After the cane, chaotic schools

Children’s behaviour in British schools -- and in not a few elsewhere -- has become so unruly that parents and teachers are beginning to regret the demise of the cane. The government’s Department for Children, Schools and Families published the results of a study last month showing that some parents believe corporal punishment was an “effective method of control” when they were at school and its removal has affected discipline standards.

In in-depth interviews parents also blamed the inability of some teachers to “instil respect and good behaviour among teenage pupils”; “increasing demands on teachers” in the form of paper work etc, leaving them less time to teach and discipline effectively; and the fact that children were becoming more demanding and less afraid of authority.

A spokeswoman for the group Parents Outloud said the mere threat of corporal punishment in the past had been effective, but it would be impossible to bring it back. The main cause of deteriorating behaviour was “the political correctness of the last 10 years that has told children to stand up and complain the moment someone tries to tell them off,” she said.

A survey of 6000 teachers last year found more than a fifth believed the cane should be brought back. ~ Telegraph (UK), Feb 26

An article in the latest issue of Standpoint, a publication of the Social Affairs Unit of the London School of Economics, also discusses corporal punishment. Kenneth Minogue argues that the collapse of family and school life can be traced in part to the way “niceness” has destroyed the balance between punishment and reward. He writes:

“We might therefore interpret the niceness movement as a feminisation of education, but in fact its range is wider. Its project is to banish pain (including the pains of duty) from our lives. It seeks to replace fear as the basis for good conduct in favour of rational understanding. It is above all hostile to punishment…

“To lose one's grip on the centrality of punishment in our civilisation is to destroy the crucial balance between punishment and reward. Without the balancing severities of punishment and criticism, praise and reward take on the aspect of bribes, which demeans both those that give and those that receive.”


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