to help clean up at the metal/wood working building. It seems there was always something to be done there. My final two years at a private school had either detention or cleaning up the trash in the yards (the place could get positively appalling at times).

Of course, I was a good little boy.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 8:51 PM on June 30, 2006

I had to do this once (early 90s), but it was, like most of the real life examples here, on paper.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:29 PM on June 30, 2006

"I will learn to maintain discipline and practice self-control."

500 times--it started at 100, but that was Monday and I didn't do it until the weekend. I was trying to explain the terms of a test to a classmate.

I was so tempted to write "I have learned nothing from this exercise" after the last sentence, but my father wisely counseled against it. In retrospect, I did learn a lesson about how to pick battles...

PS 1985.
posted by oats at 10:56 PM on June 30, 2006

In 5th grade I had to write essays on responsibility, for those (un)surprisingly regular times I came to school without my homework. They started at 300 words and by the time the school year was coming to a close, I was up to 2500.

Still couldn't be assed to do homework.

(This was 1988 in Oregon)
posted by jedrek at 11:12 PM on June 30, 2006

My fifth grade social studies teacher in the late 90s (has it been that long?!) had us write the US Constitution. She knew the page numbers for where it was in the back of the book by heart. I think small potato incidents drew only an amendment or the Bill of Rights (but maybe a couple times? Dunno, I was never in trouble with her...), while real transgressions meant you got the whole thing. Maybe somebody learned something, though.
posted by SuperNova at 11:38 PM on June 30, 2006

(If I'm ever a teacher, maybe I'll have them write the British Constitution.)
posted by SuperNova at 11:40 PM on June 30, 2006

The last time I recall having to do that was junior high (1990-1992) and it wasn't on the chalkboard, it was on our own lined paper. It seemed to serve as an in-class time that the teacher could use to grade papers while keeping us busy.
posted by vanoakenfold at 11:53 PM on June 30, 2006

I had to endure this often during the late 80s, early 90s.

while some kids would fly through the sheet, trying to bash out as many repetitions as possible in the shortest amount of time, I would write my sentences with exaggerated slowness. I understood that my teachers wanted to go home almost as badly as I did and few would put up with me longer than 5-10 minutes past detention's deadline.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:28 AM on July 1, 2006

Sixth grade ('81-'82), Mr. Hartinger, if you did something wrong—something where you made a choice to do a wrong thing, yelled at another student or something—you had to stay after school and copy out one of five different paragraphs.

The paragraphs were probably each about 8-10 sentences and would say something like "...when I treat others this way, it's mean. I shouldn't do it both because it makes the other person feel bad and I'm better than that..." which I thought was good because maybe some of the words would make their way from the students pen to their head.

Next year, my 7th grade home-room teacher had a policy of having kids write "I will not XXXXXX in class." one hundred times at home and then bring it to class the next day. If they didn't, the following day they owed two hundred.
More punative, less learning.

Mr. Hartinger was a great teacher.


posted by blueberry at 12:53 PM on July 1, 2006

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