Humiliation and shame are powerful emotions, and humiliating moments are often very memorable. We all have memories of embarrassing things we did years ago, things that at-face-value are no longer relevant. The power of these emotions and the memorability associated with them is potentially very useful. Being placed in a thoroughly humiliating situation can motivate one to work harder as to prevent a reoccurrence of a similarly shameful event.
I know of certain people who, having discovered the power of humiliation, make attempts to shame, humiliate or even break people in an attempt to make them achieve more. Examples of these sorts of people can be found in popular media as well, such as in the picture whiplash.
In Whiplash, we follow the story of Andrew and his music teacher, Fletcher. Fletcher’s teaching methods are intense, humiliating at times, and physically abusive at others. Throughout the film, we see various students burst into tears during class, Andrew and the other drummers in the band often play until their hands bleed.
Later on in the film, we discover that on of Fletcher’s old students committed suicide, possibly due to the abusive teaching methods. The ethics of Fletcher’s teachings can be called into question, but one point is indisputable, Fletcher manages to push Andrew to perfection.
A similar method of teaching can be seen in the Vietnam film “Full metal jacket”. Here we follow a group of recruits throughout their army education. Whose who underachieve, look strange or break any of the strict rules, get physical and verbal abuse thrown their way by the drill-instructor. Once again, the efficacy is clear as day. The recruits who survive the training are disciplined, fit, will-less killing machines.
However, as before, not everyone makes it through the training. One recruit, known as Leonard, is humiliated so much that he snaps entirely. He improves in this training, especially while firing his rifle, who he has given a name, talks to regularly. One night, he ends up shooting the drill-instructor and himself after one final round of insults is thrown his way.
Humiliation in education seems to be in treacherous waters. On the one hand, a teacher is there to educate their students, if said teacher can also motivate those students to educate themselves, then they have done a truly great job. However, if the teacher takes their humiliation so far as to make the student lose all interest, then we might agree that the teacher has completely failed in their position. Even more so if the bullying ends in suicide for the student. As such, I will not make a general-, definitive-statement on this issue, but I will say this: I am personally willing to suffer some humiliation if it results in greater eventual performance when adversity is overcome.
As Aldous Huxley put it:
“being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune”
Or to use another quote which is attributed to many people:
“I have been bent and broken, but hopefully into a better shape.”