I need to thank Jakartass for the links that form the basis of this post. It is a topic I had been thinking about, perhaps reminiscing is a more apt word, as my 21st high school reunion approaches. I was on the end of that generation that was the last to see corporal punishment, specifically caning.
Amongst my mates and I getting the cane was a bit of a status thing. We used to keep a running tab across the year to see who could get caned the most. There were some bragging rights to be had for punishable bad behaviour. And it was always more preferable at boarding school to get "six of the best" strokes of the cane than it was to lose leave privileges or sports privileges or the like. We were always caned on the hands. There were no paddling of the buttocks at my school.
I remember once having to wire brush a fence and then repaint it as punishment for having condoms in my locker (different story and has nothing to do with sex) and thinking even 12 strokes of the cane would be better than having to spend two months re-painting a fence.
Interestingly in the more than 20 years since the cane has been banned as a form of punishment there are now more than 20% of UK teachers thinking that the re-introduction of the cane would be a good thing. This is somewhat modified and the re-introduction is being thought of as a measure to manage "extreme"bad behaviour. I wonder what extreme is though?
The results are based on a survey conducted by the Times Educational Supplement and some 6,162 teachers were asked whether or not they would support the right to use corporal punishment.
It seems that the slightly more than 20% of teachers who would support the re-introduction of the cane would do so as the ultimate deterrent. They would do so because they no longer believe that current means of disciplining students is working.
It is not surprising that there has been some surprise at the results of the survey, particularly from groups such as children's rights groups and charities and from the teachers union itself.
The Children's Commissioner for England said, "All forms of physical punishment against children and young people are completely unacceptable and go against the UN convention on the rights of the child, which the UK accepted in 1991. There are far more effective and positive methods of discipline than physical punishment."
I suppose there are some teachers that would like to have the Commissioner do a please explain with regard to what alternatives there are that work as he sees it.
Violence against children is unacceptable. But the key here would be what is the definition of violence? Do we mean physical violence is not acceptable? Do we mean psychological violence is not acceptable? Let's face it a good public dressing down can do as much psychological harm as a few strokes of the cane can do physical harm (strictly my opinion -- no empirical research to back this up).
The reality though is that there are still almost 80% of teachers who would not support a re-introduction of corporal punishment. This means that the chances of this debate getting any serious air time and discussion will require that the numbers get much closer together. When it gets to an almost 50-50 split then there will be a much more interesting debate brewing with a much different dynamic.
Perhaps the alternative to the re-introduction of corporal punishment is to force the disciplining of children back onto the parents. Any infraction of school rules sees the child sent home immediately with a note saying that the child will not be re-admitted to classes until there is a guarantee from the parent(s) that the behaviour will not occur again. If the child re-offends then they are suspend automatically for a week. A second offence would result in a month's suspension. A third infraction would result in expulsion and the problem child can be handed-off to another school to deal with.
The idea of getting the cane when I was in high school meant that in order to avoid it I had to not get caught. It was very much the reward - punishment dichotomy. The punishment did not deter the bad behaviour, to the contrary it taught us to be better on the planning and execution in order not to get caught and not to get caned.
However, if it was to ever pass that corporal punishment was to be re-introduced then the teachers who are granted the authority to do it must pass physical checks to ensure they are up to the task. If the cane is going to be a deterrent then it has to hurt when you are caned. I can remember some of the teachers at my high school were somewhat lacking physically and getting caned by them hurt less than getting kicked in the shins playing football.
Second, they must pass an accuracy test. As I recall it hurt like hell getting caned on the wrists. However, sometimes this was self-inflicted by pushing my hand forward rather than pulling it away. Simply, when word got around that this teacher was a woeful shot then they generally were no longer allowed to cane students and had to get in a proxy to do the deed.
Ah, corporal punishment and high school. Now, those were the days!