Wednesday, July 6, 2011

corporal punishment

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“It was a bad day for schools and society at large when corporal punishment was banned in schools”

For many centuries, corporal punishment was a fact of life for British schoolboys. Physical punishment has all but disappeared from our schools, the cane, strap, slipper and birch are virtually historical relics. Now, only the older generations know what pain these instruments brought to the victim, and also what fear there was of it.

Young children are rarely hit nowadays. People simply think that it isn’t right, but not that long ago, it was thought necessary. Parents argued that for instance, children get to a stage, when nothing else will work on them. They get into a mental lock, when they will only cry. The pain itself on the back of the legs or wherever, doesn’t last for long anyway. It is effective, and the improvement in behaviour last for a great deal longer than the pain. Children also get into the habit, that when they are good, they are rewarded, and when they are bad, they are punished. This encourages them to be good, as their memories of being bad, were painful.

The reasons given by the campaigner’s again smacking children had a number of reasons, not to smack ones child. They said for instance, that there are mental scars left to children. Children may become very timid and shy of adults. It isn’t that effective, as the child after a day forgets about the pain, and does the deed again. A fair point to consider, is that when an animal is hurt, in any way, people take it away, and care for it properly, but it seems that it is ok to smack children, make them cry, and nobody would give a second thought. Although smacking children by parents was not really banned, teachers smacking pupils in schools, was.

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Britains famous public schools were once a good example for beating and flogging. Ironically many of the leading public schools were in the vanguard of the first moves towards the abandonment of corporal punishment in the 160s and 170s, abolishing the cane some years before their counterparts in the state system. The cane was finally abolished in state schools in 187 after a long campaign by pressure groups such as S.T.O.P.P. (The Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment). At that time a good number of schoolteachers wished to retain corporal punishment as an ultimate sanction, but it would be difficult to find a majority in favour now.

A boy who attended one such whacking school ( a boys grammar school in the English midlands) during the 170s recalls

Whackings were normally carried out by the deputy headmaster, a sallow skinned Irishman with a well deserved reputation for strictness who certainly knew how to apply the cane to maximum effect. Boys whose names appeared on the whacking list had to visit this gentleman directly after morning assembly the next day. You had to bend over a heavy oak stool, which I assume he kept for this purpose, and anything up to six strokes of the cane were inflicted, depending upon the seriousness of your offence. I was caned on several occasions as a junior and it hurt an awful lot. The fact that you were put on the whacking list the day before was an added punishment. It meant that you had almost an entire day and evening to think about your impending caning and you always set out for school the next day with butterflies in your stomach.

Teachers and parents alike said that this encouraged discipline, manners, and a respect for elders, in the school, and at home. Severity differed, one could get a single stroke, numerous ones, on both hands, on the buttocks, and so this punishment could be regulated. Parents said that educational standards have dropped since the loss of the cane in schools. Latest findings have found that 66% of parents believe behaviour has declined in the last 10 years, and 51% would like to see corporal punishment reintroduced; 47% are opposed.

I think overall, that corporal punishment was an effective means of punishment. It brought discipline, order, and fear into school children. It was not severe, and was an alternative to verbal fright, which is nowadays used to scare the pupil, and it usually doesn’t work anyway. The older generations would nowadays say, that it was indeed painful, but it made men out of them.

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