My 8-year old son, William, told me how justice is dispensed in classroom at his school. The response to a misdemeanor depends on the number of prior offences (= the ‘Level’).
- Level 1, a verbal warning.
- Level 2, a verbal warning.
- Level 3, a verbal warning + a ‘chat’ with the teacher.
- Level 4, a verbal warning + a ‘chat’ + an entry in the take-home school diary.
- Level 5, a verbal warning+ a chat + an entry + visit to school head.
Fortunately William has only got to the Level 2 and that was for ‘fooling-around’ in class. In fact, no-one seems to have ever made it past Level 3. By the end of the day the slate is wiped clean and the schedule starts afresh. This creates some unusual incentive issues – after three offences kids tend to clam-up in fear of getting to the next level and wait until the next day to repeat offend. Levels of bad behaviour are, at least, ‘smoothed’ over time.
Hypothetically, for sixth and higher level offences on a given day, fifth level offence punishments repeat although I guess the head has her own schedule. William was unclear whether very severe offences would lead to an automatic jump to a high level or not since such high-level misdemeanors had never occurred.
A useful model for the criminal justice system? This classroom situation is a bit like an iterated prisoner’s dilemma where tit-for-tat is improved upon by periodic (in this case daily) bouts of forgiveness.