Saturday, October 4, 2008

Corporal punishment and the way backward...

Corporal punishment seems to have made its way back into the news again this week:
Ariane Sherine: Three compelling reasons why one in five teachers are wrong to call for the return of corporal punishment | Comment is free | "But according to a poll in today's Times Educational Supplement, over 20% wish they could: more than one in five teachers support 'the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases'. No doubt desperately trying to quieten a mob full of screaming, brawling juveniles, while thinking back wistfully to the days when short-trousered pupils listened to their teacher in orderly and thoughtful silence, they've decided that physically hurting disruptive children is the way forward."

Guess this is a handy way to reveal at least 20% of the teaching profession who are 'not suitable for teaching'. First off - lay a hand on either of my children and I will sue you (yes, I'm one of *those* parents) and secondly... remove yourselves from the 1930s and get a check on reality. As the author of this article in The Guardian says - if these kids are unruly and quite possibly experiencing violence at home - to no positive effect - why on earth would hitting them in their only 'safe' space bring anything other than cold, superficial comfort to a teacher who hasn't got better teaching strategies up their sleeve?

I get so tired of this well-worn 'belief' that children are somehow worse than they ever were before. One of the favourite quotes I've read recently about this subject is the following:

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"
(Source: The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn 2007)

You know when that was originally said? Twenty-seven hundred years ago by the Greek poet Hesiod.

Hitting them doesn't work. Being a better teacher. Having better people skills. Better and more creative strategies for working with children. Being given flexibility to adapt and modify the curriculum as appropriate. Wouldn't they be preferable options? Oh, no... let's hit them. And make them wear stupid clip-on ties because that's tremendously effective too.

Children of whatever age are brilliant. They are filled with amazing potential. Tap into it and you'll discover what they can really do. Hit them because you failed - get another job. Please.


  1. Interesting to note that, 'The Society for Investigating the Causes of the Alarming Increase of Juvenile Delinquency in the Metropolis,' in 1815, was cited at the time as being: '...the latest social commentary [...] berating youthful mischief, merriment and idleness as indictive of a decline in national morality.'
    Nothing new then; as you say :0)

    John Simlett

  2. Fabulous piece Sarah and I couldn't agree more. I have heard far too many teachers say things like this when it's their own lessons that lack imagination or flair. The two factors are correlated, i'm sure and there is no compelling argument for creating further resentment of schooling in our youth than there already is.


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