Children Rights champion, Ms Faith Marshall-Harris, has been rendering outstanding service in the area of child protection in Barbados, and the society owes her an enormous debt of gratitude for her labour of love. Nevertheless, I disagree with both her and my friend, George Griffith, in their relentless campaign to have corporal punishment outlawed at home and school.
Those of us who are parents and/or teachers know that the judicious use of the rod can help to modify behaviour where other disciplinary measures have failed. I am not
here supporting brutality or the use of corporal punishment by all teachers. The Education Act wisely gives the authority to flog to the principal and senior t teachers authorized by him/her.
This allows for calm judgement by an authority figure who is not responding to a situation in a fit of anger. The days of headteacher and teachers administering blows willy nilly are long gone, so that those who still have a picture of an ogre unmercifully beating students into submission are clearly out of touch with the reality in a modern school.
Indeed, pupils are hardly flogged in our schools, and when corporal punishment is administered, it is for a serious offence. This mad rush to follow the latest fashions in Europe and North America is ill-advised, especially since the rampant indiscipline among the student populations of these so-called civilized states suggests that the much
touted behaviour modification programmes used in those homes and schools in place of corporal punishment, have failed miserably.
Britain and the United States of America can teach us nothing about child rearing. Do Ms Marshall- Harris and Mr Griffith have any idea of the large number of primary school pupils who have had to be expelled from British schools because they have been deemed ungovernable?
At present in Barbados, principals and teachers have a very difficult time controlling recalcitrant children who are rarely disciplined at home. Remove the only tool which most children fear and we render the principals almost powerless to act effectively to stem the growing tide of indiscipline. Suspensions, in-house detentions, counselling, lines and other such punishments are treated with derision by an increasing number of students, and some parents advise their children to disregard them.
The view that flogging children leads to their becoming violent adults cannot be substantiated. How is it that many of us who received corporal punishment at home and school are now outstanding citizens who abhor violence? Is there any evidence that childhood flogging contributed to the violent acts of the inmates of Her Majesty’s Prison?
Until we can show a correlation between corporal punishment and deviance, we should tread cautiously on abolishing a form of punishment which has served us reasonably well. I wish that advocates of abolition of corporal punishment would stop equating it with child abuse. I know of no sane supporter of corporal punishment who does not promote it as a last resort, and urge that it be used with restraint.
Incidentally, it is not true that students detest teachers who flogged them. What pupils dislike is unfair treatment. I am among a number of teachers who administered corporal punishment and now enjoy an excellent relationship with those who were children at the receiving end.
Using legislation to tell parents how to discipline their children is taking us down a slippery slope. I hope we never reach the stage when a mother or father cannot administer corporal punishment for fear that their child will call the police, leading to a breakdown in parent-child relationship.
If Ms Marshall-Harris and Mr Griffith want to have corporal punishment abolished, they are free to forcefully express their point of view, but they must not dismiss the rest of us as backward or cruel. Most of us have the interest of the nation’s children at heart, but will accept no tutelage from “more developed countries” or UNICEF for that matter.
Parents and school administrators must be trusted to act in the interest of the children in their charge, and the state ought to set guidelines to prevent abuse. Those who abuse their authority should be dealt with according to the law.
(John Goddard is a retired educator who taught at the secondary school level)