Wednesday, 21 September 2011

If we want schools to be safe places for our children, we need the cane

The maxim goes that every generation thinks of its own childhood as being more innocent than the childhoods of the current lot. It is suspected that this is the succour of memory. There may be some truth behind this suspicion, up to a point. But, in my experience, opponents of corporal punishment in schools (especially those on the Left) use this maxim as a weapon against corporal punishment, the logic of which effectively runs like this: Your wistful imagination tells you that young people were better in the past. As they are really no worse than you were, then there is no need to lash them with the birch.

As I said, there may be some truth in this up to a point. That point was probably somewhere in the 1980s. Looking back twenty years ago to the time I was at secondary school (the early '90s) and comparing it with today, I can't assert that my generation was better. It wasn't. I assume that a moral pit was reached in the 1980s because a whole generation had intervened since the 1960s Cultural Revolution and, in that time, Britain's moral foundation had fell away.

Schools - particularly comprehensives - today are as bad as they were twenty years ago: The lack of academic competition between pupils has been replaced by competition for physical dominance. Physical aggression has gone far beyond a bit of fraternal rough-and-tumble. Cannabis is carried in, and sold from, rucksacks. When rucksacks aren't used for porting illegal substances, they are used for smuggling guns and knives. School lavatories are places where precocious teens unburden themselves of their virginities. Playgrounds are incubators of gang culture. Unruly children are as disruptive in class as they please. Unless a teacher has a specially forceful personality, unruly students find it easy to intimidate him. Academically-minded pupils suffer in silence, or give in and join in the chaos.

There is some public clamour for corporal punishment to be reintroduced into schools to combat the terrible decline of standards. I am all in favour of birching. However, the absence of the cane is only part of the explanation why discipline in schools has worsened. To improve discipline in schools there must be a complete remoralisation of society; grammar schools need to be reintroduced; the only type of family that ought to be promoted is the one consisting of a married couple; comprehensive education must be abandoned along with all the concessions made to "pupil centred" learning; teachers should be competent and not a rag-bag of semi-literates, thickos, diffident types and insipid sorts who are just doing the job for the "Golden Hello" and the generous holidays.

Above all we need to withdraw from the European Union because its doctrine of Human Rights makes birching pupils impossible.

If teachers could administer a lash of the birch without fear of reprisals, it would restore the balance of power in favour of the teacher. The concept of behavioural conditioning is not hard to understand: If you do something which is wrong you get beaten. No one likes being beaten so all but the most insensible would elect to stop behaving wrongly, some of the time.

I don't believe that other forms of punishment in schools work. The alternative to corporal punishment is detention. As multiple children are detained at the same time, detention is far from boring. It is treated as a bit of extra time to do some more of the things that got you detained in the first place.

I know in the debate about corporal punishment the character of the sadistic house-master is raised. I don't doubt that a tiny minority teachers would derive wicked pleasure from beating children. But it is not as if removal of corporal punishment also removes perverted teachers from the school. They are still there, free to enact their fantasies in different ways. Why else are their so many teachers in caught cavorting with underaged children or engaging in acts of child abuse?

People who call for the reintroduction of corporal punishment are sometimes accused of being "authoritarian". Well, I believe that teachers should have authority over children. Only the naive could disagree with this. But the word authoritarian has more sinister tones than that. It plumbs the depths of Orwellian darkness. That is why it is used as a smear. The reason I want corporal punishment reintroduced into school is because my concern lies with studious children who want to learn, who don't want to spend their day surrounded by unruly bullies and general disorder. I imagine how traumatic it is for them.

Isn't it better to make the bad suffer than make the innocent suffer? Sociological thinking has been with us for fifty years now. Nasty pupils have often been seen as victims; we are told that they (conveniently) lack some unspecified quantity of mythical self-esteem. They don't. There is no such thing as self-esteem. Or, if there is, they have it in abundance. Bad pupils do bad things because they enjoy it and because weak, indisciplined schools allow them to get away with it.

In the case of corporal punishment as with capital punishment, we must make a choice between the freedom and happiness of the good and the freedom and lust of the bad. The only person who benefits from the absence of corporal punishment is the misbehaving child. This cannot be doubted. Reintroducing birching would create more studious, academic learning environments. Good students would be happier and calmer. They would be more likely to fulfil their academic potential. Bad students would be less bad; some would even learn the errors of their ways. I am sure that some hitherto bad students would carry their conditioned fear of school rules into society at large and refrain from violating the laws of the land.

If your concern is solely for the bad pupils, corporal punishment must be hard to accept. If your concern is to free bad pupils from feeling transitory pain, then you have had what you want for a few decades now. Go into any inner-city comprehensive and see the effects of your concern. It's not pretty. The reintroduction of the cane, among other things, would help to correct the indiscipline of these schools.

1 comment:

  1. James,

    This sets a strong precedent for kids to be afraid of making mistakes, and that is an extremely important way to learn. If a kid, good or 'bad' didn't want to do something risky, which could result in punishment, but was actually nothing wrong he did (such as standing up to a bully taking his money, by retaliating and hitting him) then the bully would carry on being a bully. However, if the kid was to get in a fight with him, as physically detrimental as it would be for both kids, at least one of them would learn a lesson. It also gives more freedom to the kids.

    Another issue I would like to raise is your rebuttal of pupil-centred learning. Learning is for students, only, that's it. Of course it should be focused towards them.

    And one last point I want to throw out there, which some might deem very 'leftist' but at least some students who are rowdy or misbehaving are not doing it because they are inherently evil, so shouldn't we try to teach them in a way that is more centred towards them?

    I look forward to your comments.