04 October 2008

Corporal Punishment

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!


Polar Bear said...

I cannot ever countenance violence against children, no matter the reason.

Teachers should be able to impose will be strength of personality. If the cannot, then they are poor teachers.

Rather then teach them how to cane, teach them how to use words, body language and voice to achieve the aim.

Rob Baiton said...


There are many who feel the same way as you with regards to caning being violence against children and therefore absolutely prohibited.

The piece was really to point out that there is a minority out there, at least in the UK, that would not be adverse to a return of the cane.

It would be interesting for me to be able to find a survey on corporal punishment when corporal punishment was still a possibility and find out whether the support is the same, less, or more in comparison.

lastlifeinmyuniverse said...

my sisters and i had to put up with corporal punishment from our parents and teachers quite a bit when we were much younger. we grew up to despise and fear them for what they did. yet at the same time, we headed towards the "right" direction and were considered "good and obedient" kids. one thing for sure, i'm never hitting my future kids for any reason whatsoever.

but then again...

Polar Bear said...

Upon reflection I need to go into greater detail on my position in this matter.

I commented somewhere else that I thought the army was too soft on trainee soldiers. That to toughen them up for combat you need to be tough on them.

That doesn’t mean a Sergeant should punch a solder for a clerical error. It does mean a swift kick in the ribs on a firing range may well be required to correct a dangerous error. Better a bruised rib than a dead comrade.

Similarly, teachers shouldn’t use physical violence in almost all situations. There are, however, a few where it may be justified.

A playground fight is just part of being at school. A serious beating of one pupil by a group of others is very different.

A good punch from a large teacher might be the best lesson the pupils ever get.

Rob Baiton said...


I am glad that I wrote something that inspired a comment :D

You're planning on kids?

The "how" to discipline children is something I am thinking more about for obvious reasons at this point in time (although I am not expecting to have to get into it too much for a little while yet).

I have always been sharper with my tongue than my fists. I good witty put down always works for me in preference to physical violence. Perhaps just as damaging as well in the end.


Having your cake and eating it too?

Just kidding. But it is an interesting argument in terms of where do we draw the line? Is there an acceptable location for this line? What behaviour would warrant corporal punishment in the school environment? Is the example between the army and school a valid one, if we consider that the training of soldiers is a life and death one?

Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,

I just stumbled upon your site today.

Re. caning, I recall there was a controversial case in mid or beginning 1990s. So controversial that it made front pages, CNN and the likes. Even Larry King invited him over to his show.

That was, if I am not mistaken, a teenager (or at least a very young guy) from the States who was in Singapore and did graffiti somewhere. He got caught in the act and got caning as punishment. Then he went back to the States and sat on Larry's chair to tell his experience in the 'fine' city.

Anyway I am against this practice and think it should be banished from all schools.

Have a great Sunday!

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Yep, I recall the case as well. I guess everyone has their 15 minutes of fame sooner or later.

I suppose Singapore takes graffit a little more seriously than some other places :D

On the corporal punishment and schools issue. It is a long way from getting back on the agenda. It probably has less to do with teachers than it does with parents.

I am guessing that most parents would have a problem with someone else whacking their kid.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think caning is a serious corporal punishment while a flick on the ear is don't.

As much as I am against people hitting their own kids, sometimes I wish Danish moms here would flick their kids' ears when they behave in a very impossible way.

It's just to remind like "thou shall not act like that" and I'm telling you how to behave.

Leaving kids altogether to do whatever they want (like the way of the Danes raise their kids here) is bad. Very bad. There has been a debate on how one should raise one's kid and I find it quite ridiculous.

They'd rather be the kids' friends here than having confrontation / argument and leave the kids to dowhatever they want (there are tons of cases like this) which will end up bad (in higher percentage than the kids would end up good)

So I vote for discipline although it shouldn't leave serious bruises on their kids, just little bruise on their ego to learn who's the one who knows better (pardon me for being raised in Indonesian way LOL)

Rob Baiton said...


Yesterday when I swung by your blog I got a message that said the blog had been deleted? I see you are back online now though albeit with a different look.

No need to apologize for being raised in the Indonesian way. You seem to have turned out good and with your head screwed on right :D

Some people I think would be adverse to even a clip on the ear as a means of discipline for their kids. I have gotta say that in Indonesia I have seen more "kids gone wild" in shopping centers and elsewhere than most places I have either lived on been in the world.

Perhaps I have just been in Indonesia too long and it is time for a change ;)

This is not a stereotype. I have seen plenty of Indonesian parents disciplining their kids too.

Polar Bear said...

More having and eating here:

Perhaps it is juastified in clearly defined and limited situations...

Just as knowing that sticking ones fingers in the power socket will lead to pain/death, so too maybe some school situations should warrant the infliction of pain, but only where the students health or wellbeing of others is at stake.

Rob Baiton said...


I was merely trying to get at where we draw a subjective line in the sand. Being a lawyer makes more stuff subjective than really needs to be.

Like, for example, the physical welfare of others. Should a kid be caned for punching the lights out of another kind in a playground smack down? Or when we talk physical welfare are we talking about where students bring knives to school and threaten other students?

The knives example I would suggest could be handled by the police.

Anonymous said...

@rob: Yup, I bought my own domain and that brought a lot of problem (should have learned about "don't fix whatever that isn't broken") and this new domain apparently has "automatically" deleted my old blog. I'm writing to Blogger/Google to complain about that and we'll see what happens.

about kids gone wild. You were right actually. Kids in Indonesia are more "prone" to do wild things while kids in Denmark are rather well-behaved, but once they reach teenager stage, you could see the difference between these two (I'm just observing here). I read a lot in articles / maagazines how Danish kids try to join various activities like Nazi club, or throwing stones at the police because their parents just allow them to do whatever they want while there's some sort of norms / traditions that hold most Indonesian teenagers back (well, I'm not discussing about sex here).

There has been talk here about how the parents should be held responsible for all the mischiefs that their kids doing and I'm planning to write that very soon, once I get over this huge thesis report.


Rob Baiton said...


Good luck with the domain thing.

I have bought one as well I just have not got around to doing anything about it. I paid for five years up front and it was about 30 bucks I think.

I really do need to do something different than just this plain old template :D

Good Luck.

votetheday.com said...

You can express your opinion on this controversial topic right here - http://www.votetheday.com/society-18/caning-is-returned-to-schools-313

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and promoting your site :D

I fell into the trap and checked out your site and even voted.

Enjoy your day!