Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Should school beatings be banned?

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Abraham Lincoln said that "the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next". We have to understand that children are the future of this country and how we bring them up is paramount to our survival.

The incident involving teacher Beverly Dinall at St Richard's Primary has opened up a crucial discussion that Jamaicans have been evading for a long time.

Earlier this year, the youth ministry stated that the United Nations Committee on Rights of the Child suggested that corporal punishment be banned in schools. Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna indicated that they were not yet ready to do so.

When I attended primary school, impertinent pupils were thrashed with belts by the principal. Some schools even had caning. I was well behaved for the most part, but I do remember getting in trouble in the sixth grade, along with most of my class, for talking during a test.

 

Fear of further punishment

 

We were made to form a line and were each hit three times with a thick ruler. It hurt my pride more than anything, but I refused to tell my parents out of fear of further punishment. Should I have sued her for assault? That incident helped to shape part of my life. I never spoke during an exam, whether in high school or university, again.

Should teachers still be allowed to beat children in this country? Corporal punishment was banned in British state schools in 1987 and in the private ones in 1999. In fact, psychology professor Sandra Graham-Bermann, PhD, found that beatings actually exacerbate students' behaviour. Research has continuously shown that it makes them more aggressive as adults. Some would even argue that childhood beatings are responsible for the bulk of violence we have in this country.

My experience and observations have been very different from the result of these studies, especially if the beatings received were not severe enough to cause physical injury to the child. In my opinion, a fear of corporal punishment will make students think twice before misbehaving, but educators have to know where to draw the line.

A parent or guardian who was interviewed on CVM stated that her child was allegedly beaten at St Richard's Primary as well. She then boasted about approaching and threatening to beat the teacher if she raised a hand to her child again. Behaviour like this from adults actually encourages young people to talk back to authority. How then is it possible for teachers to stop disruption in the classrooms without being vilified? Irresponsible parenting indirectly creates a hostile environment in schools and overwhelmed teachers bear the brunt of this.

 

Suitable alternatives

 

It would be absurd for the Government to fully remove the power teachers have to discipline students. However, corporal punish-ment is fast becoming a consid-erable issue for some parents. There needs to be a discussion pertaining to suitable alternatives. One viable one is to allow parents and their children to read and sign a code of conduct at the beginning of every school year. In doing this, they will both agree that uncivilised behav-iours will result in immediate dismissal from the school.

The first two times that the child is unruly should be reported to the parents. The third time should result in expulsion. This low tolerance will create an environment that is conducive to learning for those who actually attended school with that intention.

My concern is that if we become too politically correct and ban corporal punishment or charge teachers accused of carrying it out, they may become afraid to show authority. Moreover, chaos will reign if suitable alternative punishment methods are not found. It would be a big mistake to begin persecuting teachers who are fighting an uphill battle in classrooms every day.

Theodore Roosevelt was absolutely correct when he said, "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

- Sashakay Fairclough is a barrister-at-law and freelance journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and sashakayfairclough@gmail.com.