Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?
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Once considered an integral part of the education and discipline of children nationwide, corporal punishment is now almost unanimously opposed by social scientists who argue that the negative impacts far outweigh any marginal positive benefits. And yet, as a recent Times Educational Supplement survey reveals, nearly half of all parents would support the reintroduction of this archaic disciplinary method into our school system. How can a practice that was outlawed in government-funded schools over twenty years ago still warrant this level of public debate? What is it exactly that people find so appealing about corporal punishment? One answer to this is that parents supporting the practice associate the use of corporal punishment with the much celebrated ‘good old days’ of British schooling. Their reasoning appears to be that by reintroducing this method of discipline, there would begin an educational overhaul that would bring back the fondly remembered jolly hockey sticks, gung-ho attitude of their youth. However, the fact is that this world of schooling was marred with its own problems, and that the so-called ‘golden days’ of British education never really existed. As Chris Keates, General Secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT explains, there is a” mythology” that has developed in the national consciousness surrounding the state of education in 1960s and 1970s. The reality is that vandalism and assaults against teachers were common features of life, and that you were more likely to be beaten with a hockey stick than to be playing with one. Instead of a room full of glowing, obedient, children, a teacher in ‘the good old days’ taught to naughty and well-behaved children, just as they do today. Parents harkening after the idyllic Britain of their childhoods’ need to accept that their view of history is most definitely rose-tinted.
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