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scully's Blog


Under What terms could you live with a Corporal Punishment Ban at School

I came up through the catholic education system who made plenty of use of the cane. I don't think as students at the time we appreciate how these nuns, priests and brothers devoted their lives to educating young men and women. When I was at my second college we had Discipline Master who appeared to be in his sixties. In fact he was in his thirties and sported really grey hair. He now lives in a priestly retirement community and I consider him a near and dear friend.

One day when I took him out for lunch we got discussing his use of the cane before it was banned. To my surprise I found out he considered it a failure when he had to cane a student. As he put it a teacher is a guide teaching teenagers by example, guiding them and providing positive helpful direction in a safe environment. When all that failed a short sharp shock usually worked.

For completeness of this blog comment and question I should tell you about his biggest brag. He taught in secondary schools for nearly 50 years being seventy five when he retired from teaching. During that time and while he was in a position of responsibility (Rector, Vice Rector or Discipline Master) no students were suspended or expelled from the college. I asked him under what circumstances he would support the corporal punishment ban in schools. His answered surprised me. He would support the ban provided there was a similar ban on expelling or suspending students. He pointed out that recent official figures showed that these courses of action had become the primary method of dealing with behavior problems in colleges. Suspensions are simply a holiday for the student and the college, moves the supervision (and therefore safety) of the student to the parents, does nothing to address the actual issue and definitely does nothing for the students education.

He continued about expelling students. Colleges in this country can teach the subject program in any order but must have covered all topics by the time the public exams come along. So each college do teach the subject material in a different order to meet both student needs and teaching resources. In this country if a college is going to expel a student who is not old enough to leave the education system they must find another college to take the person in. Many of these student end up under the Correspondence School wing and are the least likely to succeed because they lack the motivation to work alone. Similarly going to another college they need to be well organized and motivated to catch up on the study program (which they generally are not)  

To support his view point he pointed to some research of a PHD student he supervised several years ago in which a large proportion of people (59%) who are in jail had been either expelled or had periods of suspension during there college life.

I found it interesting that while I was at college and he was the Discipline Master he practiced what he preached. I remember having several students join our college during the year because they had been expelled from another college in the town and in those days the cane was an option in all schools.  At a recent Old Boys reunion a guy was full of praise for the priests approach. He was not a catholic and was expelled from a college who had streamed him to fail. He is now a senior partner in a leading law firm.

I have difficulty in disagreeing with my priestly friend. What do you think?    

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Under What terms could you live with a Corporal Punishment Ban at School, posted January 4th, 2013

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