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American Academy of Pediatrics condemn corporal punishment

Op-Ed 2024-02-21, 1:06am


Sir Frank Peters.

One sure way of drastically reducing the evil practice of corporal punishment in schools would be for the child’s father to be substituted as a ‘whipping boy’ for his child

Sir Frank Peters

Common sense is fake... a blatant lie. It’s not common at all!

If there’s one thing in the world we’re guaranteed – apart from death and taxes – it’s the lack of common sense. Many minds are so small apparently they cannot accommodate it.

The one place one would hope and expect to find it in glowing abundance is in our educational establishments, but that is not the case. Take corporal punishment as a prime example.

Political leaders worldwide declare children to be the future of their nation. If that’s the case beating them doesn’t make any sense.

It’s a scientifically proven fact that children learn much faster in a friendly, happy, fun atmosphere – one that embraces friendship, encouragement, and appreciation.

Since when has kicking, grabbing, shoving, slapping, pushing, pinching or confining children in small spaces; taping their mouths shut, pulling their hair, shaving their heads, tugging at their ears, pinching, belittling, mocking, embarrassing, swearing, cursing and robbing them of dignity, making them look foolish in front of their peers or breaking sticks upon their young tender hands, backs and legs and branding their calves with a red-hot spatula, ever been fun and encouraging?

How does even one of those inhumane cruelties aid children to become upstanding citizens?

Discipline is as essential as the air we breathe in all our lives.

Nobel Laureate and eternal Rabindranath Tagore, a man of great wisdom and common sense, absolutely abhorred corporal punishment. Not only because of the horrific act, damage it caused children, but also because it’s morally wrong and is condemned by every religion.

Rabindranath hit the nail on the head when he said: “To discipline means to teach, Not to punish.”

The great wise man would turn in his grave and weep if he knew children were being beaten for failing to learn loving words he once wrote.

The use of corporal punishment is not only ineffective, but it’s a barbarous unethical method for management of behavior in schools. It has proved by thousands of studies to be damaging harmful, often leading to lifelong psychological problems.

One sure way of drastically reducing the evil practice of corporal punishment in schools would be for the child’s father to be substituted as a ‘whipping boy’ for his child.

In 2011 Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hassan Arif ruled that corporal punishment should be outlawed in all settings – schools, madrasahs and homes – throughout Bangladesh. If corporal punishment benefitted the children and nation – even just a little – they would have advised the opposite, no doubt. The fact remains, however, that no matter what name you give it – corporal punishment or discipline – its reality doesn’t change. It’s evil and it’s child abuse.

The noble justices defined the despicable act as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty, and freedom’.

Like Tagore, the American Academy of Pediatrics is vehemently opposed to corporal punishment and recommends it’s abolished in all settings, and replaced by alternative forms of student behavior management.

If corporal punishment isn’t effective and causes incalculable hurt and damage to innocent children (as proven), it stands to common sense it should be eradicated. You don’t nourish and protect cancers.

Studies have also shown that corporal punishment is administered disproportionately to minority students, students with disabilities, students of low socioeconomic background, and those who do not attend the after-school coaching classes conducted by their class ‘teachers’.

Additionally, there is great concern that teaching the child that physical violence is a solution to problems will deter them from seeking more constructive solutions to their own problems.

Irrespective of the child’s home environment, schools should be one of the places where each and every child can feel safe, comfortable, respected, and loved.

I was once eyewitness to a five-year old boy in a village who left home for school one day with a big smile on his face and his precious little heart bursting at the seams with enthusiasm and excitement.

He loved his teachers. He loved the school. To him it was a local Disneyland packed tight with his friends, fun, knowledge and he didn’t have to pay! Minutes later, however, the cherub returned distressed and in tears – he had learned the school was closed that day! (God love him!)

What an endorsement for the school. All schools should be ‘moresome’ – can’t get enough of it – not shunned and despised torture chambers.

Even the mere threat of corporal punishment creates an atmosphere of fear. It can affect the child’s attitude toward authority, affect their ability to learn, and cause a gross dislike of school and learning itself.

If that is not the intended objective of a nation, it shouldn’t hesitate to introduce – and enforce – a law prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings.

What benefit is there in having a nation of broken adults and broken children? Corporal punishment and those who perform it must go for everyone’s sake.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, and a human rights activist.)