Please join me on my mission to eradicate legalised corporal punishment from our classrooms. In Australia a teacher is not allowed to hit, beat or physically handle a student. It is against the law, and so it should be. The fact that some other countries don’t practice the same policy mistifies me. A teacher should never be given the permission to physically discipline their students. Such an allowance gives bad teachers the right to lash out at any student that gives them a hard time. That is hardly what you would call “quality education.”
Picture this. It’s 10am in a classroom at a primary school and a teacher is handing out science test marks to the pupils. Among the children sits a 13-year-old boy who is an excellent student and an athlete, generally a boy who could be classified “a good child”.
But he has failed this particular test. The teacher tells him to stay behind after class.
His heart lurches and he gets a knot in his stomach because he knows what that means. He’s going to get a beating. Before spanking him, the teacher tells the pupil, “My daddy beat me and I beat my children, so I’m going to beat you.”
The boy walks away with not only a bruised bottom, but a bruised ego and tears in his eyes.
This scene is not from a school in some small village in “backward Africa”. Nope, this happened in a school in Alabama.
According to the US Department of Education, more than 200,000 school kids encounter corporal punishment every year across the US. And those are just the ones the department knows about. Some cases go unreported. Testimony at congressional hearings has revealed that up to 20,000 kids a year request medical treatment, mostly for bruising and broken blood vessels after being physically punished in school.
That is an awful statistic. How can this be allowed anywhere, let alone in the United States? How can teacher’s get away with bruising their students? For every medical practitioner that is called on to treat a victim of corporal punishment, a policeman should be called on to put the offending teacher away!
But based on the current state of play, that scenario is a long way off for some states:
Corporal punishment in schools by teachers with a paddle (a wooden board), belt or strap is legal in 20 states. While 28 states have outlawed it outright, the US Supreme Court has ruled it legal.
The majority of the states that still allow teachers to spank kids are in the mid-west and in the south of the country. States such as Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and, to my surprise, Florida, are said to use corporal punishment more frequently than others.
The mother of the Alabama boy is suing the superintendent of schools and the teacher for her son’s spanking. She’s angry because, by law, you can’t hit a dog and you can’t hit a prisoner, but you are allowed to spank children.
There are guidelines for how teachers can spank kids, which is more than I can say for when I started school in the ’80s, but there are bound to be some teachers who will do whatever they like.
Of course there are teachers that exploit this situation. Whilst I would like to believe that all teachers care about their students there are enough out there that grow resentful and irrational over the years. These teachers can not be trusted to make decisions in the best interests of their students.
And to those that think that fear of such a punishment brings out the best in students, I say this. Fear doesn’t bring out the best in anyone! If a teacher can’t control their class, they can approach an expert for advice or quit. If they feel they have to burst their students’ blood vessels to gain law and order, they ought to feel completely and utterly ashamed of themselves.
It’s 2011! Time to wear our belts, consign paddles to PE lessons and throw away the straps in the bin!