I am writing in reply to the recent publication of an item on the topic of corporal punishment. I do not agree that it is needed to bring discipline back into our schools. It is assumed that a child who has been caned would be less likely to commit another offence , but this was never proved and , in fact , one theory holds that severe corporal punishment increases the likelihood of future offences.
There are better ways to discipline students than hitting them. Some parents may believe that spanking a child may be beneficial but apart from being potentially dangerous physically, it can lower their self esteem, hinder their academic abilities and may even contribute to disruptive and violent behaviour. Some pupils may feel so afraid to go to school that they are tempted to play truant.
Over the past few years we have become more and more obsessive over bringing our lives into the twenty first century and now , here you are telling us that we should bring back corporal punishment, a system which is looked upon as old fashioned ! Discipline should begin in the home . Parents have and should accept the task of instilling in their children respect for right and wrong, respect for others and all the other basic lessons of living, working, playing and learning with others. They should try to teach him to control himself and take responsibility for his actions and their consequences .
Unfortunately, because some parents find it difficult to do this from infancy , the teachers role is all the more difficult. Still, restoring this rule is not the way to resolve theses difficulties. Get to children in infancy and their early years and their lives will be shaped more fully for future growth. Restoring their teachers’ power to hit them across the bottom or knuckles doesn’t fit that picture. Forget Roald Dahl’s book entitled “Boy” tells about the times when corporal punishment was allowed to take place in all schools. A passage from the book tells of how , aged nine, Dahl was caned six times for talking during prep.
Even though he had had a perfectly good excuse he got the same punishment another child would probably have got for defacing school property or stealing. I think that this reinforces my earlier suggestion that teachers may take advantage of their authority and harass pupils they may have taken a dislike to. Dahl states in his book “the fear of the dreaded cane hung over us like the fear of death all the time” and “the cruel cane ruled our lives…. we were caned for doing everything that it was natural for small Summerhill is the opposite extreme. It is a school in England dedicated to providing an environment where pupils can be themselves. There are only a few rules to abide by although these do not include necessity to attend classes, no set bedtimes, swearing is acceptable and all pupils are free to express themselves in whatever way they feel suits them best .
Problems are sorted out at the Meetings and punishment is no more than suspension for a set period of time depending on the offence. Due to the lack of discipline there is a constant worry about bullying and other forms of violence in Summerhill. A compromise between the harshness of corporal punishment and the total lack of discipline in situations such as that in Summerhill is the system that is currently in use in Northern Ireland today So I remain in the opinion that corporal punishment is unfair and should not be allowed to return to schools as a form of discipline. If you are genuinely trying to show pupils how to behave you will not need to hurt or shame them. Behavior which is anti-social will bring with it its own uncomfortable consequences.