Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Sean Major-Campbell | Beat the cane into submission

Published:Saturday | November 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Sean Major-Campbell

The cane cracked. The facial muscles in her face stood in obstinate support. Her will was resolute. Corporal punishment was noble. The good old days!

I was not even caned for being rude, or for any disciplinary concern, ever. This is the story of my experience and disgust with corporal punishment. It was known at the time as Linstead All-Age School.

Whenever the teacher gave practice tests for Common Entrance Exams, the student would receive the equivalent number of lashes to the number of incorrect responses. The same was true for classwork tests.

We would stand in line, in fear, in disgust, and in anger. And then my time would come. I extended both palms. The teacher looked at the papers, added the total of incorrect responses across subject areas, and the lashing would begin. If I got 90 per cent in three areas, it meant that I was due 30 lashes.

The cruelty would be exacted as my palms bled, and the cane was smeared with my blood. I recall my mother, a registered nurse, washing my hands in a salt water bath at the end of the day. I never liked the thought of my father knowing about this since I knew how angry he would become with the teacher.

It was not really the thing to speak to your child's teacher about such matters. You simply accepted what the teacher did when your child is in that teacher's class!

It is imperative that the State speak unequivocally and act legislatively on the matter of corporal punishment. This wickedness has prevailed for too long!

Although this is 2017, many parents prefer to wait out the tyranny of an insensitive teacher, in the interest of supposedly giving their child the best chance for the stay in that class, for the rest of the school year which will come to an inevitable end.

 

Focused on punishment

 

Our society is too punishment focused! We resort to violence for many situations of conflict. It challenges our religious preoccupation with often putting things in right and wrong categories with licence given to stone many who are found guilty.

Every legislative support that is possible must of necessity be brought to bear upon making for a more just, more peaceful, more pleasant society.

The law must ensure equal protection for everyone from being hit, beaten, stoned, and tortured by anyone.

There are some things that should not even be up for debate when it comes to protection of our citizens. However, since that is the process, let the discussion proceed. Our society is filled with double standards for our children. Conflicting messages abound. They are told at church about peace and love. Forgiveness is preached at school devotion. Disgust is shared regarding the parent who is beaten by the other. But when it comes to the child, biblical support is quoted for physical violence!

When a 10-year-old girl, within a four-hour period, is raped by her mother's lover; boxed by her mother for having a bad attitude; given a beating at school for being insolent; and then gets bullied before the school day ends, what kind of society are we building? Is a discussion required here? Are we able to see why corporal punishment is just plain wrong and an affront to the rights of the child?

May we seize the opportunity to deliberately explore and engage evidence-based alternatives to corporal punishment.

All organisations and all legislators must unite for the sake of our children and for a better Jamaica. The Church can no longer remain lazy in the comfort of a Bible verse supposedly in support of beating. Everyone must get on board in the affirmation of best practices in the interest of Jamaica's children.

- Fr Sean Major-Campbell, JP, is an Anglican priest and advocate for human rights. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and seanmajorcampbell