The shame of shaming

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JOAN F. GOODMAN ( is a professor of education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.


  • I began reading this article with interest and finished it with a pit in my stomach. The author uses moral judgment “a persistent bully as immoral, cruel and damaging” and argues that shaming is appropriate–“in so abusing the dignity of others, she has lost her own, forfeiting the right not to be stigmatized (temporarily) by others.”
    Shame and guilt do not help children learn appropriate social behavior. Condoning shaming for bullies and stating that guilt is appropriate flies in the face of the progress being made in social emotional learning and restorative discipline practices.

  • To all my Teachers friends
    Something to contemplate when devising your classroom management protocols.
    It is a very in-depth article and you need to read the entire thing to get the full benefit of what it is stating.
    Enjoy and Question!!!

  • Dr. David Weston

    I agree with Goodman’s main thesis – shaming students is counterproductive. I also echo Mary Fowler’s surprise that Goodman backslides, condoning some use of shame.

    In my 20+ years as an administrator, I’ve not yet found a positive outcome when a staff member shamed or embarrassed a student. Early in my career, some veteran teachers would defend using embarrassment as a management tool. Yet How many of those defending such abuse would tolerate being intentionally embarrassed by their principal? Or would respond positively to being forced to apologize?

    Too often, staff members’ own emotional needs for power become the driver for staff response to student misbehavior. Like corporal punishment, it’s time we left such clearly counterproductive measures behind.

    Further, I would submit that our profession could use some solid research on the use of negative emotion by staff members when responding to undesirable student behavior. I submit that we can find effective responses that do not require negative emotion on our part.

    We adults should start with ourselves when in raising behavior expectations in our schools, and eliminating shame is a good place to start.

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