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Corporal Punishments in Schools - A case for a total ban or
Saturday, 11 August 2007
The issue of corporal punishments in schools has hit the headlines in media across the Country
for the umpteenth time. There has been many a discussion on the issue in the past as well, most of
the times triggered by reports of some stray incidents in which a student or parents revealed the
'inhuman torture' the boy / girl had to suffer at the hands of a seemingly sadistic teacher. This
time, a spate of such incidents has prompted the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
(NCPCR) to intervene to save children from harsh corporal punishments meted out by teachers. The
Commission has brought out extensive guidelines that, in essence, bring about a complete ban on almost
all possible types of punishments (not only corporal punishments - even mere scolding is a 'no - no')
Spare the Rod; Don't spoil (your) life)
This step was seemingly prompted by a spate of recent incidents, like those listed below:
Head Master's caning lands 5th Std. boy in hospital
Mulanthuruthi, Kerala, Nov. 01, 2005: A fifth standard student learned the hard way the
repercussions of having a naughty sibling as he ended up in hospital after being punished with
severe caning by the Head Master of his school. A. S. Aravind, 5th std. student of Govt. U P S,
Karikode was admitted to the Govt. hospital here with multiple injuries and swelling on both legs,
resulting from the caning administered by Mr. Soman, Head Master. His 'crime': his younger
sister (a student of the same school) scribbled the names of their parents and themselves
in his note book!
Complete Report >>
Anganvadi child caned by teacher, hospitalized
Mala, Thrissur, Kerala, Dec. 04, 2005: Corporal punishments in schools seem to have acquired
unprecedented proportions of late as a 3-and-half year old child was admitted in the Govt. hospital,
Mala, with severe caning injuries, more than a dozen of them, on his wrists. Abhijith, of Anganvadi
No. 85, Kuzhoor, had the ill - fate of being at the receiving end of the teacher's rage. The teacher
claimed that the caning was a 'punishment' for 'not studying'. (But the real question is
"What on earth a three - year old child is supposed to study"?)
Complete Report >>
Talking in class lands 12 - Year old in hospital
Kurla (Mumbai), Dec. 04, 2005: Twelve-year-old Vaibhav Randhir, student of the Premier School
at Kurla, learnt on Friday that the consequences of talking in class could be very painful. The
caning his English teacher Jaywant Kulkarni gave him for the offence has now landed him in hospital
with swollen arms and thighs.
Complete Report >>
Teacher beats student to death
Udaipur, Rajastan, Aug. 03, 2007: Taking the concept of corporal punishments in schools to
alarming heights, a Class XII student in a school here was beaten to death by his teacher. Dare
a guess at his 'offence'? He sat with his legs stretched outside the bench!
Nineteen year old Arpit Kanwaria of Alok Secondary school had the ill - fate of being at the
receiving end as Indra Samar, the teacher, lost her cool on seeing the student keeping his legs
stretched outside the bench while writing exams on 26th July.
Complete Report >>
11 - Year old caned to death for talking in class
Lucknow, Aug. 05, 2007: The 'killer instinct' of teachers seems to be the latest epidemic
to break out in the Country. Closely on heals of the Arpit Kanwaria incident in Rajastan, the
'caning demon' moved over to UP, consuming a 11 - year old boy this time. Brijesh Prajapati,
a sixth standard student of Kakraiya Primary School, Kamalganj, Farrukhabad, was the ill - fated
boy to be the latest victim of in - class rage. He was caught talking with his classmates while
attending the class of Kishan Singh, the teacher.
Complete Report >>
School gives electric shocks to students as 'punishment'
Hyderabad, Aug. 05, 2007:Move over Slaps, rulers, canes... Here comes the latest and
literally 'shocking' 'innovation' to the array of corporal punishments in schools. The Principal
of a residential school in Tuni, East Godawari Dist. of Andhra Pradesh, has admitted to giving
electric shocks to students to 'improve their academic performance'. The shocking news came to
light when a 10-year old student of 3rd standard in the school told her parents about it.
Complete Report >>
These incidents and the NCPCR Guidelines have prompted a flurry of reactions from students,
parents and teachers. A large number of students (most of whom had at least one experience of a
harsh punishment) and parents welcomed the guidelines, as expected. Even a fairly large section
of teachers responded positively to the idea. However, a number of teachers have expressed doubts
over the 'all - inclusive' nature of the guidelines which leave little space for any kind of punishment.
"If we were to stick to these guidelines, we won't have any option to correct the students indulging
even in grave misconduct, and even the most mischievous ones will roam about with impunity."
A teacher said. Interestingly, a number of students also shared similar views. "Punishments of the
extreme nature must be curtailed, but banning punishments altogether is going the other extreme,
setting the house afire to kill the rat", said a fifth std. girl from Mumbai. "If sir gives me a
dozen strokes for forgetting homework, I will most probably complain against him, but if he gives
me some two or three strokes for the same mistake, I would love to welcome it, rather than
complain", she explained.
In the wake of these reports, let me make a moderate attempt at looking into the issue from different
angles. (Even though corporal punishments are inflicted on children not only in schools but at
homes as well, by parents / elders, I am not attempting an exploration in this direction, as the
topic here is restricted to schools only.)
History of Corporal Punishments
The concept of imparting corporal punishments to children dates back to thousands of years back.
References to the use of corporal punishments can be found in many ancient texts. The practice
enjoyed support of certain religious groups, based on religious texts like the 'Book of Proverbs',
giving birth to oft - quoted principles like 'Spare the rod; Spoil the child'. Subsequently, many
schools that were set up and run by such religious groups formed their discipline policy based on
such concepts, extending the scope of corporal punishments from homes to schools. Further, the
fact that it was the Christian missionaries and groups that established the modern system of
schooling in most parts of the world in the pre - 20th Century era resulted in propagating
the tradition over the world. It was only natural that Catholic schools were the most notorious
for subjecting children to various forms of physical punishments, which, sometimes, even outgrew
the framework of 'punishment' and rose (or, rather, dipped) to the levels of outright torture.
The tradition of corporal punishments in schools continued unhindered for hundreds of years almost
all over the world. It was widely believed and accepted that the teachers by virtue of their
position, have the 'unquestionable right' to use force to make the students obey them and tread
the 'right path'. Even parents subscribed to views along these lines. This, in effect, forced the
children into submission and made them swallow the bitter taste of punishments and humiliation
The inevitable Change
However, this scenario was set to change drastically as Time marched along. As parents, as well
as children themselves, became more and more aware of the rights of the children, complaints
started to pop up against undue use of force by teachers on students. Cases started surfacing
against teachers using unjustifiable force upon students in the name of 'discipline'. As the
number of reports and complaints started creeping up, such incidents started prompting wide -
spread debates on the issue of appropriateness of corporal punishments in schools. Students and
parents speaking out against the teachers' till-date unquestioned rights started being viewed as
a sign of improvement and growth towards a more rights - conscious and civilized society.
As a natural development, the authorities in many countries started contemplating ways to put an
end to the practice. As early as 1783, Poland won the honour of becoming the first country to ban
corporal punishments in schools. However, it took more than a century for the 'pro - child' views
to establish as a trend. It was only in the 20th Century that anti - corporal
punishment movements gained momentum, forcing governments to bring about legislations in favour of
children. From thereon, more than hundred countries over the world have introduced legislations
banning or restricting corporal punishments in schools. Some countries (like Canada, Germany,
Sweden etc.) have gone even further, extending the ban to debar even parents from inflicting
physical punishments on children.
Before long, the United Nations (Organization) also stepped in to deal with the scenario. In a
historic step, on 20 Nov. 1989, the US adopted the Convention of the Rights of the Child', in
which Article 19.1 required that 'States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights
and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as
provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child,
to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction
and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention'.
Further, the UN Committee also recommended more specifically that '...the state party promote
positive, non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment, especially in
the home and schools.' The resolution was signed by the governments of almost all nations
over the world, with ONE major country - the USA - keeping away. (Interestingly, many states in
the US have banned corporal punishments of children, whereas 23 of them still follows the practice.)
The 'Indian Angle'
Like many other parts of the world, the practice of corporal punishments has been a centuries -
old custom in India. The practice is so deep - rooted and well - established that it would be
impossible to find even a single person who has gone through the education system in India without
having been subject to one or more forms of corporal punishments (and this author is no exception!).
Over the centuries, teachers had enjoyed the luxury of 'Cane Power' that apparently gave them a
sense of being 'in control'. The respect commanded by teachers was so immense that neither children
nor parents would question their right to inflict punishments they deemed fit. Any attempt from
the side of students to question this right was treated like blasphemy, thanks to the highly
esteemed status conferred upon teachers, equating them with God, as proclaimed by the traditional
maxim 'Aachaarya Devo bhava' (sometimes spelled out as 'Guru Devo bhava') ('Aachaarya'
and 'Guru' being Sanskrit terms indicating 'Teacher').
Unlike some other countries where implements like the paddle, belts etc. were more 'popular',
teachers in India apparently had an affinity towards the traditional cane. Even though it is more
prominent in boys' schools, children from mixed and even girls' schools are not spared from the
'kiss of the cane'. Believe it or not, there have been reports indicating that even some colleges
stick to the stick, at least with students at the junior - most classes. (A few years back, I had
chanced upon a letter written by a college girl to a noted psychiatrist describing the trauma she
(and her friends) were going through due to the 'cane - happy' professors of their college.)
In addition to the traditional forms like caning (or beating with ruler / scale), pinching,
rapping the knuckles etc., Indian teachers are known to 'invent' innovative methods of punishment,
like making the 'offending' children stand like a wall chair or in the scorching sun for hours
together, making them stand on the bench or kneel on the rough floor or sand etc. and even more
'innovations' like making the offenders hold their ears while sitting with hands passed beneath
the legs and making them do sit-ups with hands crossed and holding the ears etc. are not uncommon.
That's about true 'physical' punishments. 'Inventive imagination' and 'innovations' grow by leaps
and bounds when it comes to other forms of punishments that inflict more mental torture than
physical pains. Scolding and humiliating using abusive words are the 'simplest' forms. Labelling
the student with the alleged 'crime' and parading him / her in other classes or the school compound,
beating the student in front of the entire school in the School Assembly etc. are also commonplace.
Some mixed schools are known to pass the buck to the students themselves, asking a girl to slap
an offending boy or vice versa or asking a student from a lower class to slap the offender from a
higher one in front of other students. Some other forms of punishment like caning with trousers
stripped down (used only on boys) or caning the girls on their thighs (or even buttocks) with
skirts lifted up, that too in front of other students, etc. take the cruelty to greater heights,
adding insult to injury, literally.
Unlike many other countries, in India, reports of and complaints against teachers resorting to
corporal punishments are very rare, even though instances of teachers exceeding the limits are
not so uncommon. The reasons for this 'mismatch' is two - fold: One, the high levels of respect
accorded to teachers in our tradition. Right from the early childhood, little minds are injected
with the concept of Divinity of teacherhood. For a child who grows up with such a view established
in mind, it would be unthinkable to complain against a teacher for punishing him / her. Added
with this is the 'fear factor' - fear of adverse parental reaction to any such complaint. If a
child reports to his / her parents about a punishment he / she got at school, the immediate
reaction of most parents would be to blame the child for having deserved the punishment. And most
probably, this would mean more punishment for the child - this time, from the parent(s). Moreover,
there is another facet - a more dangerous one - to the problem: The possibility of teachers turning
to 'revenge mode' on the student if a parent complains against the punishment imparted. There have
been many instances of students being subjected to mental torment by teachers who vent their anger
for being taken to task by the parents. Faced by this double threat, it would be the natural choice
for the child to keep mum and endure the bitter physical and mental torture and humiliation. Even
though India had ratified the UN Convention of Child Rights, no steps were initiated to implement
the same. The National Policy on Education (modified in 1992) mentioned in Sec. 5.6 that 'corporal
punishment will be firmly excluded from the educational systems'. Further, while drafting the bill
for 'Free and Compulsory Education for Children', total prohibition of corporal punishment in
schools all over the country was included. However, these assurances remained what they are - just
However, the traditional reluctance to say 'No' to punishment also was not strong enough to
withstand the waves of change. As newer generations grew more and more aware of the children's
rights, supported by the influence of the changing culture, the scenario was bound to change.
Children grew bold enough to oppose the ill-treatment meted out by teachers, while parents also
started thinking differently, defying the so - called 'traditional concepts'. Some incidents of
teachers going to extreme levels sparked off strong public reactions, thereby giving the anti -
corporal punishment sentiments stronger support. As more and more reports, complaints and cases
started coming up against corporal punishments, courts at various levels were forced to intervene.
Judgements and orders, some of them conflicting one another, stepped in to play.
In the year 2000, the Delhi High Court, in a landmark judgement, ruled that provisions under the
Delhi School Education Act, 1973, that allows teachers to impart corporal punishments to students,
were inhumane and detrimental to the dignity of children and directed the authorities to ensure
that "children are not subjected to corporal punishment in schools and they receive education
in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear". The Court, while concluding the
judgement, said: "Before parting with the case we would like to observe that fundamental rights
of the child will have no meaning if they are not protected by the State... The State must ensure
that corporal punishment to students is excluded from schools. The State and the schools are bound
to recognize the right of the children not to be exposed to violence of any kind connected with
This judgement prompted the Central Board of Secondary Education to bring out a circular to
implement the Court's directive. This was followed by orders banning corporal punishments in
schools of Andhra Pradesh (in 2002), Goa and Tamil Nadu (2003). In 2004, the Calcutta High Court
pronounced similar judgement, terming caning of students as 'unlawful'. Even before all these,
Kerala, the state renowned for its advancements in the field of literacy and education, had won
the distinction of becoming the first state in the country to enforce at least a partial ban
on corporal punishments. But No, it was NOT the government that made the first steps in this
direction. Instead, it was a District Education Officer in the Malappuram District who resolved
to make a difference to the way school life was lived, enforcing a ban on use of implements of
physical punishment in schools. It was a 'humble step that marked a huge leap' towards a great
However, in 2004, a bench of the Hon'ble High Court of Kerala thought the other way round: It
ruled in favour of corporal punishments, holding that the teachers' beating students as punishment
can't be viewed as a crime. The Court observed that, except for certain rare cases, teachers
generally resort to corporal punishments only as a 'last resort' of corrective measures. The
Court said that such actions must be viewed in the broader sense, as being done 'in good faith'
intended for the benefit of the students, by guiding them on the correct and righteous path and
correcting those who waver from the path shown.
This observation caused a flurry of comments, both in favour of and against the use of corporal
punishments in schools. 'Malayala Manorama', a leading daily in the state, apparently attempted
to initiate a debate on the topic by compiling the views of a number of eminent personalities on
the issue. The compilation titled
'Thallu - 2005' (തല്ല് - 2005) indicated the still - prominent views among Karalites in
favour of physical punishments.
Just when it seemed that children in Kerala will have to remain at the mercy of 'cane - wielding
demons', more drama unfolded, with DEOs in some other districts also bringing out orders calling
for abolition of corporal punishments. Meanwhile, the Director of Public Instruction introduced
an order directing all schools in the state to refrain from imposing punishments on adolescent
girls. The order was prompted by a complaint moved by a parent, claiming that imparting unfair
and excessive punishments to adolescent girls in the name of 'exemplary punishment' caused physical
and mental strain to them. This order, even though apparently in favour of girl students and
supposed to win accolades from them, invited wide - spread criticism instead, the most important
allegation being gender - bias and discrimination. It was also alleged that such an order would
mean any girl can get away with any mischief just because she was a 'she', and this would give
them 'undue freedom'. Somewhat surprisingly, this order met with strong objections even from girls
for whom it was supposed to be a blessing. 'Of course, excessive and unjust punishments must be
curtailed; but to say that no punishment shall be given would be an exaggerated overkill', said
an 8th Std. girl. 'This Order means that if a girl commits an offence, she will not
face any punishment, whereas the same offence by a boy would attract punishment, which is blatant
violation of the principle of equality and hence would be unconstitutional', said another girl.
(This order, by the way, is in line with the rules controlling corporal punishments in countries
like Australia and Singapore where girls are protected from all sorts of corporal punishments
even as such punishments are allowed to be applied on boys. (e.g., the Schools Regulation Act,
1957, of Singapore spells out under Regulation No. 88 that 'No corporal punishment shall be
administered to girl pupils' and '(T)he corporal punishment of boy pupils shall be
administered with a light cane on the palms of the hand or on the buttocks over the clothing...')
(Quoted from 'Teachers' Perception of the State of Discipline in Singapore Schools' prepared by
Singapore Teachers Union in 1985.))
What the Law of the Land says:
As in many other issues, different clauses our Laws - and legal experts as well - seem to be in
conflict with each other in this matter as well. Section 82 of the Indian Penal Code stipulates
that "NOTHING is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age" (emphasis
added by this author). The basis of this concept is the assumption that children in this age group
can't be expected to be mature enough to judge Right and Wrong or to understand the possible
consequences of any act done by him / her, and it makes no sense to punish someone for something
that he / she can't understand. This is further clarified by Sec. 83 which extends the protection
to cover the acts done by any "child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained
sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequences of his conduct..."
In short, punishment is meaningless where it would serve no purpose if the punished doesn't understand
for what the punishment is given.
Going along these lines, it can be argued that the same principle shall apply to corporal
punishments as well - that NO child under seven years (or above, if he / she is not in a position
to learn from the 'offence') shall be subjected to punishments.
At the same time, Section 89 of the IPC states that "Nothing which is done in good faith for
the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind, by or by consent, either
express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person, is an
offence by reason of any harm which it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause or be known
by the doer to be likely to cause to that person..." This Clause gives ample protection to
parents (or teachers, in the capacity of 'other person having lawful charge of' the child)
who impart physical punishment to children. (It is on the basis of this Clause that the Kerala
High Court held that an act of a teacher beating a child is not an offence.)
However, this protection is not absolute. The Section further specifies that "...this exception
shall not extend to the doing of anything which the person doing it knows to be likely to cause
death..." and that "this exception shall not extend to the voluntary causing of grievous
hurt, or to the attempting to cause grievous hurt..." This makes it clear that the parent (or
teacher) who exercises the 'power' to impart punishment 'in good faith' must observe restraint to
ensure that the punishment so administered doesn't cause grievous hurt to the child.
Also, it must be noted that the protective cover does NOT extend to any act done against a child
above twelve years of age. Put simply, this means that any act of corporal punishment imparted to
a child of 12 years or more and causes any injury shall be treated as an offence punishable under
Section 323 / 325 read with Sections 319 & 321 or 320 & 322 as applicable to hurt / grievous hurt
as the case may be.
Further, Sec. 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, stipulates that "Whoever, having the actual
charge of or control over a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or wilfully neglects
the juvenile or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner
likely to cause such juvenile or the child unnecessarily mental or physical suffering shall be
punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or with both".
This Clause apparently strips the parent (or teacher) of the protection extended under the purview
of 'good faith', contrary to Sec. 89 of the IPC. However, this needs to be viewed not as a
contradiction but (as) an extension or explanation of the exemptions provided under Sec. 89 of the
EXAMINATION OF THE CASE - ARGUMENTS AGAINST AND IN FAVOUR
Now, I intent to examine the arguments raised in favour of 'Anti - Corporal Punishment Movement'
and by those who advocate the rod.
SPARE THE ROD; SAVE THE CHILD:
1. Violence is violation of Human Rights: It is a universally agreed fact that violence of
any kind encroaches upon the very basic rights of humanity. No civilized society anywhere in the
world allows violence of any kind to be applied on individuals. If assaulting an (adult) individual
and inflicting hurt is a punishable offence, then how is it not an offence when the individual is
a child and the 'attacker' is a parent / teacher? If it is 'OK' to beat a child as a 'corrective
measure', why can't an adult be beaten up on the same grounds? Is 'Human Rights' limited to 'adult
There have been innumerable instances since Time Immemorial of children sustaining injuries of
varying intensities, even serious ones, following corporal punishments. Even instances of deaths
are not uncommon, as indicated in the couple of cases mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Given this scenario, it is pathetic, in the mildest terms, to see that the practice is allowed to
2. Violence begets violence: By resorting to corporal punishment, the teacher gives a wrong
signal to the easily influenced mind of the child. It gives an indication that it is acceptable
to beat someone if he / she does something that is wrong in your view. Such a signal that often
get strengthened by the child's belief - may be correct - that he / she hasn't done anything wrong
can lead the child to adopt the same stand when it comes to dealing with his own relationship
with others. If a friend or classmate does something that is wrong in the child's view, he / she
may resort to violent reactions against the 'offender'. Further, the torture suffered by the child
may adversely affect his very mindset itself, breeding strong offensive tendencies. The strong urge
to take revenge may make the child resort to violent reactions even at the slightest provocation.
It has been observed in many studies that, among people who commit violent crimes, a considerable
majority had had a history of being subjected to physical punishments.
3. Psychological aspect: Rather than the physical pain and possibility of injuries, what is
more disturbing about corporal punishments is the psychological impact involved. Many researches
and studies have proved time and again that corporal punishments lead to serious adverse effects
on the minds of children - not only of those who are actual victims, but also of those who happen
to witness an act of intense punishment. The experience of being subjected to punishment, especially
those involving an element of humiliation (like being beaten by a fellow student of the opposite
gender or in front of the whole school, beating with some degree of stripping (as mentioned above)
or verbal assault with abusive words etc.) makes the child develop low self - esteem, magnified
guilt feelings, anxiety disorders and Post - Traumatic Stress Disorder etc., which may lead to
suicidal tendencies or high intensity of anger compounded with frequent outbursts of aggression and
other violent reactions, impairment of inter - personal relationships and even anti - social
behaviour. There have been many instances of students resorting to physical attacks on the teachers
who inflict such punishments. Sometimes, the student, faced with the reality of being unable to
retaliate in the school premises, may get lured towards anti - social elements in their quest to
take revenge on the teacher outside the school, thereby taking the issue to a higher level of
On the other hand, it is also possible that the punishment may affect the development of the mental
faculties of the child - either subject or witness to the punishment. If some action (not intended
to be offensive) done by a child in the natural course of interaction with the surroundings results
in his being punished, he may refrain from any similar actions altogether in future, which may
impair his mental development itself. Sometimes, even witnessing such an incident may have a similar
effect on the child. e.g., if a child is beaten up (or even witnesses someone else being beaten)
for talking with friends in the class, the incident may lead to his growing up as an introvert,
reluctant to communicate effectively with others, which, in turn, may lead to his being branded as
'shy' and kept away from friends' groups and social interactions, making him even more reluctant
to be part of the society, which, in turn, may deny him the right to be supported by the society
when he is in need of help. (More than anybody else, I can vouch for this aspect. I have grown up
almost an introvert, and I know that this was influenced to a great extent by an episode of
violent physical punishment I had to witness - not endure! - during my early school days.)
4. Misuse and overuse: 'Corporal punishments' is the one single most misused and over-used
'tool' in the education system. Even though corporal punishments are supposed to be used as a 'last
resort' to enforce discipline, this hardly is the case in practice. In many instances, teachers
are known to pick the cane at the slightest provocation and without prior attempt to correct the
wrong - doing child by any other means. In many schools, corporal punishment is inflicted for the
silliest mistakes, like wearing socks of a shade slightly different from the 'standard' prescribed
for uniform, wearing skirts that are half - an - inch shorter than stipulated, for being slow in
writing notes etc. Forgetting or being unable to complete the (mostly huge volumes of) homework
is a sure-shot reason to get under the cane in many, if not most, 'high profile' schools. Further,
there have been instances of teachers resorting to corporal punishments to vent their anger on
some matter unrelated with the 'charge' slapped on the student.
5. An inefficient tool: Many studies have shown that corporal punishments, even though
apparently a 'rapid action' tool to rein the mischievous children in, fail in the long run when
compared to other methods. A child who is subjected to a physical punishment for some misbehaviour
may keep away from repeating the offence out of fear for the punishment rather than understanding
the element of 'wrong'. Instead of keeping away from repeating the offence, the child may try to
escape from the punishment by eluding detection. e.g., if a child is given a beating for smoking,
he may think 'Sir beat me because he caught me smoking' (rather than 'I got punished because
smoking is wrong'). If this happens, the child may try to figure out a way to avoid 'getting
caught' rather than keep away from repeating the offence. He may find innovative 'techniques' to
elude detection of his wrong - doing, like bunking classes or keeping away from school altogether.
Further, sometimes, physical punishment may prompt the child to resort to violent reactions in
retaliation of the violence applied on him in the form of the punishment. Under such circumstances,
physical punishment loses its (apparent) efficiency even in the short run. On the other hand, a
child who is subjected to physical punishment is most likely to 'learn' the 'wrong lesson' - that
using violence to make others obey is acceptable. This may lead to perpetuation of violence - the
child, as he grows up, may resort to violence to punish his children or even spouse. Thus, corporal
punishments, instead of correcting a wrong, ends up prompting more wrong - doing.
THE CASE IN FAVOUR:
Compared to the flurry of arguments against, arguments in favour of corporal punishments are hard
to find, especially in the present - day scenario. Even the very few supporters in favour seem to
be treading a losing cause, mainly because of the somewhat 'larger - than - life' status and
importance accorded to the opposition. Like many other fields, the influence of media has played
a crucial role here as well. Unlike in the earlier days, cases of children being subjected to
corporal punishments, however trivial the punishment may be, seem to enjoy 'special consideration'
accorded by the media, with incidents of children sustaining injuries resulting from physical
punishments hitting headlines every now and then. Under these circumstances, it is only natural
that arguments supporting the concept of corporal punishments get sidelined as 'outdated', not
keeping in line with the present - day scenario. However, the arguments raised by the advocates
of corporal punishments can't be discounted altogether.
1. Deterrent effect: Corporal punishment, when applied judiciously, provides the best
deterrent effect against children's mischief in the long run. A child who has received a good
beating for committing an offence is least likely to repeat the offence at a later time under
similar circumstances, when compared with children who are given other kinds of punishments. Many
alternatives suggested as replacement for corporal punishments are inherently weak in this aspect,
because many, if not most, of them do not impart on the child any impact strong enough to make him
want to avoid repeating. Some of these alternatives like cutting down some incentives do not play
the 'deterrent role' at all. On the other hand, a mere recollection of the pain of a beating can
effectively stall a child's tendency to repeat the offence. Further, corporal punishments are very
effective - in fact, the quickest - in handling mischief in the short run as well. e.g., when a
child shows unruly behaviour in the class, counselling or detention may not serve any purpose in
stopping him, but a dose of the cane will most probably stop his 'adventures' 'on the spot'.
2. Punish the child, not the family: Many options recommended as alternatives to corporal
punishments, while affecting the child, can also cause undue stress on the parents / other family
members of the child as well, especially when they are left in the dark about the punishment
imposed on the child. When the child who is expected to be back home by, say, 4 PM, fails to come
up even after 5, the mental stress the family may have to undergo can't be figured out easily.
In effect, it is somewhat like imposing a 'punishment' on the parents as well for something that
their child had (or is assumed to have?) done. (Once again, I can vouch for this aspect. During
the last quarter of my school years, there was a particular incident wherein the lunch break turned
out to be many things - including detention time - other than what it was supposed to be, thanks
to a group of mischievous classmates, forcing my father to come all the way to my school to check
out what had gone wrong.) Another aspect that needs to be considered alongside is the problems with
such punishments imparted to girls. Punishments like late - evening detention may not be proper to
be imposed on girls. Put in other words, this means different modes of punishment may have to be
framed for boys and girls, which, in turn, can lead to allegations of discrimination, similar to
the case of exclusion of girls from corporal punishments.
On the other hand, corporal punishment generally affects only the child on whom it is applied, in
the form of physical pain. Unless the punishment goes beyond limits and inflicts serious injury
(which, anyway, needs to be looked into as a different issue), it doesn't cause any effect on
anyone else other than the child. The child's parents / family members may not even know about
the punishment unless the child or some classmate or teacher spilled the beans. Moreover, unlike
the case of 'uninformed detention', even if the parents are kept unaware of the punishment, it
makes little difference. It is extremely unlikely that being aware or otherwise of a couple of
strokes the child had got in the class could cause any mental strain to the parents. (Once again,
I am looking back to my own experiences: Even though I had maintained the 'class topper' position
almost throughout my school days and was never branded as a 'problem child' in the class, I was
still a 'fairly good' candidate to be at the receiving end of the teachers' canes from time to time.
There were not less than 30 instances of my being subjected to some form of corporal punishment,
out of which very few instances - may be countable in single digits - were ever known to my parents.
Yet, the knowledge or lack thereof never seemed to trouble them.)
3. Failed Experiments: In the past few decades, especially in the last quarter or so of the
20th Century, many countries have introduced bans or restrictions on corporal punishments
of children. A review of the scenario in these countries before and after imposition of the
restrictions can provide the best guidance in deciding the path to be chosen. It is observed that
the absence of effective punitive measures in many, if not most, of these countries have resulted
in higher levels of disobedience and unruliness among children. The knowledge that teachers won't
be able to impart harsh punishments for whatever the children do has resulted in giving them a kind
of 'green signal' to indulge in highly undesirable activities without impunity. Even instances of
teachers being physically assaulted by unruly children are not uncommon. If the earlier position of
uncontrolled rights for teachers to impose physical punishments had resulted in children being
subjected to torture, what has resulted from the ban on all sorts of physical punishments is merely
a reversal of roles. If, earlier, teachers were in a position of command with powers to inflict
strong punishments, the present scenario has merely tilted the balance the other way - shifting the
'power' to the children. Now the teachers have to be wary of the repercussions of even the slightest
attempts at ensuring orderliness in the school. The increased levels of lawlessness have prompted
teachers, parents and even students to call for reintroduction of corporal punishments.
If we go by the adage 'Experience is the best teacher', which is widely accepted over the world,
there are no better authorities to speak on the (ill) effects of ban on corporal punishments than
the parents, teachers, and of course, students, in the countries where such ban is in force. Recent
studies / surveys in countries like the USA, Canada and the UK have shown that the advocates of
corporal punishments form a clear majority among parents, teachers and even students themselves.
Majority of them believe that the levels of discipline in schools have nose-dived to unprecedented
low after corporal punishment was barred. Children don't care much about having to behave properly
as they know that they won't have to bear the pain of punishment for whatever they may engage in.
There are a number of anecdotes, by students themselves, detailing the lack of discipline that
rein supreme in the schools in these countries, the latest being the widely reported instances of
shootouts carried out by students in some schools in the USA.
Why look at US, UK etc.? Even in India, there have been reports of children throwing discipline to
the winds and misbehaving with teachers as well as fellow students. A recent report described an
incident wherein a student assaulted his teacher after the teacher pulled him up for talking in
the class. Another student had reportedly showered abuses on his teacher after he was asked to
stand outside the class for forgetting a book. These reports need to be read with the fact that
a ban on corporal punishment was in effect in the states in question. And such instances, even
though not wide - spread, can't be ignored as 'one - off' cases. These cases are clear indications
of the failure of 'spare the rod' experiment.
4. Failure of alternate measures: In most of the countries where corporal punishment of
children is banned, alternate forms of punishments have been brought into force to enforce
discipline. These alternate measures, however, have been found to be of little use while handling
the children, especially those who indulge in grave offences. 'Milder' punishments like detention
sometimes end up becoming a greater punishment to the parents of the child (in the form of stress)
than to the errant child himself. At the same time, some other alternate forms of punishments like
extra work, in effect, becomes a kind of 'mental torture' to the child, and results in the child
developing hatred towards the concept of work itself because the child's mind tends to associate
'work' with 'punishment'. In this scenario, the punishment, in effect, ends up having a negative
impact rather than a corrective one on the child.
That is about the apparently 'mild' punishments. When it comes to punishments like suspension,
suggested for more serious offences, or the milder version, making the child stand outside the
class, the result is a curious effect - the punishment, at least sometimes, becomes a sort of
'blessing in disguise' to the child since the 'punishment' gives him a sort of 'freedom' that
other children do not enjoy. This may, in turn, make the child more prone to repeating the
offence as a means of inviting the 'freedom punishment'. e.g., consider the case of a couple of
children who are sent out of the class for talking in the class. Once they are outside the class,
they become free to continue what they had been doing - talking - without any fears. This taste
of freedom can make them repeat the mischief whenever they have the chance. In such a scenario,
the very purpose of 'punishment' ends up a lamentable failure.
5. Psychological aspect: Some advocates of 'spare the rod' policy project 'creative punishments'
like extra work assignments, community service etc. as alternatives to corporal punishments. The
argument is that the punishment would do the child good because of the positive nature of the
outcome. However, this 'ideal outcome' may not always materialize. On the contrary, more often,
there is chance for 'negative association' wherein the child who is given extra work as punishment
associates 'work' with 'punishment', thereby developing strong resentment towards such activities.
Thus, the punishment may end up doing more harm than good, making the child hate the concept of
work and helping the society.
COUNTERING THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
Here, I am presenting some counter - arguments raised against the 'Spare the rod' policy. It is
claimed that almost all arguments against corporal punishments are not exactly against the
concept of corporal punishment itself, but merely its misuse and over-use. Further, almost all
arguments raised against corporal punishments can also be levelled against other forms of
punishments as well.
1. 'Human Rights' aspect: A major allegation levelled against corporal punishments is that
it amounts to violation of the child's rights as a human being. If beating a person up for whatever
reason is deemed as 'criminal assault' and is punishable, the same yardstick shall apply to children
as well. Put the other way round, if beating a child as a 'corrective measure' is acceptable, why
doesn't the same principle apply to adults as well?
The argument seems to be pretty convincing. However, a closer examination reveals gaping holes
therein. It needs no great brains to see that this is merely restricting a generalizable argument.
It is possible to raise the same argument against almost any kind of punishment, let alone
corporal punishment, because every punishment involves some kind of denial of rights. Almost all
alternatives to corporal punishments - like detention - can be countered with similar argument -
that it denies the child his one right or the other. The futility of the 'same yardstick' argument
can be revealed by putting the question the other way round: If theft committed by an adult is
punishable with imprisonment, why not apply the same yardstick on children as well? Further, don't
other forms of punishment also involve denial of rights? Answers to these questions would effectively
seal the fate of the 'rights' argument.
2. The 'Wrong Lesson' argument: The next major argument against corporal punishments is
that it teaches the child the 'wrong lesson' that violence is acceptable as a corrective measure
and may prompt the child to use the same 'principle' when dealing with others as well. If someone
indulges in some activity that the child sees as an offence, he may also decide to 'punish' the
offender with physical assault, goes the argument.
Once again, this argument holds as much water as it would against any kind of punishment and is
not specific to corporal punishment alone. If we consider detention as an alternative punishment,
then it can as well be argued that it teaches that forced confinement is an acceptable form of
punishment. If imposing a fine on someone as a punishment is acceptable, can't it be argued that
it gives the 'wrong lesson' that extortion of money is right as a punishment? If beating sends a
'message', can we say that similar, equally or even more undesirable 'wrong messages' are not
sent by other forms of punishments as well? This argument takes the issue to the extreme and,
in effect, implies that ALL forms of punishment are wrong because they all give 'wrong lessons'!
By the principle of reductio ad absurdum, it is pretty easy to disprove this argument
since the conclusion thereof is absurd.
3. Psychological impact: Of all arguments against corporal punishment, the strongest and
most convincing one stresses the psychological impact the punishment can inflict on the child.
When a child is forced to submit to physical violence in the name of punishment, the results can
be catastrophic. The proponents of 'anti - corporal punishment policy' argue that teachers,
being not experts in psychological studies, won't be able to correctly gauge the 'hyper sensitive'
nature of the child's mindset and would never know how the punishment is going to affect the child,
especially if the punishment is imparted unjustly. Further, it is claimed that some level of
embarrassment and / or humiliation is invariably associated with corporal punishments and the
outcome thereof can be almost irreparable damage to the child's mindset, and, at least in some
cases, may even prompt the child to take the extreme step of ending his / her life.
This argument enjoys the support of a number of reported incidents and is apparently the strongest
point in the case against corporal punishments. However, this apparently fool-proof theory fails
to explain the observations and results from some recent studies of the trend of psychological
impacts of corporal punishments meted out to children, especially those in their teens. A recent
comprehensive research that investigated the probability of developing mental depression in
correlation with instances of corporal punishments imparted is of particular interest in this
regard. The study reveals a wavy pattern of trend rather than a steady or phenomenal rise in
reported cases of depression (of varying intensities) against instances of corporal punishments.
The initial part of the trend apparently supports the case against corporal punishments, as it
shows a substantial rise in the probability index (for depression and resultant suicidal tendencies)
with increased number of instances of corporal punishments. However, after the number crosses a
particular level, the index shows a steep fall. After a 'trough' stage, the index appears to rise
again as the number of instances of corporal punishments increases. The 'psychological impact'
argument is a complete failure in explaining this 'sine - wave phenomenon'. Further, a comparison
with the trend of cases of depression and suicidal tendencies among children who were never
subject to any form of corporal punishments at all reveals another, more 'stunning' result: The
probability of developing depression in children who are subjected to 10 to 20 instances of
corporal punishment is fairly the same as that in children who were never given physical
punishment at all. In other words, being subjected to corporal punishments doesn't show any
particular impact on the mindset of children, compared to those who are not subjected to such
punishments. This observation commands crucial importance when we attempt to reach a solid conclusion.
Contrary to the much - supported argument, what we can see from these figures is that there is no
irrefutable correlation between instances of corporal punishment and depressive tendencies. This,
in effect, rules out the 'psychological impact' argument against corporal punishment. The only
fair conclusion we can probably derive is that corporal punishments may have some negative
effect on the mindset of some children, as indicated by some of the instances reported.
However, there is almost no evidence solid enough to substantiate a generalization of this
4. Misuse / overuse problem: It is easily observed that most of the criticism against corporal
punishments emanate from numerous reported instances of teachers breaching the limits and going
overboard in imparting the punishments, like the cases mentioned at the beginning of this article. It has
been pointed out by opponents that corporal punishments are the most misused and overused tool of
discipline in our education system. Teachers are prone to resort to the cane as a 'one - point solution'
to all the problems, even for the silliest reasons.
A proper examination of this argument reveals the biggest weakness in the case against corporal
punishments. This argument suffers from the same familiar drawback that affected many other greater
cases - that it attacks the concept for the failure of its implementers. Opposition to any idea
can't be justified just because it is followed the wrong way, or, in other words, those who follow
it are doing wrong. Opposition to any idea / concept must be based on the merits and demerits of the
concept itself, rather than the merits and flaws of the people who implement it. Drawing an
interesting parallel, this argument can be compared with the branding of Islam as a 'religion of
terrorists' just because a number of terrorists belong to that community. In simpler terms, it is
like demanding banning the making of knives because there have been numerous instances of their
being misused by miscreants. If we accept this logic, it can also be argued that all types of fuel
- run aircraft should be banned because they have been (mis)used in the biggest terrorist attack in
the recent history. Computers must be banned because they are the most misused tool for forging
official documents and even currency notes, petrol should be banned because it is being misused in
arson during riots and so on. Even more hilarious would be another argument on the same lines:
All kinds of bags and other containers should be banned because they are being misused to carry
weapons and other hazardous items...!
Jokes apart, the problem here is that teachers sometimes do tend to take their powers beyond the
limits, and the sensation - hunting media today accords more than enough publicity to such instances.
Of course, media must bring to light such instances so that teachers who misuse their powers can be
effectively reined in. However, just as the teachers go overboard in implementing punishment routines,
the media also seems to go way beyond what is necessary, making out sensational stories out of such
instances. This overactivism on the part of the media, in turn, results in influencing the public
opinion by imparting a decisive swing in a direction 'dictated' by the media, just like in case of
political issues. And most, if not all, of the opposition to corporal punishments stems from such
over-hyped instances. From the reactions to such instances, it can easily be seen that it is not
corporal punishments in itself that most opponents oppose but the misuse thereof. Opposition to
misuse of something can't be treated in the same way as opposition to its proper use.
MY VIEW POINTS:
After a fairly long examination of the arguments against and in favour, I feel that it is time for
me to present my views on the issue rather than go on with others' arguments. The views I present
are, of course, influenced almost decisively by my own experiences during my school days - what I
had witnessed, what I had endured myself and what I had learned from the people around me.
As I have already mentioned, even though I had earned and borne the label of an 'obedient and
bright student' throughout my school days, teachers who wished to test their canes on me were
almost never 'disappointed'. Right from my first year at school at the age of five till the last
year of schooling at fifteen, there were many an occasion
when my body seemed to fall in love with those admirable 'slim beauties' in the teachers' hands
and receive some 'sweet kisses' from them, sometimes leaving long - lasting imprints of the affection.
May be somewhat surprisingly, right from the early childhood days when most children would shudder
with fear at the very thought of getting a beating, my views were in favour of the cane. (So much
so that at times I used to wonder whether I had developed an affinity towards caning!) I believe
that there are certain situations wherein a dose of corporal punishment alone would be the fair
solution, and in such situations, teachers should not hesitate to wield the cane - even if it is
myself who would be at the receiving end. (In fact, there was at least one such instance involving
me during my school days, wherein the teacher was somewhat reluctant to punish me because she felt
that I was unlikely to have committed the offence in question, and my response was to ask the teacher
not to hesitate to apply the cane on me.)
Before going any further, I feel that I must add some clarification here: My support to corporal
punishments as a tool of discipline in schools is NOT absolute or unconditional. For infliction
of corporal punishment to be acceptable and justifiable, there are a few very important prerequisites
that must be ensured.
1. Moderation:As I have mentioned above, it can be observed that most of the opposition to
corporal punishments arise out of the brutality of punishments reported, and such opposition is
not unjustified by any standards. Hence, it is only natural deduction that, for any form of corporal
punishment to be justifiable, the most important condition is moderateness. The power bestowed
upon the teacher to punish the child shall not be construed as a licence to apply unreasonable
and uninhibited violence. However grave the alleged offence be, the punishment imparted shall not
result in any kind of injury to the child except for the transient pain. This, in turn, necessitates
a number of safeguards / precautions to be taken in terms of the implements that may be used to
inflict the punishment, the intensity of the punishment inflicted, the part(s) of the body on which
the implements may be administered and so on.
More than physical injury, utmost care must be taken to ensure that the punishment inflicted doesn't
cause any psychological injury to the child. Verbal abuse shall never be part of, or substitute
to, corporal punishment. Any verbal interaction between the teacher and the punished child in the
course of imparting the punishment must be restricted only to explanation of the child's fault to
make him understand why he is being punished and, if possible, (to) a few gentle words of consolation.
2. Non-discrimination: It is widely agreed that the fundamental principles of natural justice
and equality demands that any form of punishment must be inflicted without discrimination among
the offenders. Corporal punishment of children also can't be an exception. However, this rarely
is the case in actual practice. It has been observed that there exists outright discrimination
against boys as far as corporal punishments are concerned. (Well, in a world where discrimination
against women and girls is the norm in many issues, it might be argued that this discrimination
IS natural justice!) The prominence of this discrimination is evident in the laws that dictate
the legal status of corporal punishment of children in various countries. In many countries, like
Singapore, discrimination in favour of girls is given legal acceptance by way of exemption from
all kinds of corporal punishments. The most prominent reason cited for this discrimination is the
age - old assumption that girls (or females in general) are of physically weaker constitution
compared to boys. (Interestingly, this is the very same ground on which girls and women in general
are discriminated against in many other issues.) However, my concept of 'justice' demands that no
'assumptions' shall form the grounds for deciding the applicability of punishment. It would be
unfair to assume that girls are of inherently weaker physique or that boys are always strong enough
to withstand all kinds of 'assaults', because being weak (or strong) is an individual attribute
rather than gender - based.
The fact that boys are more prone to be at the receiving end when it comes to corporal punishment
has led to another 'problem' in at least some cases: Punishment loses its deterrent effect. The
problem, in fact, is two - fold: On the one hand, being able to accept the punishment and withstand
the pain is being viewed as an indicator of 'manliness', thereby prompting boys to 'show off' their
machismo by showing no repentance at being subject to punishment; On the other hand, girls tend to
be more or less care-free because of the immunity granted. The knowledge that they won't have to
endure the punishment for whatever wrong committed undermines the very concept of deterrent value
of punishment. Another facet of the same problem is with the boys who belong to a different
category: For them, the psychological impact of the feeling that they are being unfairly punished
because of something that is not their fault - that they happen to be boys - can have serious
repercussions. The only possible solution to this multi - faceted issue is to avoid all kinds of
discrimination in imparting punishment.
3. Fair Justice: Any punishment imparted is justified only if it is backed by fair justice.
Ensuring fairness of justice in punishment involves two aspects: The punishment must be inflicted
only on the guilty, and the intensity of punishment thus imparted must be proportionate to the
gravity of the offence. There must be a proper examination of the circumstances to determine whether
the child in question deserves the punishment or not. A rather disturbing tendency observed in this
regard is the way 'mass offences' are handled. When a group of children are suspected of some wrong -
doing, the most prominent tendency among teachers is to consider the group as a single guilty entity
rather than a composite structure composed of individuals who may or may not be involved in the
alleged wrong - doing and impart the same punishment to the entire group. This 'short - cut' method
is outright unfair because it almost invariably involves punishing the innocents which contravenes
the very basic principle of our legal system: Let a thousand criminals go scot-free, yet no innocent
shall be punished. All efforts must be taken to identify the guilty and only the guilty before
imparting punishment. If the teacher fails to correctly judge whether the child deserves punishment
or not, it is the teacher's fault. And Justice demands no punishment to be imparted on the accused
on the basis of someone else's fault.
4. Timing of punishment: Another important aspect to be taken care of while imparting corporal
punishment is the time when the punishment is to be inflicted in relation with the time of commitment
of the alleged wrong. There are two contrasting views in this issue. One side argues that punishment
should be given at the earliest possible point of time after the offence is committed. This argument
is based mainly on the aspect of correlation between the crime and the punishment. It is argued that
when punishment is imparted hours (or sometimes even days) after the offence is committed, the child
is likely to find it difficult to relate the punishment with the offence, whereas punishment inflicted
immediately after the offence is committed stands a decisively better chance of giving the child the
right lesson. However, critics claim that this argument doesn't hold much water except in case of
very small children who may not be able to remember the wrong committed some time back and relate it
with the punishment awarded at a later point of time. Even in such cases, it may be possible to
remind the child of the wrong before inflicting the punishment.
On the other side, it is argued that there must be some time span between the commission of the offence
and the punishment. The points in favour of this argument are: First, the time span can play an important
role in ensuring fair justice as it gives a chance to the teacher to examine the facts and circumstances
and judge whether the child is indeed guilty of the alleged offence or was he just unlucky to be 'in the
wrong place at the wrong time'; Second, the forced delay will ensure that punishment is not imparted in
hot temper. If the teacher's mind is overwhelmed by anger, either towards the child or someone / something
else, the after - effects can be disastrous. The forced time span can effectively reduce the possibility of
the child sustaining physical injuries that are more likely when the punishment is imparted in a fit of rage.
However, opponents of 'deferred punishment' argue that this plus - point is effectively neutralized by
the psychological impact factor. The 'psychological torture' that the child has to endure while awaiting
the punishment, in effect, amounts to 'double punishment' - the physical pain resulting from the punishment
added with the mental agony of waiting for the punishment to be over. At the same time, a counter - argument
to this line is that the 'psychological punishment' adds to the effectiveness of the punishment owing to
its deterrent value. The child who has gone through the ordeal of 'waiting for the punishment' is highly
unlikely to repeat the offence at a later time.
My view in this regard is in favour of the 'delayed punishment' view. What prompt me in this direction is
the arguments cited above along with another aspect: The child is most likely to feel remorse at having
committed the offence during the time when he spends every moment thinking about the offence that has led
to the impending punishment. This feeling can have unbelievable cleansing effect on the child unless he is
inherently 'criminal minded'. In my view, the only exception to the 'delayed punishment principle' is when
the child is extraordinarily honest - when he voluntarily owns up to his guilt and asks for punishment. In
this extremely rare scenario, there is no need of postponement of the punishment because it would serve no
purpose. The child is already aware of his guilt and has gone through the exercise of self - cleansing;
the question of fairness of punishment doesn't arise, and the teacher is least likely to be acting in anger.
In this scenario, the teacher would most probably be in an uneasy situation, faced with the commendable
honesty of the child and the pressure of maintaining impartiality. In such a scenario, relief at the earliest
would be the only fair choice.
Before winding up, I would like to present my views on the most important aspect - the deterrent
effect - of punishment. It is widely accepted that punishment - of whatever nature - is supposed
to be more of a deterrent than a corrective measure, especially if there is little scope for
'correction' once the offence is committed. However, I don't agree with the argument that the
fear of punishment resulting out of the pain should act as the deterrent. The child must be
tempted not to repeat the offence NOT out of fear of punishment but by understanding the mistake
(s)he has committed. Otherwise, the punishment will be a total failure, especially if the offence
is tempting in nature. As in the case of child punished for smoking, if the child refrains from
repeating the mistake merely out of fear of punishment, it is highly likely that he may repeat
the offence at the very first chance when he is free from the fear. If that happens, I would say
that both the teacher and the punishment have failed in achieving what is expected of them.
In short, if I were to give my opinion and advice on the issue, my advice to teachers would be this:
You may use the cane - nothing wrong in it. But THINK - Not once or twice, but thrice, before
picking the cane up: One: Is this punishment completely unavoidable? Two: Is it THIS child who deserves
the punishment? and Three: Does my mind harbour at least some strains of anger, either
against this child or towards someone else? Pick the cane if and only if the first two questions return
'Yes' and the third one gives a 'No' as answer. Otherwise, it's YOU who deserve a punishment - it's YOUR
fault that you are tempted to inflict unjustifiable punishment on the child.
Summing up, I would like to reiterate one thing: Corporal punishment is fine, but the most prominent
emotion behind the punishment must be the teacher's affection for the child - not rage. The teacher's
success as a 'punishing authority' lies in his ability to show the child that the punishment (s)he
receives is indicative of the teacher's love for him / her. When the teacher succeeds in his effort, the
child would, in turn, love and respect the teacher. Once the child understands the teacher's affection,
(s)he will strive to correct his /her mistake and avoid repeating it so that the loving, caring teacher
is not forced to wield the cane again.
Note: The gender - specific pronouns used in this article are intented to help ease of representation only
and shall be taken to mean either gender, except where it is specified otherwise explicitly.
* The picture shown in th this article is intented purely for the purpose of representation only.
~ വിജി പിണറായി ~
~ Viji Pinarayi ~