I abhor corporal punishment in all settings: homes, schools and madrasas. No civilized society should permit it. It is inexcusable, evil, barbaric, archaic, inhuman; and achieves nothing good. Never has, and never will.
Comparing corporal punishment with discipline is like comparing chalk with cheese, black with white, oranges with lemons. Discipline is the name ignorant people often choose to give to the evil cruelty towards and abuse of children.
Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) put it in a nutshell when he said: “To discipline means to teach, not to punish.”
Corporal punishment doesn’t beat the hell out of children; it beats hell into them. Why would anyone of even reasonable intelligence think that beating a child is a good thing and it would make the child a better citizen of Barbados?
If corporal punishment were good and beneficial to society, why is it only given to children? Good for children, but not adults?
If corporal punishment were good, I would be encouraging the Prime Minister of Barbados to be going through his office and Government departments several times daily with a whip or stick in his hands and lashing out at slackers and slow performances –– for the greater benefit of Barbados!
There is absolutely no place in modern society for corporal punishment of any description.
Mr Pedro Shepherd, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers, pleaded recently with the public to “give teachers a break, allow teachers to teach”. I couldn’t agree more; but if teachers were not meting out corporal punishment to children, perhaps there wouldn’t be anything for children and their families to complain about.
He went on to say: “Our position is that teachers are paid to teach to the nation’s children –– to give instruction, to supervise, to provide the necessary pastoral care; and teachers go beyond the call of duty to do that.
“Teachers do not go to school to administer corporal punishment; teachers do not go to school to abuse anybody’s child; teachers go to school to do the job that they are paid for.”
I’m of the belief that as president of the Barbados Union of Teachers, it is Mr Shepherd’s duty to see there are no “bad apples” among his membership and to deregister (and perhaps jail) those who bring the union into disrepute.
The BUT needs to make it clear to all its members that it holds a zero tolerance policy to corporal punishment, and not only will it not support a member guilty of the crime, but will kick him/her out of the union. And if the BUT doesn’t, Mr Shepherd is only speaking hot air, media sound bites; and behind the scenes, it’s business as usual.
It’s a fact: teachers change people; people change the world. Unfortunately, the same can be said for both good and bad teachers.
Mr Shepherd went on to say: “Teachers would tell you that they enjoy teaching, but, there are one or two children whose behaviour is being influenced by their parents; by adults in society.”
That is a problem which needs to be addressed. First and foremost, teachers are in school to teach the academic lessons of the day. They should not have to deal with disruptive children. The child, however, isn’t totally to blame. This is where one wonders if giving corporal punishment to the parents might help!
Teaching and learning is a two-way street. Schoolchildren themselves should take responsibility and support their teachers, and help in the maintenance of discipline within the classroom and not encourage disruptive behaviour of any kind, however entertaining it might seem at the time.
Many pupils fail to see a disruptive pupil (even if his/her intentions are to “entertain” and arouse smiles, sniggers and laughter among his/her classmates) as their “enemy”.
A disruptive pupil isn’t fun to have in the classroom. He/she endangers the learning of all present, breaking their concentration, perhaps even stealing the only opportunity a “slower” child has of getting a good education and a solid foundation for life.
An ideal teaching/learning environment is a safe, child-friendly, happy environment where appreciation and encouragement flow freely in abundance, even when a child’s initial efforts aren’t all that great, but they’re trying –– a place where a child feels appreciated, secure, wants to be and have an element of fun and camaraderie.
Like corporal punishment, criticism and condemnation have no place in a school. They are negative, destructive, and stunt a child’s development and help transform the school into a hellhole.
Children learn much quicker when they’re happy. A teacher’s smiling face, an encouraging look, and the odd joke thrown to the pupils to lighten things up, can make all the difference.
Teachers need to engender a “we’re in this together” feeling of camaraderie and be less authoritarian –– teacher versus pupils. Respect commands respect, and the first duty of every teacher at the beginning of every school year should be to gain the respect of their students (and their parents), and in turn they will be given all the respect and support they need.
At the beginning of every school year, every school class should hold a coffee, tea and biscuits “get-to-know-you” function at which all the pupils in that class, their parents, teachers and headmaster are present. (There’s always a local company or politician who would willingly sponsor such an inexpensive event.)
At the get-together, the rules of the school/class should be laid bare, both parents and pupils should be told of the “we’re in this together” philosophy, what is expected of them to make it all work, and sign an “agreement” to this effect. Welcome to the teachers-learners fraternity!
Sadly, some people are still misguided by and suffer from the “spare the rod and spoil the child” maxim echoed down the years.
It’s natural that loving parents want what’s the best for their children and some refer to the “Good Book” for guidance and support. In the “Book” it says “spare the rod and spoil the child” and virtually in the same breath, it adds: ‘he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”.
Fantastic! I’m all for it. Give the child as much “rod” as humanly possible . . . every day . . . every minute of the day.
Be ready with the “rod” at all times, day or night.
Before you think I’m contradicting myself, however, let’s examine the facts.
These extracts from the “Good Book” are generally interpreted to mean that if children are not physically disciplined when they do wrong, their personal development will suffer; but there’s a major problem –– the translation.
In Hebrew, the word “rod” is the same used in Psalm 23:4: “ . . . Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
The shepherd’s rod/staff was/is used to encourage, guide, and discipline the sheep towards taking a desired direction; not to beat, hurt or damage them. No shepherd would intentionally damage his stock and reduce his profits.
The correct interpretation of the proverb, therefore, should read: “spare good guidance and spoil the child” and “he who spares good guidance hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”. Now that makes sense.
And if you need any more evidence that corporal punishment is wrong, remember, Joseph and Mary never beat Jesus and that Jesus taught children through love, not corporal punishment. Shouldn’t that alone speak volumes against corporal punishment?
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian and a human rights activist. In 2011 he campaigned successfully to ban corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools. Three Bangladeshi families have named their sons Frank Peters in his honour.)