Corporal Punishment: Two Sides of the Coin
Corporal punishment is a regular affair in thousands of schools everywhere. Children not only carry overload of text books and note books on their tender backs, but bear the brunt of canes for silly reasons. Professor Madabhushi Sridhar gives an insight on the two sides of the coin.
Scenes at school: They ask them to stand or 'kneel down' under hot sun. Sometimes students will be asked to complete the assigned writing work in kneel down position. Kneeling down on the earth is painful. A physical instructor who also happen to be a karate belt holder, uses his hard hand to severely injure the kid who do not follow the instructions. While playing or practicing drill with physical instructors, the punishments will be harsh and unbearable.
A boy receives slap from girl for not doing homework or not answering a query, or a girl from the boy. A school invented another imaginative method of getting the boy beaten up by girl studying in lower class. Another teacher takes the wrongdoing child along with him or her to each class of different year as per schedule to further inflict insult. While a schoolteacher prevents a girl from eating from her lunch box, the other does not allow the kid to attend the classes. These are special treatments.
The legality of punishment
Neither the religion nor the parenthood provided any legal authority physically injure the children for their so called 'indiscipline' and to enforce morality and character. Punishment may deter a child from repeating act of indiscipline to some extent, but it cannot improve his understanding of the subject or make him intelligent 'more' than 'his standard' earlier to the corporal punishment. Resorting to scolding and reprimanding students as a prelude to inflict punishment is common at homes and schools and excess of which always bring in civil or criminal liability. Some of the countries specifically banned the corporal punishment of children as it crossed the limits and assumed brutal propositions.
However, law basically does not agree with any excessive punishment to beings, which would be definitely a violation of personal right. The research studies show that the theory of corporal punishment was an ineffective discipline strategy with children of all ages and it is often proved to be dangerous. The punishment of such kind leads to create anger, resentment and low self-esteem. It teaches them violence and revenge as solutions to problems and perpetuates itself, as children might imitate what the adults are doing
A study revealed that the children whose parents use corporal punishment to control antisocial behavior show more antisocial behavior themselves over a long period of time. This is regardless of race, socio-economic status and regardless of whether the mother provides cognitive stimulation and emotional support. A consistent pattern of physical abuse exists that generally start as corporal punishment and then gets out of control. As the child grows, the depression or violence in them gradually develops.
If persons are more hit during their childhood, it is more likely that when they reach the adulthood, they hit their children, spouses or friends. A frequently hit child will be a problematic person tomorrow. There another serious consequence, the probability of children assaulting the parent in retaliation also will increase with the corporal punishment. The same attitude may reflect in the schools against the teachers also.
Besides attitudinal change there may be psychological disadvantages also. The children might begin to believe that it is good to use violence. They develop bullying tactics against weaker person. This eventually leads to degrading; it contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, robbing a child off self-worth and self respect leading a child to withdrawal or aggression. All these changes lead to breaking of relationship. Ultimately it all leads to erosion of trust between teacher and a child or a parent and a child. Another dimension is it will result in increased risk of child abuse as a disciplinary measure and poor performance on school tasks compared to other children.
Reaction: FEAR, HATRED, ANGER
The unilateral process of penal disciplining the children either at home or at school will lead to three kinds of reactions; FEAR, HATRED & ANGER. These three will contribute adversely and in the long run, children are molded into complex personalities. If a child is battered or bullied for talking, his anger may make him an introvert, probably a thinker with less initiative, and to withdraw from groups and companies and can be branded as shy person. If his reaction is hatred, he starts hating school and society. If the anger is the reaction, an angry young man will take birth. If he suffers most without these feelings, which very rarely happens, that child may develop a commitment not brow beat anybody in his life time.
The corporal punishment interferes with the right to development and participation as it leads to antisocial behavior. The theme of Child Rights Convention, that an adult should recognize the child as the person which means promoting their liberty, privacy and dignity. The brutal disciplinary processes hamper psychological growth of a person.
Two Schools of Thought
Then the question is why do the parents or teachers punish children?
There are two schools of thought, one arguing for the need of taming the uncontrollable kids and the other for not using the cane at all, and the debate goes on in every meeting or workshop.
School managers argue that some of the parents wanted them to beat the children to make them behave well. If the consent of parents could be taken for such punishments it would amount to conspiracy of parents and teachers to violate the rights of children, and provides any authority or protection or defense to the teachers inflicting such punishment.
The child is father of an adult. The child is an abridged adult with rights which cannot be abridged. The child is a person for all practical purposes. The child observes, thinks and imitates or reacts to happenings around. Either at home or school, the child is subjected to disciplinary practices while, child should be part of those processes. If the indiscipline of the child could be complained, ascertained and responded to, then where is the way to find and establish the indiscipline of the adults? Every adult feels that he is having every right to discipline the child. Do they have?
The discipline is not taught, it is learnt. The text books give information. The communication through teaching is imparting education. To attain wisdom, an abundant amount of common sense has to be added to education, which then includes discipline. Discipline is an attitude, character, responsibility or commitment. The discipline is basically internal, while the attempt to impose it would be an external process. One has to internalize the process of education and discipline. Discipline and education go together in letter and spirit.
The Child's education is mostly from observation and imitation. Their participation depends upon their developing capacity, which again depends upon the surroundings and family.
In almost all private, convent, English medium schools, which mushroomed with the sole purpose of making money, impose very strict discipline which leads to stringent actions even for minor violations like not cleaning shoe, or wearing a different color sox or a shirt without ironing. Sometimes the punishment extends to parents also.
It is the common sight in cities and towns that parents, mostly mothers, waiting outside the gate of schools under the hot sun to hand over lunch box or meet the principal as instructed through the kids. Generally, neither the students nor their parents complain against any teacher for beating the kids, because of the fear of their vindictive attitude. These fears are not unrealistic. There are several instances where a child has to leave the school in the middle of an academic year, because children are subjected to severe torturing methods hampering their education and mental peace, because the parents brought the corporal punishment to the notice of principal.
The Education department must be well equipped with necessary personnel who can study the reasons for child behavior and teachers reactions and inspect the schools whether in private sector or public sector to oversee if any tormenting conditions are existing. In fact, auditing of behavior in schools is more important than the financial auditing or verifying records.
· The parents association should play a major role in checking the management of schools regarding these punishments. They have to regularly meet and bring collective representations to avoid isolated vindictive actions.
· It must be made mandatory for the school management to convene parents meeting regularly to address these issues.
· Child Rights Committees in Schools also could play a role in checking the physical assaults in schools for trivial reasons.
The corporal punishment is prohibited against elementary school children and against students of class XI and XII. Then why should there be corporal punishment for children studying classes in between. There appears to be no reason for such discrimination. It needs to be amended.
There should neither physical nor mental punishment in humiliating methods. The stress and strain imposed on child with terrorized atmosphere prevalent in the schools because of corporal punishments, cut throat competitions and increasing pressure for ranks lead them to leave the schools. Suicides are another major possible consequence of such terrible incidents in the schools.
The plight of junior college students, who are cornered to commit suicides due to meaningless competition and ambitious craze for professional courses is already rocking the morale of the students and parents and affecting the commercial profits of the coaching colleges which are functioning as Tuition Mills. School children should not be driven to such an unfortunate situation.
We shall not wait for some school students also to commit suicides for us to act upon. Let us all save their childhood. 'Spare the rod and save the childhood' should be the new slogan.
About the author:
Dr. Madabhushi Sridhar (Acharyulu), Author of 26 books on Law & Journalism both in English and Telugu, is a professor of law at National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) University of Law at Hyderabad.
A double post graduate with LL.M., and M.C.J (Journalism) from Osmania University, Madabhushi Sridhar achieved FIVE Gold Medals. With his vast experience in active Journalism for over a decade Madabhushi Sridhar, penned more than 100 research articles, developed lessons in Law and Journalism, presented papers at International and National Seminars on critical subjects of socio-legal importance and continues to write both in English and Vernacular Telugu on socio-legal issues in Daily Newspapers and the web journals. His edit page writing
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