Behavioral Psychology

Sadistic Teachers And Coaches

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Some teachers and coaches claim that the only way to motivate certain students and players is through getting on their cases, through threats and admonishments, through verbal abuse. But this claim is a bunch of bullshit and says a lot more about the sadism of those teachers and coaches than it does about the masochism of the students and players.

As Mr. Miyagi once put it, there are no bad students only bad teachers. There are a lot of bad teachers out there with their own sadistic agendas, rationalized under the pretext of simply trying to get the most out of their pupils. But what they’re really doing is no different from what all sadistic abusers do. They’re targeting victims predisposed to accept their sadistic words and actions without putting up much of a fight. They’re giving free rein to their sadistic impulses in a space they judge, consciously or unconsciously, to be relatively safe from retaliation.

Since students by their very nature don’t yet have full competence in whatever it is they’re pursuing, there are basically two ways to motivate them along the continuum in order to help them reach an acceptable level of competence. The first is to point out how and why their current efforts aren’t good enough, focusing in on what they’re doing wrong. The second is to point out how and why their current efforts are headed in the right direction, focusing in on what they’re doing right. There’s ample room for both in any learning situation. The first is negative reinforcement while the second is positive reinforcement. Each type of reinforcement is proven to make the behavior being reinforced occur more often in the future.

But the teachers and coaches we’re talking about here don’t even consider positive reinforcement as a training option because in their heart of hearts helping their students succeed is of only secondary importance. What’s of primary importance is the release of sadistic impulses, and this can only happen through the application of negative reinforcement. We’re not saying that all negative reinforcements are sadistic, we’re saying that all sadists use and revel in the punishments embedded within negative reinforcements. It’s these punishments, effectively hidden within the training tool, that compel sadistic teachers and coaches to exclusively use negative reinforcements to motivate their students and players, all under the guise of trying to help them excel.