Arguments For and Against the Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools.

Updated on May 5, 2017
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Since completely university in England, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian and freelance writer. He currently lives in Florida.

Teacher and class.  Corporal punishment in schools has effectively been banned in many parts of the world, but is seen as a vital tool to preserve order and respect in other places.  In the US, laws and practices vary considerably from state to state
Teacher and class. Corporal punishment in schools has effectively been banned in many parts of the world, but is seen as a vital tool to preserve order and respect in other places. In the US, laws and practices vary considerably from state to state | Source

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.

Teacher's desk.  Opinion differs as to whether corporal punishment enables the teacher to maintain order and respect for authority more effectively, or whether it encourages the idea that physical violence against children is acceptable, even welcome
Teacher's desk. Opinion differs as to whether corporal punishment enables the teacher to maintain order and respect for authority more effectively, or whether it encourages the idea that physical violence against children is acceptable, even welcome | Source

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
Two students receiving the cane in a drawing from 1888.  Corporal punishment in schools has a long history and was unquestioned as method of disciplining children for centuries.
Two students receiving the cane in a drawing from 1888. Corporal punishment in schools has a long history and was unquestioned as method of disciplining children for centuries. | Source

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
Ellen Key with sculptor Carl Milles in around 1915.  Key is best known for her book: The Century of the Child, published in 1909, where she argues for a child-centered approach, and against corporal punishment.
Ellen Key with sculptor Carl Milles in around 1915. Key is best known for her book: The Century of the Child, published in 1909, where she argues for a child-centered approach, and against corporal punishment. | Source

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.

Legality map of the USA: The blue areas show the states where corporal punishment is prohibited.  The practice is most common in the old South and the Mid-West.
Legality map of the USA: The blue areas show the states where corporal punishment is prohibited. The practice is most common in the old South and the Mid-West. | Source

Your opinion!

Should corporal punishment in schools be allowed?

See results

Questions & Answers

  • What are the benefits of corporal punishment?

    Proponents argue that as a traditional form of punishment, it has a proven track record. It is also effective as a deterrent, quick to administer, and an efficient use of staff time.

  • What are ten perspectives against physical punishment in schools?

    1. It creates moral confusion if you tell a child that violence is wrong then subject them to physical punishment. 2. It may make the child fear the teacher, but that's not the same as respecting them. 3. It can cause a child psychological harm, many will remember the punishments well into adulthood. 4. It can be difficult to exactly define the line between what level of punishment is acceptable and not acceptable, much easier to ban it all together. 5. It is an out-dated way of controlling children and will present the school as old-fashioned and behind the times. 6. It may cause psychological damage to those administering the punishment. 7. All sorts of rules, training, vetting procedures need to be introduced to ensure that all is carried out correctly, increasing bureaucracy and expense. 8. Things go wrong, teachers punish children unjustly, too harshly, or can be abusive in other ways,. 9. Children learn from the teachers and use physical punishments on other children. 10. It is just plain immoral, we don't generally allow adults to hit each other to get their way, why should it be allowed in schools.

  • What is the psychological effect of corporal punishment on a child?

    Most psychologists oppose physical punishment and point to studies that show spanking, hitting and other methods of causing pain to children can lead to antisocial behavior, physical injury, increased aggression, and mental health problems.

  • Why is corporal punishment not the best way to maintain discipline in schools?

    Critics argue that it causes emotional as well as physical harm to children, encourages the idea that using violence is an acceptable method to get one's way, is difficult to oversee, is problematic to define what level of physical punishment is appropriate and what constitutes abuse, creates an atmosphere of fear rather than respect, and promotes an out-of-date methodology that doesn't work.

  • Is corporal punishment necessary?

    Proponents argue that corporal punishment acts as a strong deterrent as well as a punishment, that its effects are immediate, and that it is cost-effective.

© 2012 Paul Goodman

Comments

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    • profile image

      Mitchy 

      2 weeks ago

      So why does it leaves scars on our bodies

    • profile image

      Cade 

      4 weeks ago

      Why not ban all forms of punishment? After all being put in jail is humiliating and a violation of ones dignity, paying traffic fines is a waste of money, even scolding can hurt ones feelings. So yes, lets all just do as we please, with no consequences. "Do as thou wilt". Corporal punishment, if properly controlled and administered can be extremely effective. It also allows a teacher to protect the rights of other learners who are bullied and yes, sometimes commit suicide due to repeated bullying. With no real punishment and no effective deterrent, we are teaching kids that the bullies and the class clown rule the school.

    • profile image

      Tannu yadav 

      5 weeks ago

      No, it is not a good way

    • profile image

      Vandana 

      2 months ago

      I am completely against it

      it is a type of bullying for kids

    • profile image

      adotey 

      3 months ago

      it is not good at all

    • profile image

      Mr stick 

      3 months ago

      corpral punishment should be banned everywere

    • profile image

      Anshali 

      3 months ago

      I'm totally against corporal punishment.we will banned it.

      This type of stupid, irrelevant and stupid things

    • profile image

      anonymous user 

      4 months ago

      go corporal punishment

    • profile image

      gift nwakolo 

      4 months ago

      against

    • profile image

      dd 

      4 months ago

      I need help I am writing an argument essay at school and have no idea what to do for my introductory.

    • profile image

      Paige and Charley 

      6 months ago

      i am totally against corporal punishment!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      luke 

      6 months ago

      against

    • profile image

      Albert angstine 

      6 months ago

      I am totally against

    • profile image

      Zoe 

      7 months ago

      I'm against corporal punishment.

    • profile image

      Harsh Nigam 

      9 months ago

      I am totally against corporal punishment and I want that it should be banned.

    • profile image

      Al 

      9 months ago

      I'm a high schooler from, and I really think that the northern states have to bring back corporal punishment. The amount of BS that teachers have to put up with from students is ridiculous. Some teachers will use the "I won't start class unless everyone is silent" method to quiet kids down, but that never works, and wastes valuable class time. Now if that same teacher would have given one of the students yapping away a nice clean smack on the forehead, I guarantee you that everyone would have shut up.

      Now I know there is some controversy about "psychological trauma" but I have a solution. Only bring it back for 7th grade and above, where kids are not as easily malleable.

    • profile image

      Ruby 

      9 months ago

      Against

    • profile image

      lilyan 

      9 months ago

      i need help because i am writing a persuasive essay and i don't know what to do for my conclusion

      by the way (BTW) i am against corporal punishments

    • profile image

      Anshul 

      9 months ago

      I think it is very bad as we can see many examples that a teacher beat a student very badly it is not fair and even sometimes the chuldren take profit of it like not doing work or not going to school there was an incident in my school also that a teacher beat a student so much that he got a fracture .

    • profile image

      Bitsit Tesfaye 

      9 months ago

      I am not sure, what really matters is how he was raised. For example I know a kid who went to the social services just because his mom spanked him and I'm just sixteen and I have been punished many times it did not harm me but helped me and if your child is a good listener it's better to advice and show love cause love is better than punishment!

    • Galadriel Arwen profile image

      Galadriel Arwen 

      10 months ago from USA

      As a former student, teacher and social worker I am positive that power and control does not require violence. When my younger brother was in high school his teacher picked up his desk with him sitting and hung it off the 2nd floor of the high school walkway. He was passing notes in the class. My parents were extremely angry to have this happen to their only male child. My brother was usually shy so this was not common. He was transferred from that class and that teacher was excused for the remaining year.

      Adults who have the need to exercise fear to control others especially children are bullies. Violence is never the answer and school is suppose to teach children how to behave and provide encouragement in a safe learning environment; not instruct how to torture others.

    • profile image

      Suhas 

      10 months ago

      Corporal punishment should not be allowed should not be allowed in school because the teachers miss you shit and and sometimes it causes should the teachers Angry Bird Angry mood and students the teachers through testis testis on them and it on her out the serious serious and the it is a form of the abuse against the children psychology Jalsa well as a physical it also stands out the message then the violence socially acceptable acceptable which is entirely the wrong message giving out corporal punishment is email him who gives us for the him who received it and ineffective besides that the same or physical pain and the effect that are running some teachers misuse it before the government has banned it

    • profile image

      Dapaah Stephanie 

      10 months ago

      I think it must be avoided.

    • profile image

      sob 

      10 months ago

      christianna why would you want corporal punishment it is not good for kids

    • profile image

      Christiana 

      11 months ago

      I think that corporal punishment helps to shape a child's behavior but it should be done in a right way.

    • profile image

      William Charles 

      3 years ago

      Caning In Schools Used To Be Very Affective Punishment In Schools On Children,

      And Do Believe Bring The Cane Back In Schools Will Restore Good Behaver Of Children In The Class,

    • Galadriel Arwen profile image

      Galadriel Arwen 

      6 years ago from USA

      I do not believe the threat of physical abuse is appropriate in any setting. If a student is disruptive and preventing the others to learn. He needs to be removed. As a former educator, I have never believed in negative reinforcement and have witnessed myself in a class that positive reinforcement works better. Instead of placing the names of bad people on the wall, I chose to place good, and erase the bad. WOW what a shock some had when instead of the attention they wee used to receiving was gone; they were erased. The good students who were summarily not emotionally supported and commended received the much needed focus and attention. The rules changed when focus was no longer going to the miscreant, but the valued excellent students were awarded. These great children were allowed to participate in Friday's award film and win prizes for the right answers. The others were sent out of the room and to the library under guard. This way, everyone had a better experience in class and the misbehaviors were no more. P.S. Those who misbehaved changed their tune and became good also. Just a hint to those who do not believe good deserve all the attention!

    • FloridaFacts profile image

      Paul Askew 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      I think corporal punishment sends out the wrong message. You should be able to discipline kids without it.

    • Duchessoflilac1 profile image

      Rebecka Vigus 

      6 years ago from Johns Island, SC

      No one needs corporal punishment, however teachers have their hands tied now in not being able to give consequences for actions. Kids have no respect for the institution of education.

      If I had a nickel for every time I told a student, "If it's not yours don't touch it." I'd be one of the wealthiest women in the world. There is no respect for anything or anyone. That has to come from home.

    • Galadriel Arwen profile image

      Galadriel Arwen 

      6 years ago from USA

      Being able to strike another is a sign of brutality. Learning to mediate with conversation and reasoning an educated way to deal with others and a way toward peace and understanding. Today is the beginning of something great! You are learning something new today, maybe something important, maybe something small and silly, but definitely something fascinating! Your mental energy makes it easy to absorb so take it all in and enjoy! being in an environment of corporal punishment takes learning away and lends itself to anarchy.

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