Corporal Punishment (September 98)

Back in the Sixties when the Plowden Report recommended banning it in Primary Schools, it was said of the ensuing discussion that it generated more heat than light. Not much has changed in that respect. Television interviewers have done their best, but the discussion is as polarised as ever following the European Court ruling about a particular caning case. That needs clarifying first then this page is intended to spread a little light, illustrating it light-heartedly.

English Law allows "reasonable punishment" as a defence in cases where someone in loco parentis, having beaten a child, is charged with assault as the result of a complaint by, or on behalf of, the child. In this particular case a particular caning was deemed to be reasonable, by an English Court. The European Court decided it contravened the boy's human rights.

The Government is taking the reasonable course of trying to set guidelines about what is reasonable.

English Law recognises increasing levels of assault:

  1. Assault;
  2. Assault occasioning actual bodily harm. ABH;
  3. Assault causing grievous bodily harm. GBH.

Presumably the current reasonable line is in front of GBH. It needs to go in front of ABH. In other words: if it leaves bruising which lasts until he next day, it should be regarded as unreasonable.

Modern proponents of smacking by parents are happy with that, making a firm distinction with beating. Opponents are not at all happy and want it banned altogether. They cite Norway (which I gather does not have a delinquency problem) rather than Sweden (which does), as a good example of where the ban works.

Question: Do the English really want to be like Norway or Sweden?

Opponents also make much of the fact that the law treats children differently from adults with regard to assault.

Statement: Of course it does! Cutting a child's toenails is technically assault and in other areas there is rightly a ton of legislation protecting children from all sorts of things from which we do not need to protect adults.

Question: Adults suspected of wrongdoing can be handcuffed and locked up, should we treat children like that?

That is not a silly question. The Children and Young Persons act of 1969 made provision for raising the age of criminal responsibility from ten to fourteen. It was never implemented. I wonder why? Was it because we stopped whacking them?

Opponents also claim to be standing up for children's rights. Do they really want children treated like adult criminals? Do they ever give children the right to chose whether or not to prosecute or does the Social Worker always know best?

Let's look at some history.

Whether or not the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton rather than (as some might claim) over its flogging block, even that institution, now educating our future King, has had to give up its long tradition. According to a recent Telly programme, its last traditional Headmaster moved to Tony Blair's old school. That may or may not be relevant to the fact that it has simply become politically incorrect even to support beating. Quite right, I never could understand why most traditional proponents insisted on such severity. Although let's not dismiss pain out of hand.

John Wesley's Mum, Susanna (1669-1742) wrote to her grown up son with the advice that children should be expected to cry quietly after a whipping, on pain of receiving another!! Yet she also composed this prayer:

Lord our God, You dwell in unapproachable light, pure Essence and Perfection of being! Self Existent, Necessary, Infinite and Eternal!. You comprehend within Yourself all nature, all wisdom, all justice, all goodness, all truth and holiness. Out of the abundance of my reason I adore you and out of the love of my heart I magnify and praise You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one God for ever and ever. Amen

Taken from and (presumably modernised by the authors of) The Methodist Prayer Handbook

It is hardly the work of a Despot. No she believed (and so did John when he founded schools) in the need to save children from Original Sin and consequent damnation. Perhaps she was right! Though we would put it in different language. There are ways of doing it with Corporal Punishment and ways of doing it without; what should not be lost sight of, is the purpose. A high purpose may need strong measures. What it doesn't need is the sort of pomposity associated with traditional schoolmasters (and mistresses) nor, equally, the arrogance of some "experts", whose opinions are based on (what nowadays passes for) academic research rather than real experience with real kids. Although experience limited to ones own family isn't necessarily fully enlightening. A prominent spokesperson for one charity recently went on record as saying she would take an axe to any older woman who ran off with her son. That's hardly compatible with rational opposition to corporal punishment!

Six of The Best William's view But to get light-heated at last, here on the left is a cartoon to annoy the politically correct. And  sound to match. Don't worry it is not real.
On the right is William Brown:---

The point is that the picture of William was posed by modern publicists. In fact the real William would not have dared to make this sign where there was any chance of being seen by any adults and certainly not for a photograph. Not because he was repressed or cruelly treated, but simply because he knew what to expect if he did. And he would not have thought that unfair.

And we look at the other archetypal Naughty Boy: From The Beano, now sixty years old (like me): Dennis The Menace. Not to be confused with the transatlantic, less menacious, lad of the same name.

As it used to beIn the "olden days" (up to at least 1980) Dennis cartoons invariably ended with him receiving a dose of the slipper from his (long suffering) Dad. Sometimes his Granny's demon elephant hide slipper. The fact that it had to be repeated does not prove that it was ineffective. It did succeed in preventing Dennis's naughtiness escalating into crime. No-one thought it strange or cruel, not even Dennis, until Political Correctness took over.

Sergeant SlipperNowadays the slipper has been metamorphasised (rather anthropomorphised) into a Police Sergeant. So maybe handcuffs and a cell are not far away!!!


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