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Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008 at 12:22 AM
Paul b 

I attended school in the 60s, in primary school I only witnessed
four canings, but at secondary school CP was a regular occurence.
The cane was used by the Headmaster and deputy and one or two teachers.
The slipper or pump was the choice of the vast majority of classroom
teachers, not forgetting the PE master's.
I was slippered at twelve for talking in class, there were instances where
boys were just told off for talking, so I thought it unfair.
The second time I was slippered was when I was fourteen, this time for
getting caught eating a sweet, he had the cheek to confiscate the sweets
and slipper me. There again some boys were just lectured for getting caught
with a sweet in their mouth.
We all had to wear pumps inside the school to prevent marking the floor, one boy was slippered for forgetting his pumps, I was caught by the same
teacher without my pumps on, just before assembly, I thought hear we go but
to my amazement I only received a lecture.
CP was dished out so inconsistently I feel it was the mood of the teacher.
Some got real pleasure from inflicting pain and nothing will convince me
If a teacher decided to whack you it wasn't open to disdussion or debate,
you had to accept it, you had no choice. You had to stay bent over until
told to stand up, only once did I see a boy jump up after the first whack
of the slipper and wouldn't bend over again, he cried and pleaded, in the
end the teacher let him off.
After that I really despised that boy, because we all felt like doing that.

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Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 2:46 AM 

A most excellent post Paul, thank you, and one which absolutely encapsulates the way CP was used as a control mechanism in schools in those days. It was inconsistent and unfair because that way it had the greatest impact!

If it had been consistent and fair we would have been able to predict the outcome of our actions, and those who, like me, were by nature compliant and well behaved, would have been able to relax knowing they would never get punished. As it was, I never had that certainty in my school days which spanned the 1940s and 1950s, and nor did you several years later.

If we had been able to relax we might not have worked as hard, we might have let our behaviour standards slip just a little bit, and classes would have been harder to control. In my Infant and Junior schools classes were consistently over 50 children, and I bet numbers were still pretty high by modern standards in your day. Teachers would never have been able to control those numbers and educate effectively without every child having a high incentive to sit still, listen, and do what they were told because of the fear of consequences if they didn't and just possibly even if they did!

It worked though. Virtually no children in my day left Junior school at 11 unable to read, write and do the required level of maths, and I bet there weren't very many in your day either, although society generally had relaxed a little by then. Now, even with much smaller classes throughout their schooling, lots of children get to 16, let alone 11, still lacking those vital skills.

As regards some teachers enjoying inflicting pain, yes some of them certainly did. Not very many, at least not in my day, but the odd one certainly got a kick from having the power to deal out pain and humiliation and from doing so. They were very clever and selective in how they did it, but as I've documented elsewhere in this estimable Forum I'm convinced that I'm here because of one such male teacher punishing a girl in front of a mixed class in Junior school.

Why did we accept corporal punishment? You couldn't have put it better, "it wasn't open to discussion or debate" sums it up exactly! If we had argued or resisted we knew we'd get worse, not only at school, but in my day certainly at home as well. Then a parent was quite likely to give you an additional dose if you went home and said you'd been punished at school, so you kept quiet about it. Now parents would call the police or go and assult the teacher, or possibly both!

ink-lined plane

never saw consistent punishment

August 1 2008, 3:05 AM 

To be honest, I'd be amazed at examples of school CP that was consistent. All the types of punishment I witnessed depended on loads of factors. Mood of the teacher was one. General behaviour of the class was more important again (did an example need to be set?). Of course, the biggie was a head-teacher or staff-room decision to promote some discipline agenda for the next few days, like litter on the playground.

I never had what I would call a true sadist as a teacher. In the first year in secondary school (single sex- no more details), some of the teachers made a point of picking on some of the royal pains, but no classroom CP was used, just stress positions at the worst. Some teachers would make a point on picking on seemingly 'lazy' kids who otherwise were completely inoffensive types.

My secondary school could use the cane for punishments by the headmaster, but never had any confirmation of such methods being used during my time. One notable occasion though, the head made a point of telling everyone in assembly that his cane was the penalty for cheating in exams.

At primary level (mixed junior and infants), CP was ad hoc. It wasn't a case of breaking fixed rules so much, but one of choosing to be very naughty. Most of the time kids were hit as a minimal act of keeping order through awareness of authority, and fear of disobeying. This meant that there were plenty of times that kids could get away with murder.

Because this wasn't a prep school, the kids tended to be gone, before they reached an age where deviant teachers would tend to start think about spanking for pleasure. Spanking for satisfaction, and to relieve frustrations, probably formed the bulk of deviant motivations.

I always felt that a school with lots of formal rules, and lots of formal CP, would have been the most psychologically abusive environment possible for children. Therefore, to my mind, those that experienced 'consistent' CP probably had a much worse life experience than those that did not. Who wants school to resemble prison? At least when CP is not consistent, there are large periods, even with the worst teachers, where the kids feel reasonably safe. Highly regimented regimes are no fun whatsoever for most normal people.

Of course, I will not deny that we do not all resent capricious punishment. I myself was once hit by a non-teaching member of staff for no actual offence, and highly resented it for ages. However, in adult life, I am aware of just how bad some schools were during that period. Tales of primary schools using the strap in the classroom boggle my mind. That, of course, is because I was raised in a part of the UK that would have hung teaching staff that attempted to implement such abuse of young kids, and thus the cultural idea of beating primary school kids is as culturally alien to me as female circumcision.

Not far from where I lived was a highly regimented secondary school of a type that could be considered similar to my own. When I was attending, the pupils of that school might as well have been living 30 years earlier. Indeed, that school only changed when people associated with mine took over its running. My point? The people living maybe less than 30 mins away belonged to a completely different cultural background, and were happy for their sons to continue to experience hell. And i'm not talking about differences in class or so-called 'race'.

Spanking schools (or whatever CP) were spanking schools. Regimented schools likewise. Humane schools that would almost never touch the kids likewise. Each school regime completely arbitrary, and each head insisting that there method was the only one that really worked.

When you listen to the stories from mixed secondary schools that used CP, it always becomes apparent that many teachers were genius at finding excuses to satisfy their cravings. I recall the press report of the welsh secondary, where the RE teacher spanked the girls on their bottom with a slipper (and I think with raised skirts) for failing to get full marks in his little tests. And I would point out, for the benefit of the ex-public-school boys here that pose as female critics of the truth about CP in other types of schools, that this report reflected parental unhappiness, and not any kind of court action.

In a slippering secondary school (which was massively commonplace across much of England and Wales during the 60's and 70's), most schoolgirls attending could be expected to get whacked at some point, and more of these punishments would have been given by male teachers, since the punishment was largely considered an informal classroom one, and rarely recorded.

Of course, such mixed slippering schools were always of a lower class in their area, and hence had kids far less likely to speak out, or think their ordeal one that anybody would care to hear about. The girls themselves were more than aware of the chaos that frequently ruled, and hence already accepted somewhat unpleasant methods of classroom control.

Lotta Nonsense

Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 11:21 AM 

"In a slippering secondary school . . . most schoolgirls attending could be expected to get whacked at some point" says ink-lined plane.

Now, you'll have to excuse me while I sew my sides back together. Unfortunately, they've just split wide-open while I was laughing at the utter absurdity of that claim.

Once again, I ask all members who went to school with girls to cast their minds back and remember how many of those girls found themselves in any kind of real trouble during those years.

If they're honest, I'm sure most members will recall that only a small fraction of girls ever found themselves in anything resembling 'hot water'.

To suggest that most of girls at slipper-using English/Welsh secondary schools received CP is simply insane.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 4:22 PM 

No, I totally refuse to do it twice in one year!


Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 6:41 PM 

I agree with all you lot above apart from one Lot, Lotta.
I swear that every girl in my Sec Mod school got the slipper at least once. I know every single girl in my ex's convent school got caned at least once. All circa 62/67.
Just because Lotta was not there does not mean it did not happen.
Now we all have the courtesy to give info to Lotta. How about a bit in reteurn? Such as type of school, rough area geographically and period time wise that Lotta attended. Then we may find out what Lottas negativity is all about.
D'ont hold your breath.

Lotta Nonsense

Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 8:05 PM 

If recent postings are anything to go by, this forum's fantasy merchants will soon be demanding that all history teachers and history lecturers be dismissed and charged with fraud on the grounds that they weren't on the scene to witness the events they're claiming to know about.

If we're going to argue, can we at least argue intelligently?


Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 10:15 PM 

Lotta where is your evidence to the contrary.
Why don't you just have the curtesy to answer ny reasonable request above?
Why do you ask for reasonable arguement when you cannot back up your own stance with fact?
I know what I saw and experienced, why would I enlarge the truth? There would be nothing for me to gain.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 1 2008, 10:48 PM 

Mimi and Lotta, I don't want to ruffle any feathers, I'm trying to avoid upsetting people - for a few days anyway!

Is it possible though that you are talking about different things? Mimi, I take it from your postings, Irish nationality, Irish residence, that you were educated in the ROI. Lotta, I've no real clues where you were educated and where you draw your experience from, but I'd guess it is England.

I think that the CP experience of girls in Scotland for the sort of period we are likely to be talking aboutwas somewhat different from that of girls in England. Is there a possibility that the ROI, like Scotland a country with a deeply ingrained religious tradition, also had a more rigorous CP regime embracing both sexes, as against the English situation where girls certainly received less CP than boys?

Again, apologies for butting in, but I don't like to see two Forum members for whom I have considerable respect tearing each other apart.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 2 2008, 1:00 AM 

A L I am Anglo Irish, I was educated and worked I England for over 52 years. I love England and all that it stood for.
I however discovered my Irish side and I feel more comfortable here. Its like England used to be.
As for Lotta I can only relate the following about myself.
I have fished for Salmon for 40 years I have never caught one, therefore they do not exist.
I enjoy shooting, I have never shot anyone, therefor no one has ever been shot.
I have only flown Prop aeroplanes, therefore jet aeroplanes do not exist.
I have never been a civil servant therefore they do not exist.
I was not alive in the 2nd W WW therefore it did not exist.
I could go on.
Lotta would say " I never saw CP, I never got CP therfore it does not exist ".
Closed minds like Lottas put inocent people in prison.


Bob T

Re: Inconsistent School CP

August 2 2008, 1:42 AM 

In Lotta's defense, I only saw 2 girls get into any kind of trouble during my elementary school years. Girls were subject to CP but they were too well behaved. I find it hard to believe that girls in England or Scotland would be that different.

In high school I would say some girls were more likely to get into trouble.

Paul b

Inconsistent School CP

August 2 2008, 2:21 AM 

I think you are spot on A-L when you say being well behaved
didn't necessarily mean you weren't going to be punished.
I'm not proud to say I was anything but well behaved, but
at school I towed the line as much as possible, only because
of school CP.
I've only first hand knowledge of school in the 60s but in
that period of time society dramatically changed, but not
the school regime, rules or discipline.
This moved very slowly and it did cause problems with pupils.
My wife was mostly a well behaved girl but was slippered once,
by the Deputy Headmistress, she told me boys were sometimes
punished in the classroom but girls were always slippered in
private, this was a mixed secondary school.
Today some of the classroom behaviour is appalling, in the 60s
it was the pupils who were on the receiving end, today it's
the teachers, in a way it's done a complete circle.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

December 25 2012, 11:34 PM 

I would have thought that inconsistency in the application of CP would have prompted many pupils in the 60s and 70s to refuse to submit to it - and even to make formal complaints to the authorities.Many parents would also have taken a dim view of their own kids being 'picked on' by a particular teacher.Administering punishment on the basis of 'mood on a particular day' made a teacher highly vulnerable to charges of favouratism and victimisation.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

December 26 2012, 3:17 PM 

I full agree. CP has to be not only fair but seen to be fair. You cannot cane a boy on a Monday for some offence and then on Tuesday another boy commits the same offence and is not caned. Pupils and parents tend to see things in black and white with no grey areas. It is either a caning offence or it is not. The fact the boy has not been in trouble before has nothing to do with it. If it is an offence that has been punished with the cane in the past then it has to be so this time. If the norm is six strokes for a certain offence then it has to be six not two or three. If you want respect and use corporal punishment it must be seen to be done fairly and without favour. It can not only cause trouble for the teacher if it is not but for the boy as well.
As I said, it not only has to be fair but seen to be fair. May I give you a few examples.

For about three months at my private school, the governors for some reason decided that the cane should be used across trousers and pants rather than the bare bottom which had been the norm in the past. This change of policy caused many problems and complaints from parents, so many in fact that the governors gave me written instrucfions that in future all canings will be on the bare buttocks. Nobody then complained about their son having to take his trouseres and pants down to be caned, as it was regarded as being fair for all. Over clothing, if the boy knew he was going to be caned, some would wear more than one pair of pants so as to reduce the sting. With thick tweed trousers is was impossible to detect the outline of any extra pants and as they were high waisted trousers, even pulling the shirt and vest partly up the back would not reveal (if the boy had been careful) the top of any extra pants. Boys complained amoung themselves that they had taken six stingers but Fred hardly felt it as he had extra pants on. Parents complained that a caning had not hurt much because he had worn extra pants and they (the parents) had caned him again at home when they found out. On the other hand some complained that their son had been painfully caned because he had taken it correctly over just thin pants while others hardly felt it due to extra pants. During the war years at my state school, we had the sanme kind of problewm. Some boys, due to clothing being short had the seat of their trousers patched with thin leather. When bending over, it hardly mattered how hard you caned them it would not hurt, unmlike some boys who had no pants under their trousers and the seat was so thin that you could see their bottom. It was almost like caning the bare bottom. Everybody would complain that this would not be fair, but nobody objected if all boys had to take it on their bare leaat it was fair for all.

As I said cp has to be seen to be fair. That does give some scope to the caner. During the war boys were not allowed on the allotments without an adult. This was to stop theft of food...often encouraged by parents. They dare not steal food but it did not look so bad if their son did it. After all they could deny that they had told him. The punishment for being caught without an aDULT, regardless OF Any theft, was six heftly strokes of the cane across the bare bottom. One Monday five boys were reported to me for being on the allotments without an adult. Four had clearly gone to the allotment to get some stealing. The fifth boy, who was an honest lad, had never been in any kind of trouble before. he had been told to get something from the shop for his mother and as the shop was soon to close decided to take a short cut across the allotment.It was a foolish thing to do, but if he had not done so the shop may have closed and they would have been without food. The rule clearly stated that any boy found on the allotment without an adult would get six on the bare bottom. The other four clearly deserved the standard six swishing strokes which, amid tears, were administered. The fifth boy, in my view did not deserve to be caned, but had no choice but to make him bare his bottom and bend over. To the other four who watched it looked as if he was caned just as hard as them. The only thing was that I masde sure the tip of the cane did not land on his bottom. It was more the middle part of the cane that landed, which did not sting so much. Also just as it was about to land I released my grip slightly, thuis also reduces the sting. It still hurt and he did cry, as well as having six red lines across his bottom. The differance being that not only did each stroke not hurt nearly as much but after about an hour he would not feel it at all, where as the others would have smarting bottoms for several hours and would feel it when they sat down for a couple of days. Some may feel I should have let the fifth boy off or given less. Had I done so, parents would have complained....not only from the parents of the boys concerned. The boy himself would have been teased and his life made a misery by being called names. Above all the punishments would not have been looked upon as fair and my role as being impartial would have been damaged.

The last case I will recall was at my private school not long before I retired but my retirement had nothing do do with this case. A movement led by STOPP was starting to aggitate against corporal punishment and urged parents that did not agree with it to write to the head telling him they did not want their son caned. At a parents meeting this issue was raised and backed by the governors I clearly stated, and later sent out a letter to all parents, that boys who broke the rules would be caned and their would be no exceptions. Two boys a few weeks later were caught on the school roof trying to retrieve balls. This was an offence punishable with four strokes of the cane. The first boy, when told pulled his trousers and pants down and bent over the chair, and took his four strokes in front of the other boy without complaint. When the second boy (aged 12) was told to bare his bottom and bend over he refused and said his parents had told hinm he could not be caned. I tried to firce the issue but he ran outside to his mother as it was hometime. She stormed into the school and confronted me. She demanded he be given a detention in place of the cane. I refused and said that if they did not want him caned the only alternative was that he be expelled. She could think about it until the next day and he need not come to school. He could come in and report to my study close of school at 4.15 where he would get four of the cane, or if he did not turn up he was expelled.

Somehow this spread around the parents and their was a great deal of interest to see if I woukd keep my word and if he would turn up.A lot more parents decided to collect their sons the next day and waited around talking, clearly to see what would happen. The mother of the boy took him to my study the next day. A short and sharp conversation took place and she left telling him she be waiting outside. It may have been wrong but I wanted these parents who were waiting to see and hear justice done. I had no curtains to the window but opened it slighly with the intention that they could hear the THWACK of the cane across his bottom. He took his trousers and pants down and bent over. i lifted his shirt to expose his bottom which was now facing the open window. I could see several parents looking in, but of course pretending not to do so. He got the four across his bottom and left crying and clasping his bottom. A lot of parents shouted out at the other mother
"he got what he deserved"
"why should be be let off. A good caning does them good when they are naughty"

I got a lot of support.

As I said yiu not only have to be fair but seen to be fair. Most parents I heard talking about it for a few days all said that they were loud that they either heard or saw the caning so they knew he got it just like all the other boys.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

December 27 2012, 5:11 PM 

Hi George

CP has to be not only fair but seen to be fair.

I fully agree, it's something I said many times. In fact, I'd go further: being seen to be fair is more important that actually being fair because it's what's perceive that determines the reaction.

Not everyone agrees however. If two children, with identical antecedence, commit exactly the same offence with identical culpability, some would see nothing wrong with caning one severely and giving the other some token "punishment" such as a "telling off". Even where one is a first timer and the other a serial offender, they would happily cane the first timer and let the serial offender off with yet another "telling off". Some schools even had stated policies of doing just that!

It is either a caning offence or it is not. The fact the boy has not been in trouble before has nothing to do with it. If it is an offence that has been punished with the cane in the past then it has to be so this time.

I disagree with that. In my opinion, antecedence is relevant. It's not unfair to go easier on a first time offender providing you're consistent. The problem is inconsistency, not graduated punishments.

If you want respect and use corporal punishment it must be seen to be done fairly and without favour. It can not only cause trouble for the teacher if it is not but for the boy as well.

Again I agree but presumably some teachers didn't want to earn respect. On the contrary, they would go out of their way to be seen to be unfair. As you say, it could cause trouble for the child and I can't help feeling that causing divisions was the intention - "divide and conquer."

I can't give examples from my own school, because we were all treated fairly, but friends who attended other schools have told of some of the unfairness they encountered. A common example, I'd heard many times, is one where a group of children were caught smoking but, although it was the first time for each of them, some were caned and the others let off.



December 28 2012, 10:08 AM 

This is a fascinating thread. I have to agree that the tariff as set by the teacher administering the punishment was always open to external factors: his mood, whether or not he liked the person concerned, how often the boy or girl had been before him, if he was making an example to settle down an unruly class, if he was in a temper - a whole host of things. I down own a photo copy of a complete punishment book (about 60 pages) covering the 50's/60's and it is interesting to note within it how the headmaster's caning philosophy changed over time. Yes, it was the same headmaster, and in the beginning only one or two strokes were awarded, where as as the years wore on the same offences were getting three, four or six strokes. I suppose his optimistic outlook had diminished by this time and he was more accustomed to the cane as a tool of discipline


Re: Inconsistent School CP

December 28 2012, 12:45 PM 

'A common example, I'd heard many times, is one where a group of children were caught smoking but, although it was the first time for each of them, some were caned and the others let off.'

I am surprised to hear that pupils submitted to it under those circumstances.Smoking did not normally occur until - say - the age of 15 or so, and boys of that age could have physically stood their ground against a master trying to pick on them.Indeed quite a few would have resorted to awarding him a black eye or bloody nose - both of which would have been well deserved.
I would also have thought that such incidents would have opened the way to formal proceedings via the LEA or school authorities.



December 28 2012, 5:18 PM 

I disagree with that. In my opinion, antecedence is relevant. It's not unfair to go easier on a first time offender providing you're consistent. The problem is inconsistency, not graduated punishments.

I do not agree with the point you are making. As I said their vwere "tricks of the trade" that could be used in certain circumstances, so while appearing the same to those that may be watching, it was not so painful for the boy on the receiving end.

I do agree, it was very tempting to spare a first timer, certainly if he was normally a well behaved lad. I can tell you many times I wished I could have spared him the cane, certainly whenbn he is bending over showing his bare bottom waiting to have it caned. The danger is to think of the narrow view, just of the boy in question. As a head I had to think of the picture as a whole. If you let him off, then it sets precident for all first timers to be let off. This would soon lead to a breakdown in school discipline. Every boy being sent to me for the cane would expect to be let off the first time and may encourage some to take advantage of this situation, edged on by others. To do it on an individual basis encourages shouts of unfairness and favouritism. You cannot have a rule for one and a rule for another. For example the punishment for smoking may be four strokes, but just because that boy has not done it before is no reason to spare him the cane. However, if another boy is with him, or sent to me later it is fair to tell the boy that as a ruke it is four strokes but as this is a repeated offence it will be six. He mat gasp at the thought of getting six but he will except it and bend over, knowing their vis good reason for him to get more than the normal four.

If its a caning offence, then regardless of circumstances, he has to be caned. What has to be kept in mind is if thge rule for smoking is four strokes then the boy who haS NEVER BEEN IN TROUBLE BEFORE WILL EXPECT TO GET FOUR STROKES. THE OTHER BOYS IN THE SCHOOL WILL EXPECT HIM TO GET FOUR STROKES. HIS PARENTS AND OTHER Prents will expect him to get four strokes. Parents were quick to complain, if for no clear reason, their little Fred got more than Charlie.

This is where the wider picture has to be looked at and not feel sorry for the lad bending over waiting to get caned for the first time.



December 28 2012, 5:38 PM 

Again I agree but presumably some teachers didn't want to earn respect. On the contrary, they would go out of their way to be seen to be unfair. As you say, it could cause trouble for the child and I can't help feeling that causing divisions was the intention - "divide and conquer."

Again I am sorry but cannot agree with your statement. I do not think teachers went out of their way to be unfair but crept in due to their personal feelings. A boy that is always playing around in class, will tend to annoy a teacher more than one that hardly causes trouble. The big offender can expect the teacher to crack the slipper very hard across his bottom or sent him to the head. The other boy may just be warned or get no more than what amounts to a tap with the slipper.

Please do not confuse the words "fear" and "respect". The teacher that is unfair will never have the respect of the class but even the teachers that really slipper hard will gain respect if they treat every boy, and every case fairly.

That is one reason that in the schools I waS HEAD THE RIGHT TO CANE WAS LIMITED TO MYSELF AND DEPUTY. Of course the odd teacher would use a cane or blackboard point which was against the rules, and most teachers kept a sl;ipper in their desk drawer. The idea of limiting those who could cane was to make sure a common policy was followed. The same offence getting the same punishment from who ever was carrying out the punishment. It also prevented resentment of some teachers being know as soft caners while others really whacked the boy. It increases the chance eliment if the boy is caught. Will he get sent to a teacher that does it fairly softly or may not cae at all, or one that really whacks the boys bottom. Does the boy get it from a teacher that does it over trousers and pants or onw that insists the bottom is bare for whacking.The more teachers that use corporal punishment the greater the variation. That is why the use of the cane was supposed to be limited to certain teachers.

I had the case of PE teachers using the slipper.I say slipper, it was a gym shoe. A proper slipper like I used as a head was a houseslipper with the top cut off and a leather sole. This would sting twice as much as a gym shoe certainly when used on the bare bottom. One gym teacher refused to slipper boys and became known as "a soft trouch". His lessons were chaos and he had neither respect nor fear from the class. Another Pe teacher used the gym shoe fairly often but was not consistant. At times he used it across a boys shorts and atother times it was shorts down and the bare bottom slippered. he was not consistant, and it was nearly always the same boys that got it bare. This teacher was not respected but was only feared by the ones he use to whack on thge bare bottom as he really use to whack their bare cheeks., The other teacher used the slipper a fair amount but boys knew where they stood with him. play about or break the rules and it was shorts down and as a rule two fearson whacks with the gym shoe on the bare bottom. No boy was ever excused. This teacher was respected, not feared. Boys knew that if they behaved they would not get slippered but also knew if they did play about bottoms would be whacked with the same foirce regardless of who the boy was getting it.


Re: Inconsistent School CP

December 28 2012, 9:39 PM 

School Corporal punishment is an interesting , if largely historical subject.

The popularity of its origins lie in the social organization of teaching , which was largely determined in the later 18th and early 19th centuries. Although education was far different from today , as Foucault reminds us in his masterpiece 'Discipline and Punish',educational , or indeed any social punishment does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of a the social whole either is sustained( as in Southern States of the US today) by social structures, a socially constructed ethic , and social processes, or else the environment impacts and changes the practice.

This is what of course we've seen in the last 50 years in the United Kingdom

The utility of corporal punishment in the school setting depended on two crucial factors. First that you had a group of quasi identical animals in the class who needed to be taught in a quasi identical way , taught the same things, and made to follow a set of rules which really had no rationale other than to impose conformity. This of course was the 'invaluable' contribution of La Salle to school education.

Everyone forgot that even John Baptist de La Salle himself wrote that the system he suggested ( that of following the training methods of the Prussian army of the day ), was only adopted because it was cheap , and if education was to be universal it had to be cheap and cheerful. No room for non conformists.

Yet this system penalised exactly those who often provide the motor for social progress individuals and those with high level cognitive ability who saw beyond in their way the fa├žade of this educational behemoth.

It took the coming of the social sciences in the late 20th century to discover this, and these together with the reawakening of the neo Freudians in psychology, who got a huge boost after the demonstrable frauds of 'scientific' psychological investigation ,( racism, preconceptions, sexism, and just plain old conservative empiricism), both in their own way demonstrated the failure of the Lassalian model.

Unfortunately whilst this led to 'liberalisation' of curriculum and pedagogy, it failed to root out root and branch the Lassalian fables, which like Grimm's fairy stories inhabit the dark recesses of reactionary minds and were reproduced by historical teachers like Dr Dominum, Mrs BB, and Headmaster George.

Whilst their model is Lassallian at base, I suppose my model of teaching is more inspired by Alice through the looking glass. A system which teaches, and indeed requires the student to challenge and question everything , and develops their mind through direct Socratic dialogue. I believe that using this method there is no need in educational terms for much if anything in the way of serious punishment at all.Where there is such a need correction should be aimed to positively reinforce the correct social choice and so should be 'learning directed' not 'Pavlovian 'instinct directed'.

What has to be bred is a mutual respect. I think that I and others with like minds have shown it can be done even with pupils labelled disruptive and unteachable by mainstream standards. I often look at the kids on programmes like 'that'll teach 'em who are labelled untraceable failures' and recall the Jesuit 'comment' 'Give me the child before he is seven , and I'll give you the adult ' .

Where Dominum , George and BB, needs a cane, we need talk. Why? Because at base the Lassalian believes , just like the army sergeant , that to train a conscript you must first break down what is there and then rebuild it .Modern Social science, or as I would prefer, modern bricolage has shown that to be absolute rubbish!

Yes you must if you want an automaton : but we don't we wan t a critical sentient human being , with moral values and ethical standards. and you don't get that by beating in obedience.

I often think Why SHOULD an eleven year old boy wear a cap to school? why should girls have to wear straw hats in summer even if they look stupid or jail bait in them ? What is the educational purpose of rote rules if not to squash any vestige of individuality out of schoolkids.

Why do kids think it clever to smoke and maybe expose themselves to lung cancer and worse ? Why should the last two back from a cross country run be seen as lazy and feckless- someone has to be last if someone is to be first ..........and so it continues . Why will beating the thick and indolent teach them anything at all except sadism and that the bully wins? At least the Army sergeant is up front about using bullying as a method of discipline. Teachers won't admit it and then beat up kids who follow their example.

Ivan Illich ( de schooling society) had a lot more going for him than people thought in the 70's . The first step in making people learn is to get them to respect themselves and value their own worth , then they'll take control of their negotiated learning goals. Until teachers ( who are always a decade behind everyone else - why? Because they are taught to teach by those at the end of their careers and to imitate)learn to turn the classroom on its head we will continue to get the sort of failure rates we do today.

At least now we get a bit more humility from the Far East as well, who are now being shown to have got , in hidden form, many of the exact same problems in their classes that we have .Discipline makes for a certain type of learning , possibly fine when the world was organised by an Empire which prided itself on its military machine , and obedient civil service, but not adequate today in out fast changing multi faceted society.

Victorian teaching methods produced a society fit for the Victorian era, we are 100 years and more beyond that.We don't have to apologise for what happened in the past , for to slightly rewrite the quote 'the past is a different country and they did things differently there'. We do, however, have to recognise its lack of functionality today in terms of the changed goals of society and the spring cleaning of social morality .

As bob Dylan put it forty years ago

Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

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