By George Bragg


Discipline … that positive quality which took man successfully to the moon is the same positive quality which has taken our choirboys successfully to Europe, and throughout America. His Holiness Pope Paul VI, himself a disciplinarian, spoke directly to the point, when he addressed The Texas Boys Choir: "What a great privilege is yours! Through your singing you create the peace and beauty of true art. You have undertaken much training and discipline and you are to be commended for this. We assure you of our prayers that God will bless you in the years to come with much joy and happiness." Discipline is the "magic carpet" which will continue to carry legions of choirboys millions of miles to share a love with loving audiences throughout the world!

Discipline is why there is Christmas! … A teacher who came to give definition to our thinking … a discipline for living. Discipline is what the great minds have shown us through the centuries. Discipline is the key … the key which unlocks our souls for the edification of our intellect … giving us a glimpse though our lives of the Infinite Beauty of the Divine Order and Intellect … and giving us a view of the greatness yet to be experienced by the disciplined Man.

Discipline is a positive quality, borne out of doing that which is necessary in order to accomplish a desired result. Discipline is energy directed for systematic training of the mind, body, and psyche to produce a controlled behavior; a state of order based upon acceptance of a standard of rules and authority.

How could we have had a Michelangelo or a Leonardo da Vinci without discipline? That is not to imply that they were free of frustration, for in the programming of the human mind toward its fulfillment, old patterns, outmoded thoughts and unreal (untrue) facts must be discarded and new material sometimes painfully put in its place.

The human animal rebels against the new. He fears that which is outside the established experience of his established existence. He fights against himself: the willingness to accept new ideas, while he holds desperately to the old concepts.

Thus we doubt today the value of interspacial exploration with the same thoughts which preceded the voyages of exploration which ultimately discovered the New World. We hold fear of the Computer Age … doubting our abilities to cope with programmed machines, when in essence Man has found the first real helpmate since Adam discovered Eve in Eden.

The machines, called computers, portend an age of impersonal relationships, but can it be more impersonal than dealing with a society which for one reason or another is "turned off"?

This age is another of those cycles of history being repeated. It is an age of the Anti-Hero … or more specifically, maybe it is the age of No Hero. Antiestablishmentarianism is not an original though of the Beat Generation or the Hippies or Yippies. Their unique philosophy is simply a reflection of an emptiness which springs from an earlier generation’s misgivings and doubts about what is important: good and beautiful and valid and true.

Fear not! The Anit-Hero Age will find its positive personalities .. and the No Hero worship will find itself in noble needs.

The dear and concern in all of this is that of having a generation of parents who sit at home still doubting … still empty of truths and beliefs … while the future generation – the one which they begat – searches, tests, questions and finds, and leaves them behind hopelessly lost and out of communication, because of a language barrier within a common language. It is the barrier of the language of experience and conclusion.

There is no fear of what the doubting, questioning Anti-Hero/No Hero generation will find. They or their offspring will ultimately discover that there are good principles by which we can live that give us greater happiness than other precepts of living. They will also discover that discipline of self is very often the balance between joy and sorrow, wealth and poverty, abundance and deprivation. The "lost" generation will find itself in the eternal principles which we must all come to accept at one time or another if we are to rise from our present plans of existence to a brighter and higher concept of ourselves and of God’s creation and purpose.

Rather is seems that we are approaching an even newer dimension of thinking, that being the Era of Facts. It would seem that this might somehow evolve into a philosophy which would give to our daily lives a freedom from doubt and fear … for what produces these deceivers – Doubt and Fear … ? A lack of knowledge of the facts!

Do you suppose the defeat of Albert Einstein by mathematics in the sixth grade gave him reason to come to know the joys and discipline of mathematics? One can possibly believe it could be true, for often our defeats cause us to see the error of our ways, thereby preparing our thinking to accept a different pattern and direction – with purpose.

It may be interesting to remember that Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, included Music as part of Mathematics because he saw in it discipline. Since, and maybe because of his initial concept of the spiritual and eternal realities, we have come to understand that everything, except failure, error, and imperfection, has a basis of discipline – whether it be the adherence to the law of gravity or to the happiness of living!

And so it is with the teaching of a child!

The first fact to know is: "What do we desire for this child? The greatest of which he is capable?" Some don’t, you know! Some, because of their own frustration and failure with living, resign themselves – and their "loved ones" to a state of permanent and perpetual mediocrity – the fear of failure.

If there is one anxiety in the American psyche, it is the fear of failure. The American cannot accept the possibility of failure – and yet this very fact and presence of fear causes constant failure – not the scoreboard kind – but the kind that causes students to retreat from confrontation with a subject or teacher – to give into lying, rather than to have the courage of his convictions: the kind of failure of a society which pats itself on its back for its so-called accomplishments, when in truth it knows how little effort and sacrifice really has been expended to help achieve some worthy difference.

What do we desire for this child? And how strongly do we believe in our desire? Do we believe in our desire enough to hold fast when we are bludgeoned by expediency and mediocrity on every side? Do we believe for a reason of fact, or a feeling of emotion, or a sense of spiritual identity?

To analyze our reason from time to time is to discover if our reason be valid and true.

We cannot be passive adults, nor permissive, uninvolved adults. We cannot even be in our thinking "without form and void." We must be remembered by this generation and by these souls entrusted to our guidance as positive, concerned, convinced, endowed, and thinking, caring adults who will gladly walk the "second mile", who will forgive 70 X 7, but who will be involved 70 X 7 – if necessary – yet not indulgent and repetitious in correction. We must be believing adults whose lives stand for something – preferably something good, at least – something great, if possible.

Let us be known for trying – trying hard, trying daily, testing ourselves in the contest, testing the results along the way – testing the child in his purpose, testing him for his worthiness as a son, and future citizen. Let’s test – and in the testing and the questioning, discover Discipline – and thereby come into that understanding which will make ourselves and our children "approved unto God."

To believe wholeheartedly in a child means that we love the child sufficiently to carry him from his animal-self to a hopefully higher level of existence called the human being. To humanize the animal is to bring into existence its developed intellect, controlled emotions, ordered activity, and purpose outside of self.

It is sometimes hard to like a child whom we love, but to really love him we must see him in his completed form – the butterfly – not the caterpillar. We must hold tightly to what we know he can do. We must not give in to bribery (extrinsic value) for accomplishment, but rather to give him the pleasure and integrity of doing for himself and finding the joy through strength of character (intrinsic value). We must teach him the virtue and value of intelligent listening as well as useable silence. The American school child knows nothing about the creative process of deductive listening, and almost nothing of the strength which comes from solitude or silence. We must love the student into existence by being an example of intelligent listening and a participant and practitioner of useable silence.

We must teach him with an economy of words – not a Niagara of criticism nor threats which produce no action, but which dull the conscience of the struggling human and distort his sense of values as to what is important. We must, somehow, prove to him, with honesty, that we love him in spite of everything. We must love him enough to protect him from himself and his selfishness which would rob him and his family. We must love him enough to spank him if it is the only means of communication left. We must love him enough to let him know that we care about him deeply … and that we, who work faithfully for his betterment, have feelings, also, which must be respected.

Like the space vehicles, it is better that the child student be launched into the unfamiliar on a known path, rather than being put into space on an undirected and uncharted course. Hence, the good reason of choosing a known group for the outlets of the child’s directed interests – a group which is accomplished, which creates an environment conducive to the patterns of good discipline.

What better way for the human to sense, test, and rebel against new ideas than within the safety of a group of accomplished peers.

And like the Computer Age, his programming continues to be productive only so long as we deal in facts. He wants values. He wants idealism – something many adults lose somewhere between young adulthood and the middle years. Herein lies the importance of sharing together the idealism of religion, and its morals – that we have a common point of reference, in time of joy and sorrow, as well as in daily living.

Parents need to experience a "learning situation" with the child. This is not to imply that a nightly session of homework with the child is that experience. It may not be of any real help at all. It can very easily, with a sensitive child, have a crippling effect on the student. The learning situation to which I refer is one of having a teacher for both child and parents – such as the minister. There is identity in such an experience.

To sit at the foot of greatness is uplifting to any age! To seek out and to share in the rewards of excellence is an opportunity that can only be uplifting and of value to everyone. For example: "Civilization," "The Making of a Revolution," some unique television presentation, biography or movie instructive in nature: "Jacques Cousteau."

This is an age which is discovering the value and technique of mass communication. There is one method which cannot be improved upon, however, and that is person-to-person conversation. It takes time, but there is no substitute when it comes to a child full of fear and frustration. And he gets that way from not knowing what the "score" is, both in standard, desire and expectation.

In watching and studying children and parents during the last 27 years, it has become obvious that certain principles are the foundations of success:

  1. The child who strives the hardest, is the child who is given little help.
  2. The parent who is loved the most, ultimately, is the parent who had pronciple as a guide and holds to that principle, unrelentingly.
  3. The child who respects others, respects himself first.
  4. The child with integrity is a child with fact, and a sense of place and purpose.
  5. The child with the least "hang-up" is the child with fewest fears – fantasies or otherwise.
  6. The child with no frustrations, no desires, no worries is an overly-indulged child, and usually spoiled and miserable.
  7. An overbearing, tyrannical, unreasonable parent often produces a submissive, polite, frightened, deceitful child.
  8. It is better and healthier to have open rebellion on the surface, than to force fear underground and thereby store up years of resentment and hatred only to have an explosion break forth in young adulthood.
  9. A student-child doesn’t want a buddy – he wants an adult who will guide him willingly, honestly and successfully – no matter how much he may disagree with and test that guidance.
  10. "Things" are never symbols of love – they are most often indulgences given in place of love! The true gifts are "gifts of the spirit" … they are also the hardest to give, for they must be practiced in living to be able to be given.
  11. The child with greatest progress as a child whose parent has not forgotten that he is still a child and prepares him for what is ahead of him in experience.
  12. The most successful parents are those who patiently, conscientiously, and honestly look after the child as a "guest from God," teaching with authority and kindness, the principles of Truth and Goodness.

* * * * * * *

  1. Do you know your child?
  2. Do you really like him as a person?
  3. Do you comprehend what his life and its purpose is all about?
  4. Do you respect him as an individual?
  5. Do you unselfishly love him enough to insist on guiding his life with good principle?
  6. Can you look at your child objectively enough to know when he is right or wrong? Or truthful?
  7. Do you practice and insist on good manners at home as well as in public?
  8. Do you earn your child’s respect or just expect it?
  9. Does your child earn yours or does he even know that it exists?
  10. Do you enjoy the status of being a parent or do you willingly or unwillingly find yourself in a state of bondage or servitude to your child?
  11. Are you a living example of what you want your child to be?
  12. Is your child a by-product of your marriage, or is your marriage a by-product of rearing your child?

How you relate to these questions and their answers may very well indicate your success as a parent in putting a young, wholesome, mature adult into the community of the next generation – and to have, meanwhile, a successful choirboy in your child’s own brief years.

The Choirboys who are participating, involved members of this Choir, are partakers of these observations and beliefs. They share in the devoted service by all the staff … even if the staff does not always agree with you. Their gift is constant and honest, and sincere in purpose to give each of you a choirboy who is honest, purposeful, reliable, steadfast, diligent and worthy of your efforts. It is hoped that all the parents are struggling to do the same for the Choir.

Only by our ability to produce the finest in a boy will we be able to produce the finest in Choirs. The key is discipline: discipline in active living, discipline in positive thinking, discipline in seeking our true and honest selves in order to confirm our beliefs, our ideas and our love to the children whom we guide … and to discover what is important … the good and beautiful, the valid, real and true.

© 2002 by George Bragg
Used with permission