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Classroom punishments

October 23 2011 at 9:47 PM
Alan Turing 

I started at my secondary school in September 1961. It was a boys grammar school in north-west London and, as was common in those days, serious disciplinary offences were punished by the headmaster with a cane.

In this post, though, I'm concerned with more minor types of misbehaviour, those which would have been punished by the classroom teacher himself. Different teachers used different methods to maintain order: some used corporal punishment, some didn't. Did this difference have any significant effect?

I've dug out my old school report, and here are the different teachers we had for the different subjects, in my first, second and third years at the school. (I'll use labels rather than their names.)

1961-62 1962-63 1963-64
English B B V
History C N W
Geography D P P
Latin E E A
French F Q Q
Maths G G X
Biology H

Art J

Music K K K

Teachers A, C, F, K, L, Q and U used the slipper, and teacher D used the "strap" (an old leather belt). The other teachers, a majority, didn't use CP. The interesting thing, though, is that I don't recall any significant difference in the overall level of misbehaviour between the two groups of teachers. Indeed, probably the worst behaviour was in our French class in the second and third year, where the teacher used the slipper, although not particularly effectively.

In principle this is quite a good test, because we're looking at the same children throughout. Of course there's the overarching possibility of being sent to the head; but this would have been unlikely for low-level disobedience, unless it was extremely persistent. So this does seem to suggest that classroom CP could be replaced by other punishments without a deterioration in behaviour.

I wonder if this was a common phenomenon?

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Re: Classroom punishments

October 23 2011, 10:27 PM 

The availability of classroom CP may have been more important to good order and learning than the incidence of CP.

During my years in school, in the 1950s and 60s, teachers varied greatly in the amount of corporal punishment they used in the classroom. Some teachers were strict and other were less so. We did not mind provided only teachers were consistent and "fair", or at least predictable.

The amount of corporal punishment was weakly or moderately correlated with the inherent interest of the subject and more strongly with the quality of the teaching. The best teachers often got by with having CP available without needing to use it much. Some will argue that only good teachers should be employed, which would be ideal if they were sufficient in number.

A few students were punished a lot, and most of us rarely. One or two bad boys were generally much easier for a teacher to manage than a slightly greater number. The amount of punishment correlated with the number of bad boys in the class. Teachers with more bad boys needed to be stricter.

None of my classes were chaotic nor any of my teachers incompetent. Classroom CP may have permitted some teachers to be more effective than they would have been otherwise.

American Way

Re: Classroom punishments

October 23 2011, 10:44 PM 

Alan: An interesting thread you have started and I hope it will become a long one but not as long as this posting. Bear with me or at least humor me. Unless your wondering leads to a something statistically significant by respondents will such data be of value? What would happen if the anti zealots got a hold of this data if the results tilted in their direction? OTOH I wouldn't be too worried about that for they only read the threads that they start. I am curious and I'lll search my memory bank. I will include those I believed got the stick from their demeanor upon returning to the classroom. It was always more somber than when returning after a good chewing out.

In sixth grade our second and only principal henceforth broke the pointers over her knee in full view of all the students. So again bear with me or at least humor me and listen to a man tell his old BORING (KK POV) stories one more time. At least I don't forget that I didn't tell them before. As we age, soon or later, we become whom we criticized. Sic transit gloria. My son tells me not to worry that he forgets where he puts his keys and you're half my age. Alan, I'm not cutting into your thread I hope by this digression. There was no auditorium so we lined the perimeter of the staircase, like the stern from the stem of the ship, as the new principal in an Irish brogue told us that we were rational animals and had reason and free will and that sticks were for animals. The sister loved nautical allusions: she was the captain of the ship and those who crossed her were called mutineers. Catholic schools had their moment hilarity as well as miseries.

A sixth grade girl took an instant dislike of her for she had a dog. Girls probably never got the stick only the ruler less often. Gender stereotyped since some girls cried, more out of shame IMHO, for a boy to make a fuss was to act like a girl. Those were the Titanic days, well not that far back, when life jackets had women and children as opposed to nowadays the Three Musketeer. Jenny, I'm truly glad things changed as does our daughter. In olden days the girls with the best math and science grades became nurses and english and history grades became teachers and that was that. Why? They weren't allowed to leave home so had to commute to normal school for teachers or nursing schools at a nearby hospital. I'm talking right up to WWII. In my day you had to declare in your freshman year whether you were commercial (Typewriters) or classical (Latin) and college bound. They had a public vocational school where boys could learn how to drive a nail in straight.

Alan, I'll have to give it more thought but our fourth grade Sister Mary Ruler got results from the time tables. Arithmetic to the rhyme of the hickory stick. How many people remember the helping verb song? Is, am, are, was, were are the helping verbs you see.........? No one stayed back in her class though I almost did for failing three courses (three strikes you're out) penmanship, music and art. They knew the parents might be math challenge so underneath the grade under 70 they underlined it in red. 11X12 never became 122 ever again. sad.gif

I'll never forget KK's reaction pooh poohing having an eraser thrown at me. Such sympathy from one who longs for the weals and bruises of corporal punishment on the way to life's journey filled with woes. Let's cane them 1960 style. And some think I read only my posts while others read all by mine for even more reasons than I have already been told. sad.gif Adieu.


Re: Classroom punishments

October 23 2011, 10:50 PM 

American Way:

I'll never forget KK's reaction pooh poohing having an eraser thrown at me.

When? Where? I have no recollection of doing any such thing. If I have, I had no intention of doing so.

American Way

Re: Classroom punishments

October 24 2011, 12:24 AM 

KK, I am pleased with your response. I think it was more like what does this have to do with corporal punishment and get over it. CP would be a controlled infliction of pain and not an angry outburst. For an early mention of how I felt read message below from March 11, 2011.



Re: Classroom punishments

October 24 2011, 2:47 AM 

Most of my teachers used the slipper in class - some more than others. One, an English teacher whose classes I attended for two years, could not control a class but never imposed any punishments. Her lessons were a riot - almost literally. About the only skills I developed in her lessons were marks(wo)manship with a peashooter and paper dart design. As a result, my English course work was non-existent and my language skills were very poor. As I've mentioned before, it was only thanks the the intervention of my science teachers that I was entered for GCE O' Level English.

At the other end of the scale, there were teachers who could control a class by their mere presence and keeping our interest in the subject. Although the slipper remained a possibility, those teachers hardly ever used it.

Most teachers were somewhere in between. They could control a class most of the time without resort to CP but wouldn't hesitate to use it when appropriate.


Re: Classroom punishments

October 24 2011, 2:55 AM 

American Way,

On 10 October 2009 you wrote :

My eight grade Nun threw an eraser at me and I ducked.

I did not comment on your post and I have not found any negative or belittling replies. Another_Lurker made some comments but these were in no way negative or unsympathetic.

You have attributed to me comments and views I do not hold.

American Way


October 24 2011, 3:45 AM 

I could swear it was you but it is clear now that I falsely attributed it to you. I should have known better for I must say it would be unlike you.

American Way

Re: Classroom punishments

October 24 2011, 3:50 AM 

Maybe someone can post what I could have taken to be a negative. If it can be searched quickly fine, but it hardly matters. False attribution is one thing but MY MEMORY. Come on. happy.gif

"Another_Lurker made some comments but these were in no way negative or unsympathetic."



For KK & American Way.

October 24 2011, 5:57 AM 

Hi KK,

Please do not take my name in vain with American Way. As you can see this can cause him some puzzlement as he and I have had both conflicts and collaborations, hopefully rather more of the latter than the former!

Hi American Way,

The post that KK refers to is here. I regret publicising it in this post as I am going to regurgitate carefully redraft it as part of my response to this excellent thread originated by my very esteemed fellow contributor Alan Turing. And so a WARNING: If you are not American Way please do not follow the above link, otherwise you'll have to read it twice. You have been warned! happy.gifwink.gifhappy.gif

American Way

Posted under wrong thread

October 24 2011, 6:40 AM 

We had the same poles and that does bring back memories. Remember this was in the mid 1950's to the earl 1960's. Dodgy? Kid stuff? It is easier to dodge a javelin than an eraser. There has been only one American Way posted under that name. Yours truly for weal or for woe.


Re: Classroom punishments

October 25 2011, 5:00 AM 

The Esteemed One has reprimanded me for to taking his name in vain (lightly or profanely). This was not my intent and I deeply regret the offence I have caused. I have sent away for sack cloth and ashes but am not sure what to do with them. I will try to refrain from mentioning the one who must not be named in future.

Alan Turing

Re: Classroom punishments

October 25 2011, 8:47 PM 

I think that Jenny's comment

At the other end of the scale, there were teachers who could control a class by their mere presence and keeping our interest in the subject. Although the slipper remained a possibility, those teachers hardly ever used it.

is particularly significant here. We had some teachers who didn't use corporal punishment at all; it just wasn't a possibility, and so didn't enter into the equation.

A few recollections. Teacher B was a tall man, with quite a loud voice (I'd guess that he'd had some experience on the stage, if only at an amateur level). But he didn't shout, he didn't need to. The only time I ever saw him almost get annoyed, he just raised his voice and announced "I'll bounce you round the room, boy!". And that was it.

But they didn't all need to be extroverts. B left the school, and his successor as an English teacher was V, who was much younger (early twenties, I guess) and very friendly. He was no pushover (he played rugby), but got good behaviour by collaboration rather than confrontation.

Another good comparison is in geography, with D and P. D was approaching retirement, and a master of the "old school". He certainly wouldn't think of the boys as friends; once, it a fit of exasperation, he hissed at us "you're all worms, just worms". I've described elsewhere how he used his belt quite regularly, and indeed one didn't lark about in his lessons.

But one didn't lark about in P's lessons, either. P was very self-effacing, but he treated the boys with respect, and was given respect in turn. And no question of corporal punishment.

As I've said, though, Q was pretty useless at controlling a class. Indeed, I recall one boy who I'll call "Pod". (In fact we really did call him that; he was from a Polish family, and the teachers couldn't pronounce his name. We could, but even so we called him Pod; so Pod he shall be.)

Anyway, Pod was always getting into trouble, through carelessness rather than malevolence; once, for instance, he was caught by D chewing on some gum, and after being given the impossible question "do you chew gum only in my geography class, or in the other classes as well" was obliged to bend over for the belt.

But on one occasion in a French class he annoyed Q and was called out for the slipper. He decided to bend over with his arms going straight past his knees rather than aiming at his ankles, and as each blow fell he half-stood, thus going with the impact and reducing its effect. This was commented on by the class at the time, but quietly; if Q had had any sense at all, or heard us, he'd have ordered Pod over a desk.

At this distance, nearly fifty years later, I've really no idea what Q's problem was. He didn't have the personality to control a class as B had done, and for some reason didn't want to adopt the friendly or respectful options. So he tried the "hard man" approach, but couldn't manage that, either. A shame.

Former Naughty Schoolboy

Classroom Punishments

October 27 2011, 6:13 AM 

Classroom punishments at my school usually involved several whacks with a plimsoll in front of the class while bending over the teacher's desk. I found this quite embarrassing especially as there were girls in the clasroom. The maximum number of whacks I had for a slippering was six and I have to admit that it did hurt me. I was slippered twice times during my schooling but I received the cane more than the slipper. I was usually well behaved but when I did misbehave it was major and warranted a caning. I always wanted to see a girl get the slipper in class but sadly I never did, a few girls were kept behind at breaks or had to stay back after class for the slipper-how discriminatory!


classroom punishments

October 27 2011, 6:43 AM 

i experienced various classroom punishments ,mainly during junior and primary years,high school it seemed most problems were sorted out by the principle and his cane or one of this deputies.
classroom punishments included writing lines,keeped in after school,hand spanking(standing or over the knee),30 cm ruler applied to hands or bottom,bent over in front of class for 3 or 4 smacks with beach bat or black board ruler and a couple of times i felt the back of the teachers hair brush applied to my butt while over her knee,all good fun,miss the good old days.

Alan Turing

Re: Classroom punishments

October 28 2011, 12:51 PM 

I don't think that these last two posts are quite what I had in mind for this thread; it's really supposed to be about the way in which different teachers exercised control in class, where some used CP and others didn't, how effective their respective methods were, and the extent to which it depended on the teacher's personality. Just describing some punishments doesn't really help very much.

de Wolf

Re: Classroom punishments

October 28 2011, 9:07 PM 

Hi Alan Turing,

If you extended your research over the whole country, in the same year, I wouldn't mind betting the results would average out much the same.

It, in my opinion is down to respect and leadership. Some teachers would cane you and all that was felt was resentment, whereas, if there was a sense of respect, and the teacher was held in high esteem, a sense of letting the teacher down would prevail.

Although they weren't teachers, two examples of the greatest leaders this country has ever had were "Winston Churchill", but the one that stands out to me is Queen Elizerbeth the 1st. They commanded respect, and received it too, a good example a teacher could follow.

It seems Jenny's school had the right solution, after repeated warnings, if the pupil totally ignored a teachers warning the slipper was given, to either sex, which is fair.
If a pupil can see there is no discrimination, they usually respond accordingly.


Re: Classroom punishments

October 31 2011, 3:48 PM 

Hi de Wolf

It seems Jenny's school had the right solution, after repeated warnings, if the pupil totally ignored a teachers warning the slipper was given, to either sex, which is fair.

Some teachers were a bit more ready to punish than others but none were overly strict. Most would allow us a lot of leeway and would simply warn us if we were pushing it too far. A lot of low-level misbehaviour isn't a matter of defiance, it's a matter of discovering where the boundaries lie.

If a pupil can see there is no discrimination, they usually respond accordingly.

That's something the sexists completely ignore. The discrimination practised by some schools caused a lot of resentment and a lack of respect for the teachers - both leading to increased misbehaviour by both sexes.

Alan Turing

Re: Classroom punishments

October 31 2011, 10:23 PM 

Actually, I think de Wolf's comment about respect hits the nail on the head. If teachers don't command respect, they won't be able to do their job (that is, teaching) to full effect. And respect won't come simply by threatening CP (or any other punishment, for that matter).

Ideally, teachers would be respected by default. There's less of that around these days, for various reasons, so teachers have to work harder. But gaining respect can be done, except perhaps in the most extreme circumstances, and I still believe that, in the UK at any rate, those circumstances are pretty rare.

The comment about sexism is, in a sense, orthogonal to all this. Fifty years ago, when I was at school, there was a common (although not universal) feeling that men and women, and hence boys and girls, really were different in significant ways, and therefore deserved to be treated differently. Now I don't know how this would have translated into the context of different punishments at secondary school level, because my school was all-boys. (I've mentioned elsewhere that there was a girls school across the road -- the one attended by Twiggy -- but I've no idea whether CP was used there.) What I can say, though, is that the remark I overheard at my co-ed primary school

Boy: Do girls get the cane?

Girl: No, they get the slipper.

didn't seem to signify any resentment by boys at that school that girls were given what was perceived to be a "softer" punishment; it was a genuine enquiry. I also don't recall any feeling of resentment that boys were slippered in class quite frequently at primary school (depending on the teacher, of course) whereas that hardly ever happened to girls. But of course my memory might be faulty.

Of course I'm talking about fifty years ago, and attitudes would be quite different today.


Re: Classroom punishments

November 1 2011, 1:23 AM 

I agree that teachers need respect to be able to do their jobs but they won't get it by treating their pupils unfairly.

I can't really comment on the feelings of fifty years ago because I was only about five and had only just started school. My experiences of school were closer to forty years ago. There were a lot of changes in the sixties. There was a strong push for sex equality which led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. There was a lot of resentment to sex discrimination around that time. Boys resented being caned whilst equally guilty girls were let off; girls resented detentions and lines whilst equally guilty boys just got a couple of whacks with a slipper. Pupils lost respect for their teachers and the early seventies saw them walking out of school in protest at the way they were being treated.

If schools tried to reintroduce the sexist practices of the past now, it would be a disaster. It would make it very difficult for individual teachers to earn the respect of their pupils. The practices would be challenged in court and the school forced to back down. Once that happens, every school rule and teacher's instruction is questioned.

American Way

Re: Classroom punishments

November 1 2011, 2:37 AM 

Did not they protests because they were against caning period? Or is a bit an overgeneralization based on your own hobby horse when you wrote: "Pupils lost respect for their teachers and the early seventies saw them walking out of school in protest at the way they were being treated." I hold you in highest esteem Jenny but reading your own views into the protests may be more a projection on your part and not a true reflection of what occurred.


Re: Classroom punishments

November 1 2011, 10:32 AM 

Hi American Way

Did not they protests because they were against caning period?

No, CP was just one of the issues. The protests were about much more than that. School Uniform; School dinners; (excessive) homework; compulsory sport (especially in bad weather); arbitrary rules; rules in general wink.gif; discriminatory practices and general unfair treatment.

The discriminatory practices related to ranges of subjects (some were only available to members of one sex) and different rules for boys and girls (hair length being a common one).

This all blew up right at the end of my period of compulsory education and, to be honest, we didn't have much to complain about anyway. There were a few grumbles but nothing serious and most problems could be easily resolved. School uniform wasn't strictly enforced; instead of school dinners, we could go to the chip shop; homework wasn't excessive and its purpose was explained so it became more acceptable; rules were explained if questioned and we weren't subject to discriminatory practices.

I'm not sure about compulsory sport because, at that stage of my school career, I don't recall participating much anyway.

The point I was making was that the protesters were prepared to openly defy their teachers and walk out - that shows a lack of respect for them.

Alan Turing


November 1 2011, 9:48 PM 

Jenny: There were a lot of changes in the sixties.

And some of those changes took a while to percolate. I mentioned attitudes to women; here are some recollections of my early time at the BBC, which I joined after leaving university in 1970. In those days, some jobs were open to both men and women, whereas others were not. For instance, only men could apply to become film cameramen. On the other hand, only women could apply to become production assistants; and in fact they had to be under thirty years old unless they already held such a post in another department! This changed only with the advent of the equal opportunities legislation; and it took a while before any "women cameramen" were appointed, and even longer before there were any male production assistants. (I haven't used the term "camera operator" because the cameraman's job was more to do with lighting rather than actually operating the camera!)

For the sake of clarity, I should also point out that the BBC had an eccentric set of job titles in those days. The job they called "production assistant" was called "assistant producer" everywhere else; they used the term "producer's assistant" for what everyone else called "production assistant". They changed to the standard terminology sometime in the mid-seventies.

But that doesn't affect my point, which is that even a "progressive" organisation like the BBC, which appointed women early on to fairly senior positions (for instance Grace Wyndham Goldie became a departmental head in 1962), was still operating discriminatory policies in the early seventies. These attitudes, though changing by then, would still have been around.

Alan Turing

For the sake of clarity

November 1 2011, 10:43 PM 

Clear as mud! The industry-standard production assistant job (that is, the job then called by the BBC "producers assistant") was the one restricted to women under thirty. The duties of the job would have involved keeping budgets, typing scripts, booking cast and crew, continuity work on location, timekeeping and shot-calling in studio. Oh, and getting cups of coffee for the producer! happy.gif

de Wolf

Re: Classroom punishments

November 2 2011, 2:48 AM 

I find it incomprehensible that people are still discriminating against women. They cannot have the intelligence to see past their obvious blinkers.

These small minded people must surely have dropped off a time machine, from the last century and beyond.
Would they refuse a kidney, or another organ if it were a womans? Or the knowledge and expertise a woman surgeon would need, to transplant these?

de Wolf

Re: Classroom punishments

November 5 2011, 1:40 PM 

The term "boundaries" brings to mind how far we could push a teacher.
I think we looked for any weakness to exploit, and if one was actually found, that indeed was the thin end of the wedge.

Another ploy used, was knowing a certain teacher's keen interest, then getting him, or her on the subject. A good percentage of the lesson was then lost.

Looking back now, it was us who missed out, but as the saying goes "you can't put an old head on young shoulders".

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