Suitably cowed, children turned into adults willing to accept being cannon fodder in battle, or factory stooges who would endure appalling conditions for meagre wages.
Thankfully, children are taught to develop control from within now, but new research hints that exercising self-control might be storing up different psychological problems for our young people to face as adults.
On the surface, reinforcing the importance of self-control as a key to academic success is a no-brainer.
The willpower that keeps a pupil studying on a Saturday night when all of their friends are out partying, or the ability to not be disheartened by a poor grade but try again to improve, are cornerstones to success in school.
The famous marshmallow experiment conducted in the 1970s calibrated the positive affect that this ability can have on an individual.
The careers of young children who were given the choice of having one sweet treat now, or two a short while later, were analysed as adults. Those who managed to wait for two marshmallows had better college entrance results and were less likely to be obese, aggressive, drug takers or smokers than their more impulsive peers.
The more recent discovery that self-control is more like a car battery than a petrol engine, in that it can grow with practice rather than be depleted, has helped educators teach their charges to be in command of their actions.
Yet while successful self-control practices in a class might make teaching a joy, there might be serious repercussions for students later on in their lives
They may find themselves put upon at work; the members of staff given more tasks as they are more likely to just get on with it without complaint.
Whereas they might quietly shoulder this extra burden, they will not necessarily like it.
Furthermore, other research suggests that self-control may inhibit the ability to feel positive emotions.
Perhaps the saddest of all findings is that long after the invites to teenage parties have dried up, those self-controlling super humans often feel regret at the good times they missed.
Although we may assume that highly self-controlled people have other positive attributes, such as a strong moral compass, there is no connection. In fact for those who are amoral, self-control might allow them to squash their humane instincts to commit fraud or other crimes.
However, we can encourage our pupils to develop their powers of self-control without potentially ruining their lives.
Speaking in the New Scientist magazine, psychologist Liad Uziel of Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel suggests that teachers could help students learn to turn off the engine of self-control once exams have passed.
He adds that people with low self-control tend to be conformists; telling them the whole class has picked up the voluntary homework might encourage them to do likewise.