Ending institutionalised child abuse
December 9, 2006
THAT Member of Parliament Chantalle Smith's motion calling for the abolition of corporal punishment in schools was deferred serves a sort of anti-climax for what seemed to be turning out to be a heated debate.
It is hard, however, to see this as a debate on whether corporal punishment in schools should be continued or not, rather than a debate on what exactly we are going to replace it with.
Corporal punishment in schools is institutionalised child abuse and it is an idea whose time has long gone.
Those who sanction corporal punishment not only in schools but against children as a whole fail to see the sheer illogic of the practice.
The mind of a young person growing up is still undergoing a process of being moulded – it should be both inevitable and acceptable if they are to stumble occasionally in the process of attuning themselves to society.
To beat a child because of some infraction or the other during this process, and not doing the same thing for an adult who should know better makes little sense.
Why not sanction a few lashes on the rear end for the University of Guyana student chronically late with his assignments or the office worker who takes an extra fifteen minutes for his lunch break every day?
The simple answer is that corporal punishment has less to do with discipline or learning, than it has to do with the assertion and exercise of power.
It is the vestigial instinct of a less ordered time in human history or evolution, when an act of violence – the infliction of pain – served as the most direct way to end a conflict.
In much the same way that we have developed over time a different way of starting fire or finding a mate, other than rubbing two sticks together or hitting her over the head, we can develop different ways of administering discipline to children.
The effectiveness of corporal punishment has been called into question time after time, study after study with the only real arguments in favour of the system centring on religious sanction of the practice and/or the tradition of spanking often derived from such religious sanction.
According to one study by the American Academy of Paediatrics, "The only way to maintain the initial effect of spanking is to systematically increase the intensity with which it is delivered, which can quickly escalate into abuse".
In short, a pre-set level of caning, hitting with a rod, is only going to work well on the person receiving the physical punishment if subjected to increasing levels of violence.
Corporal punishment is an anomaly in general, and when practiced against children, it becomes even more shameful – doubly so if it is enshrined within the education system.
The modern state that sanctions it might as well deny women the right to vote.
It is wrong, whether it has been rationalised by societal custom or religion, and it is high time that something is done about it.