The absence of corporal punishment in American schools has led to chaos
Stabroek News
March 16, 2004

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Dear Editor,

The impetus for writing this letter is the most recent act of violence against a teacher but more than anything S. Ram's most illogical propositions in his letter captioned "Corporal punishment gives the wrong message" (14.3.2004). I agree with his/her position that striking children may teach them that violence is the solution to problems but I tell you that violent teachers in school are definitely not responsible for triggering violence in our society. It is in the absence of the so- called, teacher-perpetrated violence in school that we have had the most violence and disciplinary problems.

In Guyana where we have teacher violence in schools no child has ever shot a teacher nor bombed a school. It seems like we are swiftly heading for that place and we better turn things around while we still can. I do not posit that corporal punishment is the solution to all disciplinary problems nor that it is applicable in every instance. That would be ridiculous and I would be considered sadistic.

I definitely agree that striking a child for the incorrect answer or being late provided he cannot be held responsible is absolutely wrong. But tell me in instances where the student loiters and waits for the 'boom-boom bus' and consequently comes late what should be the solution. If I met my child loitering and his/her lateness is a consequence of the above practice I would not care if the penalty is corporal punishment for I may administer same should no reasonable alternative at getting the child to school sooner suffice to solve the problem or if reason fails. I was a teacher and would never agree to hitting the student for giving an incorrect answer. An incorrect answer only shows the child's failure to comprehend and the teacher's failure to impart effectively.

I would not like us to join the developed world as the writer suggests. I have been here for some three years as an education major and I guarantee that the developed world wants to turn around from the situation of tail wagging dog to one where the dog wags the tail. I agree that corporal punishment should be controlled and sanctioned by the Principal to prevent the excess which we see today.

We should look to the developed world for models but their education system is nothing to emulate in some respects, particularly in the area of discipline. I attend one of the top 100 Liberal Arts Colleges in the USA and the level of literacy is appalling. It stems from the policy which we have recently adopted which declares Universal Secondary Education for all deserving or undeserving which is a sad, backward step. The student is protected from expulsion and in the face of repeated failure to progress is kept in school at taxpayers expense. Most of them cause other problems since negative attitudes are most contagious. Take it from someone who has been in the field teaching American children. Teaching in some parts of the USA is more dangerous than fire fighting. As Brother Eusi said, "When patwah cum outah trench watah an tell yuh seh hoorie gat feevah, believe am!" In the USA they wish it was the way it is in Guyana but without the excesses. When I become a parent I wish my children to be educated in no place but Guyana just for the discipline.

Let us reason and be realistic. We were all children at one time and we know there is a little bit of fear in respect. The adults that drove the fear of God into us we respect today as adults because we see their greater purpose in hindsight and they did not all do it by hitting, for every child does not respond to corporal punishment well. I know from experience both as a child and a teacher that provided the child feels the punishment is justified or he/she is deserving of it, there is no real known injury, emotional or otherwise, but there is content which may sound strange. Children are not always able to rationalize things I agree but this much I know that if the teacher is not cruel the child may not appreciate the punishment immediately but later he/she will. I shall not call any names but I look back at the times I was flogged at school and those teachers who did so when I felt I deserved it, I kiss the dirt they walk on. I am sure many feel this way. I feel great pity for persons who are persuaded by psychologists into thinking of the so called emotional scars, for we need to do our duty to children.

I am a cousin to the late Joseph and Austin Castello (Tookie and Boops) who founded Tutorial High School. They taught the likes of Captain Richards (Salvation Army trumpeter), Mr. Gregory Blyden (distinguished Chemistry teacher), Mr. Peter Britton and Justice Oslen Small (retired) to name a few. Uncle Austin as I heard used the cane profusely, which I do not support and advocate, but I wish you enquire of them concerning the emotional scars and the hatred they hold for the Castellos.

Humans constantly use theories to assume positions, but I wish them to examine the outcome of theories regarding the absence of corporal punishment, or simply examine the situation in the USA. Again I do not advocate the excessive but the judicious use of corporal punishment, for I am also well aware of means of discipline other than corporal punishment, but I am afraid that its complete abolition may potentially create a society we would not be able to live in.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cort