Tag Archives: discipline


Context: This testimony given by SS is a former Los Angeles high-school student who shared with me her reflections on a semester spent in Israel as part of a 10th grade educational program. Her testimony sheds light on the programs commitment to the students safety, and their willingness to use realistic stories to deter the kids on the trip from misbehaving.

Text: “At my high school in 10th grade you can apply to a program and spend your second semester of 10th grade in Israel. And because there’s a lot of freedom given on the trip and you are at such a young age, there’s a strong emphasis on not being able to drink or smoke or do anything like that. When we went out we would need to be chaperoned by a madrichim which was a live-in councilor for the trip. This was always a rule but we were told it became more strongly enforced after an incident that allegedly occurred more than 5 years prior to when I went. Certain weekends would be referred to as open shabbat because you would have the option to stay with a nearby family in Israel, and a girl during this free weekend drank and got alcohol poisoning and needed to have her stomach pumped at a local hospital. As a result of her actions, she was supposedly kicked off of the program and had to immediately go home. Looking back I think they only told us this story to keep us in check and scare us out of doing anything crazy” 

Analysis: I believe the purpose of this testimony serves as a cautionary tale, aiming to teach a lesson through the consequences that the alleged girl who got alcohol poisoning suffered through. The alcohol poisoning serves as a warning to other students about the health risks of engaging in the prohibited behaviors, whilst the girl being kicked off of the trip works to further deter students from following in her actions, as that would result in them being flown back to Los Angeles from Israel and presumably additionally failing the semesters classes.  At its heart, I believe it serves as a mechanism for social control which works particularly well amongst the high schooler demographic, especially when paired with the aim to establish the authority of the madrichim by painting them out to be both guardians of the students and enforcers of the program’s rules.

Superstition: Don’t Play With Matches, ‘Cause You’ll Pee the Bed

Main Piece: 

“Don’t play with matches, cause you’ll pee the bed. Yeah, that was a major way of disciplining me when I was a kid. So that I wouldn’t play with matches when I was a kid.”


My informant experienced this almost as a threat that his parents would make in order to make sure that he didn’t burn himself. He grew up in rural Virginia, the youngest of many much older siblings, so the potential to embarrass him was higher than if he had only younger peers. My informant describes his interpretation as follows:

Collector: “Was there ever any explanation of, like, why you’d pee the bed or…”

Informant: “No, I think it’s one of those things where, you know, it’s really embarrassing for young children to pee the bed. So, basically they’re saying don’t play with fire, but if you personalize it- attach this embarrassing situation to it, the child will be like ‘Oh, I’m not gonna do it because I’ll pee the bed.”


This rides a blurry line between folklore and fakelore. My informant didn’t know where his parents picked it up from, meaning it could well be something they come up with as a personal solution for their son playing with matches. Regardless, the nonsensicality of it makes it an interesting case-study, because it’s clearly something aimed for kids that would only work on kids. However, it’s not something that kids would really be tempted to spread between each other. As such, it’s something of a targeted message that emulates the nonsensicality of children’s folklore that Jay Mechling observed, as well his statement that children’s folklore is preoccupied with “gross-out” effects such as peeing, but cannot actually fall into the category of children’s folklore.

Chinese High School Military Training

Context: All across China students join a mandatory military training for two weeks to a month before officially entering a public high school. The training usually takes place in the school. Students live in their dormitories together, and parents are not allowed to visit. Trainings are conducted by soldiers and head teachers. 30 to 50 students in the same class are trained together to learn basic marching techniques and military formalities. Trainings also include disciplinary housekeeping, for instance, military standards for making the bed are enforced. However, actual combat techniques are not taught.

The interviewer and the informant went to two different high schools in Qingdao, China.

Interviewer: Did you guys sing or chant during the military training?

Informant: Yeah, yeah, that was probably the only fun thing during the two weeks. It was kinda intense though.

Interviewer: Yeah, I’m wondering if it’s the same for your school.

Informant: Did you do the 1234567 one? hahaha that’s the only one I remember. I feel like they’re all the same no matter which school you go to…because the officers are all from the same troop hahaha.

Interviewer: Yeah that’s the one! Can you do it for me? Was it between two groups of students?

Informant: Yeah, yeah, but I think you do it with the officer, it’s like a “imaginary enemy” situation. So the officer yells things at you, the goal is to get you excited, then you guys [the students] yell back at him.

Interviewer: So you yell back at the officer, but you’re actually talking shit to another groups of people that are not there?

Informant: Yep. It’s basically shit talking. It’s called “pull the song” (拉歌,la ge), but it’s actually not a song. ok, here we go.

original script: 

officer: 对面唱得好不好?students: 好!

officer: 再来一个要不要?students: 要!

officer: 让你唱! students: 你就唱!

officer: 扭扭捏捏! students: 不像样!

officer: 像什么? students: 像大姑娘!

officer: 一二! students: 快快!

officer: 一二三! students: 快快快!

officer: 一二三四五? students: 我们等的好辛苦!

officer: 一二三四五六七? students: 我们等的好着急!

officer: 一二三四五六七八九? students: 你们到底有没有!

Phonetic (pinyin) script:

officer: dui mian chang de hao bu hao?

students: hao!

officer: zai lai yi ge yao bu yao?

students: yao!

officer: rang ni chang!

students: ni jiu chang!

officer: niu niu nie nie!

students: bu xiang yang!

officer: xiang shen me?

students: xiang da gu niang!

officer: yi er!

students: kuai kuai!

officer: yi er san!

students: kuai kuai kuai!

officer:  yi er san si wu?

students: wo men deng de hao xin ku!

officer: yi er san si wu liu qi?

students: wo men deng de hao zhao ji!

officer: yi er san si wu liu qi ba jiu?

students: ni men dao di you mei you!


officer: Opposite singing good or not?

students: Good!

officer: Another one yes or no?

students: Yes!

officer: Make you sing!

students: You should sing!

officer: Looking coy!

students: Not like anything!

officer: Look like what?

students: Like a girl!

officer: One Two!

students: Quick Quick!

officer: One Two Three!

students: Quick Quick Quick!

officer: One Two Three Four Five!

students: We are waiting very hard!

officer: One Two Three Four Five Six Seven!

students: We are waiting anxiously!

officer: One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine!

students: Do you have it or not!


officer: Is our opponent’s singing good?

students: Good!

officer: Do you want another one?

students: Yes!

officer: Make you sing!

students: You should sing!

officer: Coy and sissy!

students: Not like other things!

officer: Like a what?

students: Like a girl!

officer: One Two!

students: Quick Quick!

officer: One Two Three!

students: Quick Quick Quick!

officer: One Two Three Four Five!

students: We are waiting very hard!

officer: One Two Three Four Five Six Seven!

students: We are waiting anxiously!

officer: One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine!

students: Do you have it or not!

Analysis: The chant is taught by the training officer to students. It’s performed often during breaks, when officers and students from different classes can mingle with each other. It softens the training atmosphere and boosts morale in a lighter tone. The chant is fairly rhythmic and easy to follow. The fact that it’s chanted between a class and their officer implies that the chant is performed to show aggression, but rather to foster the unity and identity of the class itself. It does not specify who the opponent is, and in fact the identity of the opponent does not matter. The pure existence of an opponent framed in the chant leads to emphasize that the class is an entity and it might face obstacles from the outside environment. 

“Like a what—Like a girl!” This detail shows another element of identity formation in teenage students. The military training happens at the liminal point of when a child is separated from their parents and absorbed into a completely new, pre-adulthood collective. The format of the military training, with the hyper-emphasis on order, obedience, and aggression, reinforces the patriarchal social order. Thus the liminal period of adolescence is enforced with patriarchal social expectations. 

The one being emasculated becomes the weak and the oppressed, and emasculation then becomes an act of aggression.

Make sure you have good parenting

The following story was not told directly to my informant, but rather to her older brother. When she was eight years old, she was riding in the back seat of the car and overheard her dad telling her thirteen year old brother this story. Though it was not intended for her it stuck in her mind because of how bizarre it was.

“Um, apparently this guy, his mother never disciplined him so he grew up to be quite the… deviant person. Ended up getting arrested, going to jail, and having to be executed because of all the poor choices he made in life, and uh… then, before he was executed, when they asked what he would like as his last whatever… ya know, do you have any final requests. Anything you want before you bet executed tomorrow. And he said he wanted his mothers breast milk… of all the weird things. He wanted to have milk from his mother’s breast. So they’re like “ok…”, so they had his mom come in and rather than suckling her nipples and taking the milk out, he mauled her breasts until they came off and she bled to death. He murdered his mother and when he asked him why he did it he said because she never disciplined me and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.”

The purpose of the story was to emphasize to her brother the necessity of good parenting. As the story says, this boy would not have ended up on death row if his mother had properly disciplined him. Thus, any forms of discipline that may seem strict or unfair can be justified through the use of this tale.