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Spare the rod?


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Until the publicity about torture in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere I was unaware that there were schools in the USA which still have corporal punishment....and there are some horrific pictures of the injuries caused by "paddling" as it is quantly known.

There are some photos of this on an american site which suggest it goes rather beyond "six of the best" and is probably very good training for people who will be ordered to use "authorised methods of persuasion" on terrorists later in life.

"As long as the child will be trained not by love, but by fear, so long will humanity live not by justice, but by force. As long as the child will be ruled by the educator’s threat and by the father’s rod, so long will mankind be dominated by the policeman’s club, by fear of jail, and by panic of invasion by armies and navies.”

              Boris Sidis, from A lecture on the abuse of the fear instinct in early education in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1919

Any comments?

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I think you're stretching things a bit too far to establish a link between corporal punishment and what happened and is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately, the famous experiment with the actors and the subjects who thought they were causing the actors pain shows me that you can actually induce nearly everyone to commit unlawful and disgusting acts with a bit of group pressure.

I once worked with an ex-Uruguayan on a project in Angola. Raul had been in the Tupamaro guerrillas in Uruguay and was tortured there by the military after the coup in the early 1970s. He was sprung by the Swedish branch of Amnesty International, which is how I came to have the chance to work with him.

Uruguay had been a democratic country before the coup, and most of the population lived in the urban centres around Montevideo. So where did the army find the torturers? The commanders were all trained by the Americans, but the foot soldiers came from the rural areas. They were told that the prisoners they were torturing were child rapists and perverts, not left-wing politicos …

There are plenty of reasons for being against corporal punishment other than that it could lead to torture. Sweden made it a criminal offence to physically strike or even manhandle children - even by their parents - more than 30 years ago. Guess what - society didn't fall apart! Sweden is a lot more violent now than it was, though, but my conclusion is that that development started when Sweden de-regulated TV transmissions, allowing on to the screens a vast amount of US TV screen violence.

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There are plenty of reasons for being against corporal punishment other than that it could lead to torture. Sweden made it a criminal offence to physically strike or even manhandle children - even by their parents - more than 30 years ago. Guess what - society didn't fall apart! Sweden is a lot more violent now than it was, though, but my conclusion is that that development started when Sweden de-regulated TV transmissions, allowing on to the screens a vast amount of US TV screen violence.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Sweden several times over the last few years. I believe your attitudes towards violence can be witnessed on the streets of the country. I was in Gothenburg for five days last week. In all the time I was there I did not see one act of aggression. This included walking the streets of the city late on Friday and Saturday night. I think Sweden has a great deal to be proud of and is the reason that I have suggested that I think that a study of the country as a good modern democracy should be included in our national curriculum.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=822

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I think you're stretching things a bit too far to establish a link between corporal punishment and what happened and is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately, the famous experiment with the actors and the subjects who thought they were causing the actors pain shows me that you can actually induce nearly everyone to commit unlawful and disgusting acts with a bit of group pressure.

Yes...although I did not say that the beating of children was the sole cause of torture, you might have inferred that from what I said.

OTOH do have a look at that website. What is being done to American children could be described as torture. The document is a pdf document "Making Ohio schools safe for child beaters"

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Yes, the web site was really interesting.

I started teaching as an assistant teacher in Bradford in 1972 and had a shock (of course) at seeing how easy it was to slip in to the behavioural norms of an establishment. In those days you were allowed to (almost encouraged to) give the 5 year olds a slap if they were 'naughty' … and, of course, I found myself slapping the kids as much as any of the other teachers did.

After a while, though, I noticed (of course) that the kids were 'naughty' mostly as a result of our failures to plan the way we taught them and organise the activities properly. When we slapped we were just covering up for our own inadequacies. So I can well believe that an environment which permits physical punishment of children can cover up a multitude of other sins.

When, however, you find yourself in a situation where physical violence of any sort is totally forbidden, you also find yourself having to take an adult role - which is often much more difficult than resorting to the same kind of behaviour the kids are showing. Of course it makes demands on you, but aren't we teachers supposed to be able to meet demands like that?

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I agree with you about Sweden. I lived in Gothenberg for a few months in 92 (one block down from the library) and since then have been back 4 times, last visit last January to stay with friends. He is retired but was the national manager for a large well-known medical drug company. He knew Sweden at its height and has kept us informed about what he sees as its deterioration, but I keep telling him they are still so much better off socially than the rest of us.

I spent some time in schools and colleges in and around Gothenberg and have friends who are teachers there. It is like being on another planet compared with either here or the UK. The schools are physically attractive, beautifully decorated and equipped, well-resourced compared with ours. The Montessori approach in early childhood seemed to help to instil values, appreciation of aesthetics and a social awareness. I know things are less perfect than they used to be but we could still learn a lot from them. Apart from the weather, I would prefer life there anyday.

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It's strange the effect Sweden has on people! People coming from the outside often see the place in quite a different light than people on the inside.

One of the things which struck me when I first came here was that many of the issues people had been fighting for for years in countries like the UK, such as universal child care, a properly functioning welfare state, etc, were banalities in Sweden. I.e. they'd been around so long that Swedes didn't even realise that there were countries without them.

You'd think that that would mean that Sweden was some kind of utopia, but in my opinion it just meant that the playing field had been levelled somewhat and that we were at the *beginning* of the debate about how society should be run, rather than at the end of it.

Look at this thread about the connection between state-sanctioned physical and mental violence in schools and other forms of the abuse of children. The way I see it, the absence of the former is no guarantee for the absence of the latter. However, that absence makes the discussion of the latter much clearer and less fraught with hypocrisy.

Child abuse exists in Sweden, of course. The Swedish police arrested 118 people this week for buying child pornography on the Internet. The way the tabloids have handled the story, though, is quite different from the way similar stories are handled in the UK, for example. There's been a lot of discussion of the fact that pedophiles have often been abused themselves as children … and of the connection between power and pedophilia (one of the people arrested was a high-ranking police officer in Stockholm). One of the people arrested committed suicide when he was released 'on bail' and that prompted a discussion of the responsibility the authorities have of treating people arrested for child abuse humanely, and with due regard for their mental state.

Nobody, of course, treats child abuse lightly - it's just that when you treat it seriously, you have to start looking at the causes, and a lot of other related factors too, such as the finances of child pornographers (the Swedish suspects had all paid via credit card on the Internet).

I would argue that the absence of state-sanctioned child abuse in schools has helped to make this particular debate a little more mature in Sweden.

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When I was a child corporal punishment was accepted as being a normal part of school life, not that I recall many people actually being on the receiving end of it. I can remember that just the threat of being sent to the school office to collect 'the cane and the book' was enough to bring the majority of naughty children to heel! A friend of mine told me that he once 'got the cane', went home and told his parents who then gave him another whacking and told him that he must have deserved it.

Thank goodness that we have moved away from those days of beating children. How uncivilised and hypocritical to hit a child for a misdemeanour and then tell them that violence is wrong within society, punishable by the law! What were they being taught instead? It's OK to hit children - they don't count! Sadly some parents are still teaching their children these 'double standards'.

I too have concerns about the future, as David said:

Sweden is a lot more violent now than it was, though, but my conclusion is that that development started when Sweden de-regulated TV transmissions, allowing on to the screens a vast amount of US TV screen violence.

Screen violence is so commonplace that we, as adults, have become increasingly immune to it. The days when large numbers of people would complain to the 'authorities' about screened items they felt were offensive and unsuitable seem to have gone. We forget, as a society, that children are influenced by such images - they are 'entertainment' but also 'fantasy'. Children act out 'fantasies' with the result that violence is acceptable! I recently heard of a conversation with a teenager who said that it was OK to carry a knife and to stab someone with it, as long as you didn't stab them in the heart. Apparently he believed that stabbing anywhere else was OK because that wasn't going to kill them! :stupid

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When I was a child corporal punishment was accepted as being a normal part of school life, not that I recall many people actually being on the receiving end of it.

You obviously did not go to a secondary modern school in the 1950s. We were beaten on a regular basis in school. I would be quick to say “it never did me any harm”. In the sense that I never beat anyone else in return. In fact, I have never hit anyone in anger. But that is more to do with the way I was treated by my parents rather than by my teachers. However, I am sure that children who were beaten by both their teachers and parents, were damaged by the experience. They were taught that you solved problems by using violence.

Anyone ever heard Loudon Wainwright III’s song, Hitting You. It is well worth listening to if you are still convinced that beating children is a good idea.

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I remember my first lesson as a teacher in the total futility of corporal punishment in schools just after I qualified. I had a lot of rough lads to teach (at a boys' school in Dartford), and they did the usual thing of trying to wind the new teachers up, so there was quite a lot of noise in my classroom, especially in the first year.

One day I sent one of the ringleaders down to the Deputy Head for what I thought would be a talking to. He came back wringing his hand … but having received punishment which was much less severe than his dad meted out to him with his boots and belt almost every night.

So … I'd used my 'nuclear weapon' and it turned out to be almost a damp squib. But then I had to co-exist with the class for almost nine more months. To say that I had ruined my chance of any kind of working relationship with the class was an understatement.

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I had a lot of rough lads to teach (at a boys' school in Dartford),

David it wouldn't have been Dartford West boys by any chance? It closed down a few years ago following problematic Ofsted inspection and the 'special measures' label. People in Dartford are still lamenting its passing as there is now no single sex boys school left in the area! :stupid

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No, it was Dartford Technical High School for Boys - a survivor from the original three-tier system. I left there in 1980, though, so I'm sure the education system in north-west Kent has been through a few changes since then.

I found the area fascinating from the point of view of educational history: it seemed like Kent never abolished anything, but just added whatever new type of school was created to the existing ones.

When I worked at Dartford Technical High School, it shared a headmaster and school buildings with Wilmington Comprehensive, for example, which was a very odd arrangement, to say the least.

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No, it was Dartford Technical High School for Boys - a survivor from the original three-tier system. I left there in 1980, though, so I'm sure the education system in north-west Kent has been through a few changes since then.

I found the area fascinating from the point of view of educational history: it seemed like Kent never abolished anything, but just added whatever new type of school was created to the existing ones.

When I worked at Dartford Technical High School, it shared a headmaster and school buildings with Wilmington Comprehensive, for example, which was a very odd arrangement, to say the least.

They now go under the names of Wilmington Boys Grammar (where you taught), and Wilmington Hall (the co ed secondary modern). They still share the same site.

Indeed not a great deal has changed in Kent since the 1970's or even the 1950's. Children of all abilities are still being failed and short changed by an outdated and discredited system :rant:stupid

Corporal punishment??? Should perhaps be administered only to the fools who control KCC and cling desperately to the wreckage of the education system of the 1950's, and most certainly to the even bigger fools who keep voting for them.

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Fully agree with all of the above about corporal punishment, but what, if anything, can we do about the fast growing number of parents who have no common sense about bringing up children?

I was talking yesterday to our Deputy Director of Education who has responsibility for student management etc and she was saying that they are fast coming to the conclusion that the money being poured into student behaviour management is almost useless because so many parents do not back the schools' advice or help. Twenty years ago parents supported the sanctions teachers put in place, now they don't just go to the Head to complain of the unfair treatment of their unmanageable offspring, they go to the Secretary, the Minister, the Opposition, the anti-discrimination board or whoever will listen to them saying that their child isn't understood, isn't listened to, isn't given their "rights" - may be a "little difficult" but is a angel at heart, even though he's just kicked the teacher in the groin.

Last week one of our teachers was punched in the breast by a Grade 1, whose mother said he just needed more love. Where do we go from here with these kids?

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I think it is actually true that most children need more love. However I understand the feelings of teachers who are having their lives (and the lives of their pupils) made a misery by a disruptive minority.

Obviously I do not believe that beating children is a solution to this and I do not pretend to have a complete solution up my sleeve.

I think there are two (probably rather more) approaches to disruptive children and different children need different approaches. To be kind to a pupil who sees it as weakness is about as much use as being hard with a child who feels insecure.

I definitely believe that staff sticking together is absolutely vital. Even if our approach is not perfect (of course it isn't) we recognise we are all in this together :)

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