Whatever Happened to Corporal Punishment?

I think I had it pretty good as a young kid growing up in Nova Scotia. I had the privilege of attending a public school that opened the day with the principal reading a portion of scripture over the loudspeaker and leading us in the Lord’s Prayer.

But, it was a school that believed in – and used – the strap. Teachers were loved, but they were also feared – or should I say, respected. Teachers were an extension of the parent, and given joint responsibility in terms of raising children. Children were taught to treat teachers as they would parents.

If children decided to opt out of that unspoken code of conduct, they were quick to face the consequences. I had a few friends who challenged the code, and they paid dearly for it with a few lashes to an open palm. Putting on “the face” – making out like it didn’t hurt – could not cover up the affect the strap had on their future relationship to authority.

I had parents that taught me to respect and honor teachers. They did not let me get away with anything. I remember the day my teacher called home and described a situation I had been involved with. I had to write out a letter of apology to my teacher that became required reading for the class.

What has happened to corporal punishment? US Daily News reported an incident about a group of South Georgian third-graders who plotted to attack their teacher, and brought a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job to school. They actually assigned tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward.

The police chief stated, “We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her, but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely….we feel like if they weren’t interrupted, there would have been an attempt. Would they have been successful? We don’t know.”

And, what was the pressing cause that initiated this gang activity? Apparently, the students were mad at the teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair. And this constitutes a reason to threaten a teacher’s life?

If it had not been for another student’s tipping off of the school that a girl had brought a weapon to class, who knows what would have happened. As it stands now, they are too young – they must be thirteen and over – to be charged with a crime.

Those investigating their actions stated, “From what I understand, they were considered pretty good kids.” Does anybody know what constitutes a “pretty bad kid?” Though these “pretty good kids” have not been back to school, and many are facing expulsion, I am not sure the discipline fits the “criminal intent.”

What is causing all of this? Some say, it’s the violence on television and young children’s lack of ability to discern between reality and fantasy, actions and consequence. I suppose that is part of our problem, but don’t tell those responsible for “family programming” – we will be targeted as censorious.

Maybe we are reaping an ugly harvest from the disempowerment of school authorities. Corporal punishment, the administration’s right to use reasonable force to discipline a child, has been challenged on many levels. Our corporate fear of teacher abuse (“yes, it has happened!”) is undermining all teacher discipline.

Maybe we should place the responsibility on the home front, square on the shoulders of the parents. Kids need discipline. They need to be disciplined from without until they can discipline themselves from within. That starts at home.

Discipline always comes, sooner or later. If youth don’t listen to that inner voice of conscience, reject the correction of parents, despise the education of teachers, disobey the directives of employers, they will ultimately face the discipline of the street, the control of jailors or the Voice of eternal judgment.

Let’s love our kids enough to discipline them, and not rob from them the hope of a better future.