Category - Education

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Let’s Hear it for Shame V: Retrieving the Old Tool.
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Let’s Hear it for Shame IV: In Place of Shame
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Let’s Hear it for Shame III: Blaming Shame
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Let’s Hear it for Shame II: Once Upon a Time
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Let’s Hear It For Shame I: The Shame Game
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Sr. Dorothy Nook: Incessant Critic and Best of Friends
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Happy Birthday to FSM’s National College
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What Do You Say to Future Island Leaders?

Let’s Hear it for Shame V: Retrieving the Old Tool.

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. “Let’s Hear It For Shame” is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

V: Retrieving the Old Tool

With a little imaginative innovation, why can’t we reclaim a proper use of shame?


Individualism seems to be the bottom line in our society today, here in the islands as well as in the US. The government increasingly sees itself as the protector of every individual–even those in the tight embrace of the family–against mistreatment of any kind. In today’s society the government feels that it must do everything, including protecting children from their parents. In the past, our polity relied on small communities, including families, for a great measure of self-policing. The latter was done without handcuffs, much less jail cells, but it depended on strong doses of shame being administered as needed.

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Let’s Hear it for Shame IV: In Place of Shame

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. “Let’s Hear It For Shame” is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

IV: In Place of Shame

If we think that shaming someone is harmful, let’s pause to consider the alternative.


If we really believe that shame must not be used to control unacceptable behavior, then what can we use?  Well, we can always resort to far worse kinds of punishment to do the job. Over the past forty or fifty years we have done just that as the criminal justice system has expanded enormously. This happened just as shame was judged to be a less effective, or maybe a less acceptable tool of social control.

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Let’s Hear it for Shame III: Blaming Shame

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. “Let’s Hear It For Shame” is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

III: Blaming Shame

Today, when word of our foibles can travel so far, the use of shame for any reason whatsoever is suspect.


In the eyes of many today, the use of shame to punish misbehavior has itself become shameful. Part of this current reaction might be attributed to the enormous outreach of social media. Back in pre-Internet days, the scolding of a student who had misbehaved was heard by others in the class, rarely by the entire school.  Classmates of the student were expected to learn something from this example, but word of what had gone on was certainly not intended to reach the other side of country via a posting on YouTube.

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Let’s Hear it for Shame II: Once Upon a Time

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. “Let’s Hear It For Shame” is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

II: Once Upon a Time

Shame used to be seen as a blessing, if only because it could be counted on to keep people in line.


Not so long ago shame was seen in a very different light; it was regarded as a legitimate form of social control. Shame was the punishment for not conforming to the community standards. Men would have been ashamed to violate the dress codes of the day–like the one that required men to wear hats whenever they went outdoors.

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Let’s Hear It For Shame I: The Shame Game

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. “Let’s Hear It For Shame” is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

I: The Shame Game

This is the first segment of that series on shame, with all that it means today and meant in the past.


I was giving the keynote presentation at a Pacific education conference when something I said drew a gasp from the audience. I had just said that a second grade teacher of mine had scolded me for habitually writing the number 7 backwards. She called me up to the board and had me fill half the blackboard with 7’s written the right way while my classmates snickered. “Was I ashamed that day?” I asked rhetorically. “Sure,” I admitted, “but the shame didn’t kill my self-confidence or traumatize me.”

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Sr. Dorothy Nook: Incessant Critic and Best of Friends

It was sometime the late 1980s, as I remember. Sr. Dorothy and I were driving to some hotel or other on Saipan for the dress-up dinner that was to end a Micronesian library conference. We both heard a pop as our car suddenly began to swerve. It was a flat tire, we saw when we came to a stop. I looked at Dorothy, but she began a long monologue about how she knew nothing about changing car tires. So there was nothing I could do but crawl under the car to position the jack, start loosening the bolts, and find the spare tire. And hope that my good trousers and pressed shirt didn’t look too much the worse for wear when we finally got to the dinner. All the while, Dorothy was chirping away–wishing that we had left a little earlier in case of such emergencies, suggesting that we should have taken the middle road rather than the beach road, complaining about the condition of the highways, reminding me how late we were going to be for the dinner.

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What Do You Say to Future Island Leaders?

How often do you get a chance to spend a morning with thirty-some bright young islanders, many of them holding good government positions and destined to hold more important posts in the future? They are island leaders in the making–and the program held for them this past week on Guam was termed the Executive Leadership Development Program. These young people gathered from six different governments, including the various parts of Micronesia and American Samoa.

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