h1

Corporal Punishment

March 8, 2009

The trouble with discussing corporal punishment in schools is that there are very few coherent moral principles that can be applied, specifically, to corporal punishment, as opposed to punishment in general. Ultimately it is almost a matter of aesthetics rather than ethics and we simply ask: “how pleasing, or displeasing, is the idea of teachers inflicting physical pain on students?” I tend towards the idea that corporal punishment does not fit with my idealised view of teachers as civilised academics imparting the fruits of their expertise, not as substitute parents. Routinely making physical contact with the young is normal in parents but should not be normal in academics; it is just a bit too familiar for me. For that reason I do not endorse the reintroduction of corporal punishment, or at least I’d like to see all schools using other sanctions effectively before we consider adding another sanction.

However, despite my opposition to corporal punishment, when I go anywhere near this issue I usually end up inciting the aggression of opponents of physical punishments, or rather those opponents who are Punishment Puritans: hysterical appeasers of the badly behaved convinced that everyone who disagrees with them about corporal punishment is some form of barbarian or primitive. (For instance see some of the posts here, where one teacher suggests that surveys about corporal punishment “should be used to find out who these evil perverts are then they should be ‘outed’ and humiliated”). I guess I find this sort of display objectionable because my opposition to corporal punishment is entirely based around my personal tastes regarding how teachers should be. I have absolutely no problem with parents or the police using corporal punishment on children. I don’t have any time at all for the main arguments used against corporal punishment, many of which are actually arguments against all punishment, and I find the sanctimonious rhetoric used by the Punishment Puritans deeply insulting to my intelligence.

Firstly, it is argued that it is wrong in principle to harm students. Obviously it is never simply phrased like that. Hyperbole is almost compulsory. Words like “child abuse” or “torture” are thrown around as if every teacher before 1987 was a cross between Josef Mengele and Fred West. Of course, this argument is worthless. Punishments are meant to be unpleasant, and so in that sense are always harmful and to suggest that children must never experience the unpleasant, no matter how much they deserve to, is to dismiss the possibility of justice. Punishment, even corporal punishment, is not, however, harmful in the sense of being against the child’s interests in the long term. It is harmful only in the sense that hard work, an inoculation or physical exercise is harmful. It is harmful only from the point of view of someone who thinks that it does one harm to experience anything other than immediate unremitting pleasure, regardless of the consequences. This is “harm” only to those who believe that children should be encouraged to be hedonists.

The next objection is usually the pacifist objection: corporal punishment is wrong because it is violence. Now it is quite clear that a large part of the British middle class have an attitude to violence that is akin to the Victorian attitude to sex. They refuse to acknowledge that it is happening, that it is ever necessary, or that it could ever be a good thing. I suppose this position is consistent with an extreme pacifism. There are people who have such intense pacifist convictions that if they had been around sixty-five years ago they would have suggested welcoming Nazi invaders and preached to Jews about how “passive resistance” was the best response to being exterminated. Of course, such people are fairly rare and so we instead have the self-righteous middle class version of pacifism. This involves pretending that all violence is unnecessary and unusual simply because it isn’t required at middle class dinner parties. This often leads to bizarre delusions about how the world operates. I have encountered people who claim that “in real life” (as opposed to school life) verbal abuse isn’t punished with violence; presumably they don’t get out much and have never gone to a football match or any bar that doesn’t mainly serve wine. Others have told me that the police don’t use violence; they simply “restrain” people where necessary, leaving me to wonder why they sometimes have batons, attack dogs and guns. Who knows what the chattering class pacifist thinks the armed forces are for? The fact is that our quality of life is protected by the willingness of people, particularly the armed forces and the police, to use violence. Prudishness can make one pretend that this sort of thing only happens among the swinish multitudes, while the middle-class professional can wash their hands of it all, but this is simple hypocrisy. No society can exist without some level of violence, or threat of violence, being used to keep order. Beyond that there is something frankly absurd about considering all “violence” as equally concerning. It reminds me of this:

The most ridiculous objection, one that again could be used against all punishment, is that corporal punishment didn’t work. Usually this is amplified by the claim that students would still behave badly when corporal punishment existed, or that some students would continue to misbehave after being subjected to corporal punishment. Of course, this is to return to the earlier discussion of the purposes of punishment. If the purpose of punishment is to make children into saints, or to deter all misbehaviour, then, of course, corporal punishment did not work. However, by this logic, every other punishment or any other method of dealing with poor behaviour also doesn’t work. Nothing we do can change human nature. Punishment serves not to eliminate sin but to increase justice by inflicting a penalty on those who deserve it. It is obvious that corporal punishment worked in this respect. Unless it didn’t actually punish at all then it would work by definition. Unless all children were completely indifferent to physical punishment, seeing it as a reward or something they felt completely neutral about receiving, then of course it worked. As well as this, given the extent to which corporal punishment has been used in the past and is still used in other countries it would only be the most arrogant of ideologues who could ever believe that it is never effective. The claim is all the more ridiculous when we consider how corporal punishment was abolished. It was not gradually rejected, a school at a time, due to its ineffectiveness. It was outlawed by the Government against the wishes of the majority of teachers and parents because it was creating legal difficulties because of how widespread it was. If it was ineffective, it would not have taken an act of parliament to stop its use. It had to be banned because it was effective, not because it was ineffective. No Government has ever showed any desire in general to outlaw the “ineffective” in our schools.

Finally the ad hominem usually appears at some point in this discussion. Sometimes it is connected with the arguments that have already appeared. Any one who advocates, or is not sufficiently indignant about, corporal punishment, is condemned as a child abuser, a violent brute or simply too unintelligent to understand that corporal punishment never worked. Sometimes the accusations are aimed directly at teachers who have used corporal punishment. It is claimed they were motivated by sadism or sexual perversion. No doubt there are some issues here, but they are issues about which parts of the body are appropriate to be struck, and whether men should be teaching teenage girls in the first place. A general claim about perversion associated with corporal punishment is not terribly credible on an empirical level, simply because of the extent to which corporal punishment has been and is used. (What proportion of the teaching profession in certain eras and countries are meant to have been perverted?) The other point to make here is that to punish children by methods that are only used on children, can never be perverted. It can be perverted to treat children like they were adults, which is why paedophiles have opposed laws that seek to distinguish between children and adults on grounds of age. It can be perverted to treat adults like they were children; some adults have a predilection for being caned by other adults or by being otherwise treated as a child. There is, however, no perversion in treating children like they were children.

There is one final argument. Sometimes the Punishment Puritans declare that “if they brought back the cane, then I would have no choice but to quit teaching”. It is at this point that I start to think that maybe bringing back the cane would be for the best after all.

About these ads

63 comments

  1. Assuming just one teacher derived sexual satisfaction from hitting students (and as we know from reported cases the actual figure in fact far exceeded one), is that not reason enough to forever ban the practice? Also why is this a subject for discussion only in Britain and not a single other country in Europe? Speaks volumes I think for the general British attitude to children and to education.


  2. Assuming just one teacher derived sexual satisfaction from hitting students (and as we know from reported cases the actual figure in fact far exceeded one), is that not reason enough to forever ban the practice?

    You are suggesting that something should be banned because it might cause one person sexual pleasure? I guess I was more accurate than I thought with that Punishment Puritan label.

    Incidentally, what “reported cases”?

    Also why is this a subject for discussion only in Britain and not a single other country in Europe?

    It is banned in Europe, including here. Forgive me if I am not appalled at Britain for being a country in Europe where that is not seen as the end of the debate. Forgive me also for not seeing the continent of Europe as the world expert on child-rearing.

    Speaks volumes I think for the general British attitude to children and to education.

    I think I mentioned the ad hominem earlier on as one of the least convincing arguments. It is particularly unconvincing when you describe Britain as if it is somehow more supportive of corporal punishment than is normal. It is banned in our schools, and limited in our homes. Now perhaps you wanted to claim that, say, the older generation (for whom corporal punishment was normal) or people from cultures where corporal punishment is more normal, are less caring about children than the average modern British person but I doubt that is what you see around you.


  3. France only formally banned corporal punishment in March 2008, so I’m not sure I follow your point, rollyr. They banned collective punishment in 2000, and reintroduced it in 2004, so there’s precedent for them backtracking. It is also still allowed in schools in Switzerland, which last time I checked was a country in Europe.


  4. Some good points Old Andrew. I am against Capital Punishment in schools for broadly the same reasons you are. As a teacher I don’t really see it as my place or my right to really administer that ultimate sanction. I also feel (and this will be my philosophy as a parent) that one should always go for the alterantives as 9 times out of 10 there are better ways to discipline than a smack. That’s just my feeling. It is a difficult side of the debate to be on though when your allies (if you want to call them that) are annoying you to the point of opposition for the reasons you’ve outlines above.

    In conclusion I feel thata properly thought-out, consistant and well-run discilpine policy that does not use capital punishment will do as well, if not bette,r than one that does use it.


  5. Whoever said I was against Capital Punishment in schools? String ‘em up, that’s the only language they understand.

    (That was a joke, by the way)


  6. Sometimes I do think the only way to enforce oneway systems in schools is to shoot everyone who tried to walk the wrong way down a corridor. That would include staff………

    But regarding Zebra’stools point; does anyone else find they often use the phrase capital punishment by accident when discussing corporal punishment. I do far too often.

    fat-tony


  7. Don’t some people get sexual pleasure from marking students books? Is that a good case for banning the practice?

    fat-tony


  8. Don’t some people get sexual pleasure from marking students books? Is that a good case for banning the practice?

    It seems unlikely that anybody gets sexual pleasure from marking books.

    But it’s probably too big a risk to take, let’s ban it now.


  9. I’m opposed to corporal punishment in families on the where-do-we-go-from-here-if-it-doesn’t-work principle. Tho’ smacking a toddler’s fingers near the fire doesn’t trouble me.
    In schools, I think professionals should be able to design and implement a sensible system which does not involve physical punishment. All head teachers and their offsiders should be forced to watch episodes of nanny shows until they can present a plan showing how these principles can be applied to discipline students of the age attending their schools.
    It’s not rocket science. Consistency, cooperation among the adults involved, consistency, predictability, consistency, certainty, consistency.
    The reason people like the idea of physical punishments is that they seem quick and easy. Non-physical methods are ‘harder’ because you can never let up. But they’re only harder if you’ve got no backup. Of course if there’s no real ‘method’ involved, you’re defeated from the start.


  10. My problem with corporal punishment (& I did receive it twice in my youth) is that it would not be fairly or equally imposed. Some people – maybe those who enjoy giving out punishments – would do so for every potential infringemt; others wouldn’t.

    Me, well I simply would turn a blind eye rather than enforce it, so the the unintended consequences would be less discipline. Instead let me suggest;
    a) Saturday morning detentions (run by cover supoervisors & SLT) for severe rule breaking; enforced by:
    b) removal of child benefit for those parents who do not make their children attend Saturday detentions.


  11. Adelady,

    I’ve seen ‘super nanny’. I’ve no doubt her methods are sound but are they actually legal in schools?

    I mean if the toddler refuses to go to the naughty step super nanny puts them there. This sort of physical intervention would likely cost me my job if I tried it with the students. Aside from the physical moving of children I don’t see how Super nanny’s methods are much different from what happens in a lot of schools today.


  12. For more and more children, especially those in the sorts of schools I work in, being knocked about at home is increasingly commonplace. So no, I don’t agree with corporal punishment in school – although I haven’t always felt that way.

    But we have yet to find sanctions that some of the kids care enough about for it to be any sort of deterrent to bad behaviour, although I think that is thinking along the right lines. One school I was at was trialling detentions before school at 7am. Having them after school or in breaks or luncthtime isn’t enough any more – we need to make them even more inconvenient for the kids and perhaps a few more of them will think twice.

    The only other thing that would hurt sufficiently I suppose, is to surgically remove their mobile phones…


  13. Sorry, that should have said that I think that Giles is thinking along the right lines…


  14. James

    I dón’t really think that standing in the corner or a naughty step is suitable for anyone over the age of 4. The important message from these things is about parents/adults making up their minds about setting limits and sticking to them – relentlessly.

    I very much doubt that deciding to implement such routines after age 12 would succeed for more than a 50%. But if primary schools started imposing order and routine while most kids are still amenable to adult approval, secondaries might have a chance with many more of their students than they do now.

    Considering the horrid home life that so many kids come from, school could be a safe haven of order, calm and respect – but only if the worst behaved students were transferred or excluded in PRUs or whatever.


  15. I think Mr Chipper is quite correct. Super Nanny and all these shows use violence – it’s termed as restraints but it is surely just a very mild form of violence.
    The problem when we say ‘corporal punishment’ is what do we mean. I have been told by people older than myself that teachers would hit children across the face or head or throw things at them etc.
    I think physical violence is inappropriate in a school, as we should lead by example. I also feel that Andrew is right is saying that is it not appropriate for academics to be hitting their students.
    However most punishment is pointless if not back up by physical force i.e. you move a student to sit on their own but if they choose to just walk out the classroom what can you do about it. I believe physical restraints should be acceptable but actually hitting should continue to be banned.
    I do believe we can punish students in others ways. Why can’t we just ban them from eating, or make them do twenty laps of the football pitch. They’d get some exercise too so we can kill two birds with one stone.


  16. 1. Hitting another person is called “assault”, and is a crime, even if the person you hit is your size or bigger. I’ve always wondered why, if that person is much, much smaller and weaker than you (or a woman), the societal condemnation is worse and you may reasonably expect greater punishment, but if they’re much, much smaller and weaker AND MUCH YOUNGER than you, it’s OK and you’ve not committed a crime at all.

    2. Teaching is a dangerous enough “profession” as it is. Any adult assaulting a child I was responsible for, for any reason, would subjected to swift and effective physical retribution, with the clear message that if it ever happened again the consequences would be much worse. And bear in mind that this response come from an intelligent middle class professional (a *real* professional, not a teacher). I don’t imagine the working classes are less protective, although I do imagine they’d be less equipped or inclined to exert self-control in the necessary administration of violence.

    3. Ultimately, if my child is causing you, the teacher, a problem, then that should be MY problem as soon as possible. In the first instance, phone calls and letters (sent in the post, not with the child) should be used. If the parent is inclined, as I would be, to cooperate with the teacher and the school on discipline, this will be far more effective, as sanctions at home can affect things they CARE about – XBox time, food treats, etc.

    If not, then the school should be in a position to sanction the parents, financially if necessary, and quickly.

    I don’t see it ever happening.

    I don’t expect my experience of corporal punishment is untypical:

    I was assaulted (sorry, “given corporal punishment”) several times at three schools. Its sole effect on me was to make me determined never knowingly to cooperate with the teacher ever again if there was any alternative. Mostly this resulted in low-level ignorant behaviour which I never indulged in in other classes. On one golden, never to be forgotten occasion, however, I was placed in a situation where a teacher who had previously hit me was carrying a box of books down some stairs towards me, and I could clearly see that there was an exercise book on the stairs. For any other teacher I would have called out, or even physically prevented them from continuing in case they fell. As it was, I watched with calm satisfaction as my erstwhile attacker stepped on the book, slipped, fell down the rest of the stairs and audibly suffered a compound fracture of his right femur. I stood quietly for a few moments and watched him gasping in pain, then slowly walked away smiling. Someone else must have called the ambulance, I guess. (This man had hit me for not owning a pair of rugby boots, and turning up to PE with my one pair of trainers).


    • “Any adult assaulting a child I was responsible for, for any reason, would subjected to swift and effective physical retribution, with the clear message that if it ever happened again the consequences would be much worse”

      Is that because you think that the use of force works? It sure looks like it. LOL.


  17. “Hitting another person is called “assault””

    The argument which calls corporal punishment violence was covered quite extensively in the blog entry. Calling it assault is pretty much the same nonsense.

    “Teaching is a dangerous enough “profession” as it is. Any adult assaulting a child I was responsible for, for any reason, would subjected to swift and effective physical retribution,”

    You’ll have a hard time convincing me teaching was more dangerous when teachers could fight back, than now where even acts of self-defence are likely to see a teacher end up in court and fired.

    “Its sole effect on me was to make me determined never knowingly to cooperate with the teacher ever again if there was any alternative.”

    And once more we have an argument that could be used against all punishments. Do you think today’s students have greater respect for those who punish them?


  18. “The argument which calls corporal punishment violence was covered quite extensively in the blog entry. Calling it assault is pretty much the same nonsense.”

    Sticking your fingers in your ears and going “lalalala” does not change the legal definition of the term. Say it’s “nonsense” to a judge, and see how far it gets you.

    “You’ll have a hard convincing me teaching was more dangerous when teachers could fight back”

    What I was alluding to was that, today, if you chose to “fight back” against any child I was responsible for, you would very quickly find it necessary to attempt to fight back against me, and that this would be significantly more upsetting and dangerous for you than a court case or dismissal.

    I am further suggesting that, unlike the halcyon days you hark back to, thanks to the child-centred culture of the last 20 years, parents today are far more likely to be prepared to intervene physically against teachers than they would have been 20 years ago. In all my time at school (up to 1987) I only remember one teacher ever being beaten by a parent in retaliation for corporal punishment of their child.

    “And once more we have an argument that could be used against all punishments.”

    Not at all. My objection was to, first, the fact I was being punished for something over which the teacher knew I had no control whatever, and second that the punishment was disproportionately painful and humiliating.

    “Do you think today’s students have greater respect for those who punish them?”

    Respect is earned, and is a two-way street. I received punishments from many teachers in my time at school. MOST of those punishments came from men and women I respected, and often the punishments made me feel bad for having let them down. They did that by being deserved, proportionate and not unnecessarily humiliating. I knew when I’d done wrong and deserved chastisement.

    Some teachers, however, did not give proportionate punishments. And the funny thing was, everybody knew who those teachers were – and nobody, not the kids, not the parents, not even the other teachers in their off-guard moments, NOBODY respected those people.

    In any true profession, such deadwood would simply have been sacked or at the very least sidelined to a point where they could do no harm that mattered. That they weren’t and indeed couldn’t be is one of the reasons why you’ll always find quote marks around the word “profession” when I apply it to teaching.

    I’d extend your question and put it back to you: do you think today’s PARENTS have greater respect for those who punish their children? And if not… why not? Because you are never going to get the respect of the children if you don’t have the respect of the parents.


  19. I agree with SonofRojBlake, but I’m intrigued as to why he thinks that teachers are not “professionals”.


  20. “Sticking your fingers in your ears and going “lalalala” does not change the legal definition of the term.”

    I referred you quite clearly to where I had dealt with this before. If you really can’t see why claiming “assault” is the same nonsense as claiming “violence” then I will linger on it a little longer.

    I seem to recall that most medical procedures are, by legal definition, “assault”. Boxing is “assault”. Acting in self-defence is “assault”. Restraint is “assault”. The moral question here is whether corporal punishment is among those many forms of assault that are legal and acceptable. Simply declaring physical punishment to be assault, and then pretending all forms of assault are crimes is no argument.


  21. “I seem to recall that most medical procedures are, by legal definition, “assault”.”

    You recall this from your medical training, or your legal training?

    The definition in common law of assault is “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.” If a doctor creates in you an apprehension of imminent harm, you have a legal right to decline treatment. If he then proceeds to treat you against your wishes, he is indeed guilty of assault. WITH your consent, however, no assault has occurred. He may of course take legal steps to force you to accept treatment, but usually has to show that you are mentally ill.

    “Boxing is “assault”.”

    No, it is not. The law on this is quite confused, but the relevant case is from 1882 (R. vs. Coney) and merely establishes that prizefighting (i.e. limited rules bareknuckle boxing) IS illegal, whereas normal boxing is not.

    “Acting in self-defence is “assault”.”

    False. Don’t think I need to even dignify this with a more detailed rebuttal.

    ” Restraint is “assault”. ”

    This depends what you mean by restraint. Do you mean a police officer applying handcuffs to someone under arrest? Not assault. Do you mean a psychiatric nurse holding down a patient legally judged mentally ill? Not assault.

    “The moral question here is whether corporal punishment is among those many forms of assault that are legal and acceptable.”

    An analogy: is helping a terminally ill relative to kill themselves among the many forms of murder that are legal and acceptable? Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Sensible people understand that actions like dropping bombs in war and reasonable but lethal self-defence are not “murder”.

    Now pose the question less hysterically. Should helping an ill relative to die be redefined so as not be within the definition of murder any more? To which the obvious response is: why would you want to do that? And the discussion can proceed.

    Now back to corporal punishment: UNlike boxing, UNlike medical procedures carried out with consent, but LIKE a drunk swinging a fist in the street, corporal punishment IS assault, and assault IS a crime, by definition. You are suggesting changing the law so that adults striking children is no longer a crime: why would you want to do that?

    The problem you have is that whatever justification you offer, all the general public will see is an adult (or rather, an entire “professional” body of adults) demanding the right to be allowed to hit other people’s children without being arrested for it. This is, to put it mildly, a tough sell. It is not helped by the generally disorganised and unprofessional image teachers have in the public imagination. Sketches like the following are not written in a vacuum:

    This is how your “profession” is perceived. Unless and until that changes, I can’t see any possibility that your request for greater latitude in punishment is met.

    Another major difficulty you have is this: the answer to the question “Why would you want to do that?” is, clearly, that the other punishments available to you are not working. And you yourselves in your various bitter blogs describe why not – because they are not enforced. Detentions are given but not attended, exclusions are avoided at all costs.

    It seem to me that corporal punishment appeals because it’s something you imagine you can administer in the moment without SLT approval, something that won’t need endless paperwork or committees or cost the school. In short, it’s puts the power of punishment directly in your hands, instead of leaving you impotently threatening punishments (like exclusion) that the kids know you’ll never enforce.

    Enforce the sanctions you have, fully, first. Exclude the troublesome and violent completely from mainstream education. Fine and imprison parents who condone truancy. Then and only then come to us and ask for the law on assault to be rewritten to give you leeway to hit kids.


  22. You now appear to be defining assault to only cover those assaults which are illegal.

    This reduces your argument to “corporal punishment is wrong because it is illegal”, an argument so weak that I didn’t think it was even worth mentioning in my original post.


  23. “You now appear to be defining assault to only cover those assaults which are illegal.”

    Eh? I am not defining assault at all, I don’t have that power. The word “assault”, in this context, is like the word “murder”. Again – try reading back the sentence quoted above, substituting the word “murder” for “assault”. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?

    “Assault” has a clear, specific legal definition unconnected with what you or I might choose to think it means, and it is that definition which applies today in this context, regardless of your opinion on whether it should.

    “This reduces your argument to “corporal punishment is wrong because it is illegal”.”

    You seem to have got it the wrong way round. Has it occurred to you that corporal punishment is illegal because it is wrong? (Or rather, because a majority of our leaders believe that it is wrong.)

    There are basically two reasons for making something illegal. One is that society agrees that the activity is morally wrong. In this category come things like theft, fraud and murder, your basic ten commandments stuff. These laws are similar across most civilised nations – indeed, they are part of what I’d say was the definition of a civilised nation.

    Another is to standardise morally neutral behaviour. Driving on the right is not morally wrong, but it’s illegal in the UK. You seem to be suggesting that hitting children should be in the latter category. I’m pointing out that you’re in a pretty small minority if you think that.

    Your position is that, although currently corporal punishment falls under the legal definition of assault, this is wrong, and should be changed.

    What you’re asking for is a change to the law to allow you to do something to a child which, if you did it to an adult, would remain illegal. To a disinterested observer, this sounds like “Oh, no, I don’t want the whole law on assault changed – that would potentially allow other adults to hit ME, and I don’t want that. I just want the law changed so it no longer protects children, then I can hit them when they don’t do what I want.”

    What I’m interested in is how you think teachers – i.e. YOU – might persuade society, or more importantly Parliament that we’d all be better off if you were allowed an exception from the law on assault.

    [To repeat my position clearly: I'm against corporal punishment because I don't believe it works (it never worked on me or anyone I saw it done to) and because I automatically suspect anyone asking for it to be brought back is doing so out of EITHER frustration that current sanctions are not applied, OR a simple desire to take out their frustrations against children in the heat of the moment without fear of being held to account.]


  24. Oh for pity’s sake. Have you read my original blog entry?

    You seem to be making the very arguments (saying “it doesn’t work”; lumping widely different acts together; pretending that children should be treated as adults; silly ad hominems) that I argued against in my blog entry. You also seem oblivious to what my position actually is.

    Beyond that, the only new argument you appear to have is one based on the false suggestion that corporal punishment is illegal because of the laws against assault. That is simply not the case. For hundreds of years corporal punishment was among the many, many types of “assault” that were legal. Legislation was introduced specifically prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in schools.

    Beyond that, you make yourself look very silly indeed if you claim that only a small minority think that hitting children can be legal or acceptable. Have a look into the debate on smacking if you don’t believe me.


  25. I don’t want to get embroiled in the argument about the legality or otherwise of corporal punishment. I don’t think it’s the way to go, but I also don’t go along with the idea that those who do advocate its use want to do so for some perverted reason or a power trip. The frustration so many of us feel is very genuine when all we want is to be able to do our jobs to the best of our ability – but are prevented day after day by the behaviour of a growing number of disruptive pupils.

    SonofRojBlake quite rightly says that the other punishments we have available aren’t working. I’d argue that that is mostly because they’re not seen as a punishment, but more as a minor inconvenience that can be attended or not depending on the whim of the pupil concerned. And yes, when SMT are obsessed with league tables and keeping exclusion figures down, I can’t see that changing.

    I’ve read stories recently about heads who have thrown caution to the wind and temporarily excluded large numbers of pupils. The measure has been effective in the long term and I wish more heads had the balls to do it. We all know that, in a tricky class you have a small number of “usual suspects”, a number of kids who will get on with their work, and a number in the middle who will opt to either join in the disruption or sit back and do nothing. I’m sure that a swift, fixed term exclusion would sort out those in the middle, whose parents would probably be horrified and give their kids such a bollocking they’d never do it again.

    Either that, or we should forget about recruiting all the out of work bankers – we need to be poaching Drill Sergeants!!


  26. Can I just say that I am a teacher and I abhor the idea of corporal punishment. I consider it to be abuse and I have grave concerns about those who support it.

    I’d still like to know why teaching isn’t a “profession”.


  27. “Can I just say that I am a teacher and I abhor the idea of corporal punishment. I consider it to be abuse and I have grave concerns about those who support it.”

    Can I just say that I am a blog writer and I abhor the writing of comments that make points that have already been addressed in detail in the original blog entry? I consider it to be rude and I have grave concerns about the comprehension skills of those who do it.


  28. I think Mr Stephen was trying to get Blake jr to explain why he doesn’t consider teaching a ‘profession’, and is nailing his colours to the mast to try to draw the man out.

    I understand what you’re saying about violence and abuse being nonsense terms in this context, *and* I agree that if my son were beaten for not owning rugby boots I would be, and expect him to be, angry and resentful – it achieves nothing good. I’d argue that that teacher was an idiot, at best. So the argument about corporal punishment seems to be around what it is applied as a consequence of.

    As a teacher, I would struggle with having ‘hit the child’ on my list of logical, consistant consequences for any behaviour. As, you said at the beginning, you would. Given enough logical, consistant consequences for all behaviours applied by all staff, the need for hitting children is probably redundant. I do recall the girl at my junior school who brought in a hamster and tortured it to death (not in my sight or hearing, she wasn’t in my year) and when she was subsequently beaten, we thought it was a good job. I wish the bullies at my senior school had been beaten, too, but it was forbidden by then. I understand the logic that says being violent to people to teach them not to be violent is a waste of time, but it would have made the rest of us feel better. And may have been a deterrent.


  29. I think Mr Stephen was trying to get Blake jr to explain why he doesn’t consider teaching a ‘profession’, and is nailing his colours to the mast to try to draw the man out.

    Quite possibly, but I’d prefer it if people didn’t use the comments to nail their colours to the “haven’t actually read the original blog entry” mast.


  30. “I’d prefer it if people didn’t use the comments to nail their colours to the “haven’t actually read the original blog entry” mast.”

    This is the price of having a blog with a comment thread attached. People are going to read what you wrote and then, horrors, have their own independent thoughts about it which may not agree with, or even have any apparent connection with, your own.

    They might even see a comment from someone else and decide to pursue a point made in that, or even simply express a wild and dangerous opinion of their own. If you consider that rude or otherwise don’t like it, you could just disable comments on your blog altogether and just howl impotently into the cyberspatial vacuum without being troubled by the echoes.

    “I’d still like to know why teaching isn’t a “profession”.”

    Could end up in a long debate, which, given the above comment, I doubt would be welcome here. So I leave it as an exercise for the reader, as they say. Consider the following, actual professions:

    – medicine
    – law
    – science
    – engineering
    – accountancy

    Compare, in your own mind, these professions with teaching. Points for comparison may include:

    – academic standards required to study the subject at university
    – academic standards required to achieve a degree in the subject
    – amount and nature of subsequent professional development necessary to demonstrate commitment to the profession before achieving recognised professional status
    – difficulty of securing a position in which to practice
    – typical pay level
    – consequences of poor performance in employment
    – status of professional bodies representing the interests of members

    The latter is one of the most important. Ever heard of the National Union of Accountants? Ever thought of the possibility of a national strike of engineers? No, of course not. Those kind of people don’t have a trade union, and don’t go on strike.

    Membership of a trade union, and going on strike, are something people like miners or factory workers do, or rather, used to do when there still were miners and factory workers. Teachers are on that level, by their own actions.

    Teaching was, once, a profession like the others. I’m not sure when or why it declined to the status it demonstrably has had for the last few decades. I’m disturbed by the possibility that teaching’s fall from status was contemporaneous with, and related to, the end of the grammar/secondary modern system. It’s an elitist view, to be sure, and one I’m not entirely comfortable with as an explanation.

    Anyhoo, that’s why the quotes around “profession” when I refer to teaching:
    – it’s easy to become a teacher
    – it’s easy to remain a teacher, even if you stink
    – it’s easy to get a job
    – the pay is poor
    – it’s a unionised job in which striking is used as a bargaining tool


  31. “Could end up in a long debate, which, given the above comment, I doubt would be welcome here. So I leave it as an exercise for the reader, as they say.”

    I think you may have missed teachingbattleground’s point. I am welcome to correction but I understood his point to be that you should not just repeat arguments that he has provided arguments against in his blog post without either addressing or acknowledging his arguments. It just makes you look stupid.

    As a member of a profession, accountancy in fact. I feel I ought to point out that you appear to know very little about professions.

    I think it would be more useful for you to look at the definition of a profession that professions themselves use than come up with nonsense ones of your own. For example, the institute of chartered accountants in England and Wales defines a profession as characeterised by the following factors:
    • the mastering of specialised skills during a period of training
    • governance by a professional association
    • compliance with an ethical code
    • a process of certification before being allowed to practise.

    “- academic standards required to study the subject at university
    – academic standards required to achieve a degree in the subject”

    To be an accountant you do not have to study the subject at university or even have a degree: http://icaew.com/index.cfm/route/159082/icaew_ga/en/Qualifications/Train_for_the_ACA/Entry_routes/A_Level_to_ACA

    “Ever heard of the National Union of Accountants?”

    I wish there were one. For example, in the ninties a lot of accountancy firms paid overtime, now overtime is unpaid and expected as part of the job.

    “Ever thought of the possibility of a national strike of engineers?”

    Yes: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/7368318.stm

    Also, with medicine:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5207048.stm

    I will leave the teachers to explain why teaching is a profession but I certainly think it is although I think, sadly, a lot of teachers do not regard it as one.


  32. This is the price of having a blog with a comment thread attached. People are going to read what you wrote and then, horrors, have their own independent thoughts about it which may not agree with, or even have any apparent connection with, your own.

    If there was any thought involved I wouldn’t mind. Empty slogans that have already been identified as empty slogans we can do without. If you expect people to read your contribution to the discussion then it would only be polite to have read other contributions.


  33. “I ought to point out that you appear to know very little about professions.”

    A bit rich, considering one of the points that follows…

    “I think it would be more useful for you to look at the definition of a profession that professions themselves use than come up with nonsense ones of your own.”

    Read again what I wrote, and try replying to that, rather than coming up with nonsense posts of your own.

    I suggested comparison of teaching with real professions, and offered potential points for comparison. At no stage did I suggest that those points are what defines a profession. I merely suggested the interested reader could think about a practicing doctor, engineer, lawyer, accountant, or whatever, and compare that person and their background with a typical teacher.

    “• the mastering of specialised skills during a period of training”

    Fair enough. But one could say as much about plumbing or joinery, so this is not exclusive to the professions.

    “• governance by a professional association”

    That’s the most important one you list. What is the professional association (NOT trade union) governing the teaching profession in the UK? The teaching analogue to, say, the British Medical Association or the Institution of Civil Engineers?

    “• compliance with an ethical code”

    Try the following exercise:
    Type into google “accountant ethical code”.
    Now try “solicitor ethical code”.
    Then try “engineer ethical code”.

    In all three cases, you’ll find in the top five or so hits documents detailing the uninversally agreed codes of ethics of professional associations in the UK.

    Now google “teacher ethical code”. The results should speak for themselves.

    “• a process of certification before being allowed to practise.”

    Again, fair enough, but the same could be said of gas fitters or electricians.

    “To be an accountant you do not have to study the subject at university or even have a degree:”

    Sorry, but I never said you did.

    The point was this: to study accountancy, medicine, law, engineering, dentistry etc. at university (and hence gain the fast track to career success that this usually means) demands high standards of academic achievement. To study education requires lower standards. One may draw whatever conclusion one wishes from that.

    ““Ever heard of the National Union of Accountants?”

    I wish there were one.”

    Really? Have you tried starting one? Has anyone? Do you think the lack of one is significant in any way?

    “now overtime is unpaid and expected as part of the job.”

    As in most professions. Market forces, I’m afraid.

    “Ever thought of the possibility of a national strike of engineers?”

    Yes: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/7368318.stm

    Oh dear. Ignorance will out, I suppose. Following your rather arch point about not knowing much about professions, you reveal that as far as you’re aware, anyone who works on an oil refinery is an engineer.

    The link you provide mentions precisely nothing about any engineers going on strike at all, much less on a national basis.

    For your information, on a refinery the size of Grangemouth, the likely headcount of professional engineers would be no more than a few dozen, and entirely in management roles. Imagine your response if I had described Tesco checkout operators as “accountants”, on the basis that they handled money for a business – that’s the level of ignorance displayed in your posting that link as a response to my question.

    “Also, with medicine:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5207048.stm

    Comparison with foreign countries doesn’t work, because the structure and status of the professions abroad is completely different to this country. For instance, nobody from Germany would ever be stupid enough to think 1,200 workers going on strike at an oil refinery was a instance of striking engineers.

    “I will leave the teachers to explain why teaching is a profession but I certainly think it is although I think, sadly, a lot of teachers do not regard it as one.”

    Which rather makes my point for me, I think. You think it is, even in the teeth of the evidence. Even as you acknowledge it, you fly in the face of evidence that many of the very people who DO the job don’t regard it thus.


  34. Crikey.

    OK, firstly, my views on corporal punishment stand. In addition, I don’t think it works. I don’t think it ever really did.
    That some people consider my points empty and making me look stupid is of no consequence.

    The OP says, “I have absolutely no problem with parents or the police using corporal punishment on children.”
    i do have a problem with these. I am uncomfortable with the idea of striking a child as punishment in any case. Perhaps this is ideological of me, and perhaps when I have my own kids these views will change. I hope they don’t.

    As for the professional bit, I regard teaching as a profession, although I wouldn’t want to try to define it. The fact that we unionise is something that is forced upon us. I hate strikes. I left the NUT because of their most recent call to strike over pay. I was disgusted with the NUT for this move.

    “That’s the most important one you list. What is the professional association (NOT trade union) governing the teaching profession in the UK? ” — The GTC.


    • “OK, firstly, my views on corporal punishment stand. In addition, I don’t think it works. I don’t think it ever really did.
      That some people consider my points empty and making me look stupid is of no consequence.”

      By telling us that corporal punishment didn’t or doesn’t work without even acknowledging the paragraph in my blog entry that begins “The most ridiculous objection, one that again could be used against all punishment, is that corporal punishment didn’t work …” (or the argument contained therein) you aren’t just showing indifference to looking silly, you are positively seeking it out.


  35. GTC is not a professional association. It is, rather, a regulatory council somewhat equivalent to the General Medical Council (established 1858) or the Law Society (established 1825). It was founded less than nine years ago. (Not a typo – nine (9) years ago).

    It is NOT a professional association equivalent to the British Medical Association (founded 1832), or, for instance, the Institution of Civil Engineers (founded 1818)


  36. The definition given by the icaew that I quoted above says that a profession is defined by these characteristics, it means that it has to have all of them so the fact that certain trades have some of them is completely besides the point.

    “The link you provide mentions precisely nothing about any engineers going on strike at all, much less on a national basis.”

    The reason I quoted this link and the other one was that a friend of mine from university is a professional engineer and was working and taking part in the strike at Grangemouth with his fellow engineers who comprised a significant number of those striking. The reason I mentioned the other one is that he is German and his father was involved in the German doctor’s strike. Your comments seem to imply that I had just pulled the first things I found off google, which I did not. In fact, there are plenty of examples of professionals striking that I could have referenced but prefered to reference ones I knew something about.

    “Comparison with foreign countries doesn’t work, because the structure and status of the professions abroad is completely different to this country.”

    Bold assertions do not an argument make.

    “You think it is, even in the teeth of the evidence. Even as you acknowledge it, you fly in the face of evidence that many of the very people who DO the job don’t regard it thus.”

    I’m sorry I missed the evidence in your posts, maybe if you stopped pretending like you know something you might be able to present something resembling an argument. Just because people do not believe something is the case does not make it so, there are people who do not believe in gravity it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

    “GTC is not a professional association.”

    Funny, the act of parliament that set it up did and the government seem to think that teaching is a profession too, funny that. The aims of the general teaching councils can be found in Part 1 The Teaching Profession of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/ukpga_19980030_en_1#Legislation-Preamble) and state that
    “The principal aims of the Council in exercising their functions are—

    (a) to contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and

    (b) to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct amongst teachers,

    in the interests of the public.”

    “a professional association equivalent to the British Medical Association”

    Did you know that the BMA is also a trade union for doctors?


  37. In the paragraph to which you refer, you use the words “saint” and “sin”. Since I do not subscribe to a world view where these are appropriate terms, your concept of behaviour appears to be worlds apart from mine.

    You also suggest that corporal punishment was wanted by the majority of teachers and parents; yet when it was completely banned in 1998 we see this: “BBC correspondents say so few private schools still use physical punishment that the impact of the ban will be mostly symbolic.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/politics/69478.stm

    And we find this: “David Woodhead, director of the Independent Schools Information Service, said: ‘There are now very few independent schools which retain corporal punishment. The tenor of advice from the Independent Schools Joint Council has been not to use it.'”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/patten-regrets-ban-on-corporal-punishment-1397941.html [Interestingly, this link is to an article claiming Chris Patten regrets making corporal punishment illegal, and yet quotes him talking about parental sanctions.]

    In 2008, a survey of teachers found that 1 in 5 teachers would support a return of corporal punishment. This, of course, means that 4 in 5 would not.


  38. In the paragraph to which you refer, you use the words “saint” and “sin”. Since I do not subscribe to a world view where these are appropriate terms, your concept of behaviour appears to be worlds apart from mine.

    Oh dear. Given that I was describing a) sin and b) saints it is hard to see how the terms were not appropriate. If I’d used the words “badger” and “custard” instead I think it would have been harder to understand.

    You also suggest that corporal punishment was wanted by the majority of teachers and parents; yet when it was completely banned in 1998…

    I was referring to the banning of corporal punishment in state schools in 1987. I assumed the fact that I referred to corporal punishment as being widespread at the time made that abundantly clear.


  39. I think this argument about teachers being professionals is ridiculous. But there are always those willing to have a go because they went to school and feel they have some idea about the teaching as a job… completely wrong!!
    Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs going and the vast majority of teachers care greatly about their students and work tireless to get the best from them, as far as I’m concerned that is the mark of a professional.
    And I think you will find the GTC and the IFL are both professional bodies.
    Going back to the original debate of corporal punishment – if a doctor was attack by a drunk in a hospital would it be wrong to defend themselves or restrain the drunk. The same should go for children kicking off in the class.


  40. “Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs going ”

    Wow. You really don’t get out much, do you?

    Prison officer. Police officer. Infantry soldier. Miner. Deep sea fisherman. These are difficult jobs.

    Complaining about how very difficult teaching is during your fortnight off for Easter is one of the sorts of things that makes the other working class trades hate you and the middle class professions look on you with a mixture of pity and contempt.


  41. Please refrain from trolling on my blog.


  42. Hitting another person is called “assault”, and is a crime, even if the person you hit is your size or bigger. I’ve always wondered why, if that person is much, much smaller and weaker than you (or a woman), the societal condemnation is worse and you may reasonably expect greater punishment, but if they’re much, much smaller and weaker AND MUCH YOUNGER than you, it’s OK and you’ve not committed a crime at all.

    The other criteria you forgot is that the person hitting the child needs to be their parent or in an equivalent position. We don’t treat children like adults, using “we” to refer to the legal system in a democracy. You’re not legally responsible for feeding your spouse or clothing them. You are legally responsible for feeding your child and clothing them. It’s the job of parents to bring their children up safely and hopefully well. Parents can’t legally walk away from badly-behaved children like they can from badly-behaved adults so there is case for giving them extra rights.

    The job of police and the prison system is to deal with adults who break the laws, in those cases it’s generally accepted that the police and prison guards can physically restrain people who break the rules, even though I as a private citizen have no right to stop another citizen from leaving somewhere. We don’t charge prison guards or the police with kidnapping but we do charge private citizens who interfere with other adult’s liberties.

    Of course the danger with any sort of punishment is that people will use it either because they directly enjoy hurting someone or they are content to hurt someone in pursuit of selfish objectives, so we hedge punishment in around with rules on what the police and prison guards can do (rather imperfectly enforced).

    We may choose to outlaw corporal punishment because of our fear that the damage caused by those adults who have no compunctions about using it, or actually enjoy it, are greater than the benefits. But there is a valid distinction between our interactions with other adults and our interactions with children we are responsible for. If not, then how do you justify compulsory education laws, or holding children to a lower standard of legal liability than adults? There are a lot more laws that discriminate based on age than the assault one.


  43. “other working class trades hate you”

    Teaching is not a trade: there is no product involved; there is nothing to sell or exchange for other goods. Herein lies many of the problems faced by educationalists at the moment: the idea that education can somehow work as a business.
    Too much of the discourse in teaching reminds me of my time in retail. It wouldn’t surprise me if we were to begin referring to children as “units”.


  44. Oh, and it’s not “working class” in any case.


  45. “Oh dear. Given that I was describing a) sin and b) saints it is hard to see how the terms were not appropriate. If I’d used the words “badger” and “custard” instead I think it would have been harder to understand.”

    Is this a deliberate attempt to evade the point? Why talk about sin and saints at all? Why is it necessary to use this language?

    “I was referring to the banning of corporal punishment in state schools in 1987. I assumed the fact that I referred to corporal punishment as being widespread at the time made that abundantly clear.”
    I know. I was referring to its total ban in 1998, and the feelings of those who could, legally, still use corporal punishment – they didn’t want to.


  46. “Is this a deliberate attempt to evade the point? Why talk about sin and saints at all? Why is it necessary to use this language?”

    Because those words are accurate. They express clearly what I am saying. Why would I use different words? In order to make my argument less convincing? In order to remove the moral content from a moral argument?


  47. “Is this a deliberate attempt to evade the point? Why talk about sin and saints at all? Why is it necessary to use this language?”

    Because those words are accurate. They express clearly what I am saying. Why would I use different words?

    Perhaps because, to people who do not share your beliefs, ‘saints’ and ‘sins’ do not exist?

    You believe, OldAndrew, that “needs” in education cannot be defined firmly enough to be useful. I would say that, on the contrary, “special needs” and “special educational needs” are defined far more usefully – and their effective use agreed upon by more people – than the words ‘saint’ or ‘sin’, most particularly when it comes to an educational context.


  48. “Perhaps because, to people who do not share your beliefs, ’saints’ and ’sins’ do not exist?”

    My argument was that there aren’t any saints around here, so somebody who didn’t believe in saints would have more, not less, reason to agree with me.

    If somebody doesn’t think sin exists, it doesn’t matter what they say in a moral debate. You can only discuss a moral issue purposefully with somebody who thinks there might be a wrong answer.

    “You believe, OldAndrew, that “needs” in education cannot be defined firmly enough to be useful. I would say that, on the contrary, “special needs” and “special educational needs” are defined far more usefully – and their effective use agreed upon by more people – than the words ’saint’ or ’sin’, most particularly when it comes to an educational context.”

    Argument by assertion, how impressive.

    Go on then, define “needs” in a coherent way. Anyone can say it has been done. Why aren’t you actually doing it?


  49. Because those words are accurate. They express clearly what I am saying. Why would I use different words? In order to make my argument less convincing? In order to remove the moral content from a moral argument?

    Hmmm.

    “saint   /seɪnt/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [seynt] Show IPA
    –noun 1. any of certain persons of exceptional holiness of life, formally recognized as such by the Christian Church, esp. by canonization.
    2. a person of great holiness, virtue, or benevolence.
    3. a founder, sponsor, or patron, as of a movement or organization.
    4. (in certain religious groups) a designation applied by the members to themselves. ”
    (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/saint)

    Or how about http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3A+saint&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7RNWN_en

    I’m not surprised you don’t see many of your saints in school.

    And:

    “sin1   /sɪn/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [sin] Show IPA noun, verb, sinned, sin⋅ning.
    –noun 1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.
    2. any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
    3. any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It’s a sin to waste time. ”
    (again, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sin).

    Are you particularly religious? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you are using number 3 for ‘sin’, but the religious connotations are still too strong for my comfort. I do not except the notion of sin. I do not see it having a place in school.

    As for expecting children to be saints, well, clearly, that’s a big ask.

    Unless you are simply using ‘saint’ as the opposite of ‘sinner’, which is a false dichotomy in any case.

    I’m sorry that the world does not operate in such binary terms as you would appear to wish.


  50. Look, if somebody is not inclined to sin (definition 2 or 3) then they are a saint (definition 2). This is not in any way a false dichotomy, or binary terms, it is a statement of the obvious.

    If you are so hostile to religion that you’d rather ignore the startlingly obvious than risk using a term with “religious connotations” then that is your problem and it is not a flaw in my argument. If you have a problem with the content of my argument, please try and articulate it. However, if your only complaint is that I haven’t thrown out very useful (and very basic) moral vocabulary in an effort to look irreligious then I really don’t have any more to say.


  51. I’m afraid that your belief that these ideas are “obvious” is misplaced.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not against punishment per se. I don’t consider all children to be angels or “saints”. I do, however, feel that each individual makes mistakes and poor decisions. I know I do, and I’m sure you do too. To think that more extreme punishment might cure these ills is, in my opinion, rather simplistic.
    We need to equip youngsters with the capacity to make informed decisions, and to consider how their actions impact on others. Children tend to be rather egocentric, and I don’t think punishment is a particularly useful development tool. Sure, it provides an instant consequence, and this is useful. But there needs to be more.

    I take your point that too often there is no immediate consequence for poor behaviour. But I do not, and will not, subscribe to the notion that physical chastisement serves any useful purpose.

    And I still maintain that to use terms such as “saint” and “sinner” are unhelpful.


  52. Oh dear.

    1) Assertion is still not an argument. You have not established that there is anything unhelpful about those terms.

    In fact, by using the word “saints” yourself, along with the even more religious word “angels” you have just demonstrated the usefulness of the word “saint” and the use of religious terminology to indicate virtue.

    At the same time, it is hard to see how using the phrase “makes mistakes and poor decisions” is somehow an improvement on the word “sin”; it is saying the same thing without making it clear that the fault is moral, rather than purely intellectual. By saying ambiguously in 5 words what can be said clearly in 1 you have showed how useful the word “sin” is.

    2) You cannot claim my observation that people sin is not “obvious” while at the same time observing that “I know I do, and I’m sure you do too”. You need the former to conclude the latter.

    3) Can you please refrain from arguing against straw men? Except for some jokey comments when somebody muddled capital and corporal punishment nobody has endorsed “extreme punishment”.

    4) We already know that you do not “subscribe to the notion that physical chastisement serves any useful purpose”. You have repeatedly said this. You have also repeatedly been told that there is a paragraph in the original blog entry addressing this point. Other than quibbling over the vocabulary, do you have any response to that argument? Or are you hoping that if you repeat the same point enough times then nobody will notice you have not been able to defend it, and that you imply that you are not familiar with the blog entry you are commenting on?


  53. MrS, I don’t understand the issue with kids making mistakes in judgement and we should ‘consider’ how they came to do that. At the time of the “mistake” we behave like the referee on a sportsfield. You were offside / did something else that means a penalty applies to you or your team. It does not matter how players get to the point of making an error, it’s an error. There are no excuses. Live with the consequences.

    Coaches and trainers work with players to ensure that this mistake doesn’t again cost the team a free kick or worse. If players can’t learn to do it right, they’re dropped from the team. The same thing should happen to students who can’t behave in an educationally appropriate way. Out.


  54. It seems to me that some valuable insight is being lost by the wrangling over “assault” and “profession”. I believe the last bit of SonofRojBlake’s comment on March 26, 2009 at 5:09 pm suggests a path which should be more fully explored.

    Why is corporal punishment appealing to a teacher?
    – It is immediate.
    – It does not require the cooperation of the child.
    – It does not require the cooperation of senior management.
    As such, it forcibly establishes the authority of the teacher, and provides a trump against “terroring”, or the “f***-off moment” so vividly described in another post.

    However, there are two sides to the coin, and these advantages bring serious problems:
    – The immediacy of the punishment means it is unsupervised and unmonitored. This lays the ground for – but does not invariably result in – abuse of the sanction.
    – Teaching is a frustrating task. A punishment which also vents the teacher’s frustration is a slippery slope. This is not because teachers are stupid or evil. It’s just human nature.
    – It sets an example which children may be tempted to follow. E.G. A child being teased may remember that his teacher spanked a classmate for being rude, and choose to imitate him.

    It seems to me that the horrible experience SonofRojBlake described on March 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm lies at the root of his hostility towards “assault”, and suspicion towards the “profession”. I’m sure if I had the same experience, I would feel the same. But this is not a rebuttal of the argument for Corporal Punishment. SonofRojBlake, I’m sure you agree with me that some students experience equally horrible treatment at the hands of their peers in modern schools. Of course, it does not follow from this that Corporal Punishment is the only way to fix this – what I am trying to suggest is that CP might be a lesser evil than the current chaos.

    In order to weigh these evils against each other, I think any discussion of CP must describe a clear policy on its application, addressing points such as:
    – When & where is the punishment given, and by whom?
    – How will management prevent abuse?
    – How will parents be reassured that it is fair and proportionate?
    – At what ages will it be given?

    Once we have a concrete policy, we can weigh its merits. But as SonofRojBlake said, I suspect that CP will only be effective in an environment where the rules are consistently upheld – and in such an environment it might be unnecessary.

    Old Andrew, I would be quite happy to hear your thoughts on this.


  55. As I am not advocating corporal punishment I am not going to try and formulate a policy on it. Even if I were in favour I’d be reluctant to formulate a policy that was based on the idea that teachers might abuse it. Either we trust teachers to exercise their authority in their classrooms, or we don’t, the precise punishments available don’t really make a difference to this issue. Yes, corporal punishment in the classroom reduces the likelihood of a teacher having their punishments over-ruled by parents and SMT, but that is an argument in its favour not a reason to be concerned about its abuse.


  56. A succinct summary of the various arguments against corporal punishment.

    The the non-aggression axiom provides a principled argument to the responses OldAndrew lists as being often made against corporal punishment:
    1) that it is wrong in principle to harm students: it is legitimate to use force in retaliation or in self-defence;
    2) the pacifist objection: corporal punishment is wrong because it is violence: see 1);
    3) that corporal punishment didn’t work: “force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use” supports OldAndrew’s point that Punishment serves not to eliminate sin but to increase justice by inflicting a penalty on those who deserve it.

    In addition, the non-aggression axiom would free teachers to use physical force in self-defence and/or in retaliation, an autonomy that seems to me sorely needed (and not just in schools, I might add): even acts of self-defence are likely to see a teacher end up in court and fired.

    Some will no doubt argue that this would open the flood gates to abuse of the sanction. OldAndrew has already replied to this argument. I would only add that, if parents disagree with the school’s policies they should be free to not send their children there.


  57. [...] will no doubt argue that this would open the flood gates to abuse of the sanction. OldAndrew has already replied to this argument. I would only add that, if parents disagree with [...]


  58. Many of the older teachers I used to work with swore blind corporal punishment was effective. I remember one deputy head that used to say he would show a few selected kids the cane from his cupboard in Oct and not hear a peep from those kids all the academic year. Now those same kids clock up hundreds of offences, detentions etc between them by the end of the 2nd term. It was the deterrent effect more than anything.
    Also another rung in the sanction ladder.
    It clearly denoted the teachers were in charge.
    Now if you prevent a student from striking a victim by grabbing an arm the offender screams at the teacher ‘I’m gonna sue you for assualt’ and the parents will support it!!
    It really is a topsy turvey world.

    Persnally I dont like the idea of applying a cane myself so if it ever came back I think it should be done by the deputy heads only with 2 witnesses and on the hands or calves only. that should remove the ‘abuse’ angle.

    Any parents that object can always opt for expulsion as an alternative sanction.


  59. It is interesting to read the arguments for and against CP from other countries, you have a Yank on this end. While I agree with your general views on several of your points, you did not address one, does CP add to the performance of students?

    If you are interested, here is a researched blog post that deals with just that point: http://wp.me/pmSGR-7Z

    In the end, if it does not add to performance, what is the point?


    • Well as always with punishment the point is desert rather than some measurable statistic.

      Beyond that, I’m afraid your blog post is almost a perfect example in how to misinterpret correlations by making assumptions about causation.


  60. WHO wrote this original article/blog? Personally I think it is a well written and intelligent piece, and the author knows his subject well enough to “argue back” the points he [already] made! I am British, but have lived in the U.S. for almost 20 years, so I cannot give an ‘informed’ opinion about the British education system anymore, or indeed the general lack of order or respect, by today’s British pupils. My husband however works in the American education system, and overall it seems to me that “kids rule” far more than adults. Parents and teachers have been stripped of almost all authority, resulting in children having no boundaries, no ‘defined’ expectations of them, and thus leaving them with almost no-one to ‘look up to’ or respect. Teachers are now also intimidated by the treat of being sued and/or losing their jobs, for physically trying to remove a child who is even physically abusive; throwing things, spitting and using obscenities. Children are being taught that “any behaviour” is acceptable and instead of bearing consequence [which we all must bear in life generally] children are “pandered to” with ‘lets talk about it’ scenarios instead of their behaviour being addressed. Corporal punishment used to instill a healthy respect for authority figures, and school was a safe place to attend; not a place that now needs security guards just to maintain order. What about the “rights” of those who are well behaved and want to learn, but are being denied due to rebellious and unruly students, who disrupt the classroom learning environment for everyone? A detention is often not an adequate enough consequence. Corporal discipline also used to instill a healthy respect for their classmates; to respect the rights of the individual and bullying was less likely to be tolerated; taken to the Principal’s [or Headmasters] office to be dealt with. The “bully” soon learnt to leave that poor kid alone. Bullying has also become a “out of control” problem in many schools. I am generally appalled by the disrespectful attitude of this generation; there is essentially no respect for any ‘elder’ at all, and the inappropriate [obscene] language has become the “norm”, with no respect again for who will be offended. With a well considered plan of “what” offense is punishable with a cane or paddle, I sincerely believe it would return a far more “respectable” society than the one “we” are are currently producing.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,586 other followers

%d bloggers like this: