Arguments For and Against the Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools.
Corporal punishment in schools is an emotive and controversial topic for many people. The arguments for and against mainly revolve around the ethics and practicalities of using it as a way of maintaining student discipline.
People who are for corporal punishment generally take the view that provided it can be properly regulated, it can be an effective way of maintaining discipline in an educational setting, while those who are against it generally view it as an ineffective method of maintaining discipline and/or unethical.
The idea behind the practice is that pain is deliberately inflicted on a student, usually by a teacher, as a punishment for an offense that has been committed. As well as serving as a punishment, the punishment is also intended to act as a deterrent against future rule breaking.
Typically the punishment is performed by striking the pupil repeatedly with some sort of implement, such as hitting the palm of their hand with a ruler. Paddling is common way of administering corporal punishment in the USA.
Corporal punishment in schools is prohibited in over 30 countries globally, including Canada, Kenya, South Africa, New Zealand and most of Europe. The United States tends to be spilt along North-South lines as far as allowing it is concerned, with Northern states generally prohibiting the practice and Southern states generally allowing it.
In answer to the question: Should corporal punishment in schools be allowed? Here are the main arguments for and against that people use.
Arguments For Corporal Punishment in Schools
- Because it works. That is why it has featured as a traditional tool of teachers for so long. There is no other equivalent that acts as both a punishment and deterrent in the same way. The psychological and physical immediacy of a short sharp shock is simply the most effective way to affect behavior in some circumstances.
- As long as it is properly regulated, there should be no problems with it being used in schools. Some of the negative stories used by people opposed to corporal punishment are the result of failures in regulation and leadership, not corporal punishment itself.
- It can be administered quickly. The pupil can then continue with his or her learning, unlike other forms of punishment, such as suspension from school when they miss school time and their education is damaged.
- It is also an effective use of staff time, unlike other forms of punishment, such as detentions, when hours of staff time can be wasted supervising students who have misbehaved.
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.— Mahatma Gandhi
Arguments Against Corporal Punishment in Schools
- It is a form of abuse against children - psychologically, as well as physically. It also sends out the message that violence is socially acceptable, which is entirely the wrong message to be giving out.
- There is no evidence that schools who use it are any more disciplined or orderly than ones that don’t. If anything, the effects of it seem to be more negative than positive and serve to undermine the teacher-pupil relationship.
- Where it is used, there is evidence that it is not used in an even-handed way. For instance, statistically speaking, boys tend to be given the punishment more than girls, and African-Americans seem to be given the punishment more often than white school children for similar offenses.
I think I wish I had never spanked my children, but I have. And they remember every instance like they tattooed it on their palms. I think it's a terrible lesson, to use physical punishment to make a point about not behaving, not being kind to their siblings, to other people. I mean that's just absurd. But I've lost it, I understand it.— Ayelet Waldman
Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.— Ellen Key
School Corporal Punishment and the United States
The legality of corporal punishment is decided at a state level in the USA and so laws vary in different parts of the country.
- Currently the practice is banned in public schools in 31 states, plus the District of Columbia.
- New Jersey and Iowa also ban the practice in private schools too.
- New Jersey was the very first U.S. state to abolish school corporal punishment in 1867.
- Corporal punishment is most often used in the South, mainly in public schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Should corporal punishment in schools be allowed?
© 2012 Paul Goodman