A Case for Corporal Punishment in Schools

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A Case for Corporal Punishment in Schools

(***, ?/fm, Serious, implied nc discpline)

A person advocates corporal punishment in schools. (Approximately 2,691 words. Originally published 2006-01.)

Let's just say I'm _cautiously_ pro corporal punishment in schools. I realize this is a controversial topic and many people are against it, but hear me out.

First, understand that I'm not some right-wing fascist or nutjob who gets off on beatings. I think there needs to be strict regulations about when and how corporal punishment is used, because abuses are certainly possible. I know that I'm cautious about allowing a stranger to physically punish my own children, even though my kids are spanked at home.

But I do firmly believe that when corporal punishment is used correctly, it's not only an extremely effective form of behavior management, it is life-affirming and character building.

Let me explain.

These days most of us, at least those in the Western world, lead cushy lives. No longer do we toil at excessively difficult and dangerous physical jobs for insane hours for meager pay. Most of us will never face physical dangers or risk our lives or suffer great pain. There are exceptions, of course, but I'm talking about the average person. Compared to the difficulty of routine daily living just a hundred years ago, we've got it pretty good today.

Now that doesn't mean there aren't challenges and difficulties; of course we all face the occasional horror or suffer some setback, whether it be of financial, medical, or personal nature. It's just that for most of us today, those problems are rare and only occasional. To give one example, I was in my twenties before anyone I personally knew died. In the past, a child of ten might have lost dozens of relatives and friends. Life back then was harsh.

That's where the problem lies. Through such harsh living strength and courage was generated. Today people are weak. We have no backbone. Our lives are so easy that the slightest trauma is overwhelming. We aren't sure how to face challenges and difficulties. Courage is certainly not something modern man requires on a regular basis.

Now I'm not suggesting we go back to the past; like you, I'm comfortable with modern living and conveniences. But I do think that corporal punishment can provide an acceptable degree of that harshness we're missing. I'm not advocating random or cruel punishments; however, unlike non-corporal punishments, corporal discipline inspires fear. And it is fear that leads to courage.

Courage is not something you are born with. Courage is bred, like any aspect of character. Courage is built upon smaller steps: a child faces up to a bully and through that process becomes an adult. An adult with no experience with courage will falter when challenged. But an adult who remembers being courageous as a child will find an inner strength that will help him or her overcome.

Another key virtue is responsibility. We all admire and respect individuals who take responsibility for their actions. Those who hide, cover up, or blame others for their faults are among the lowest form of human.

But it takes courage to accept responsibility. With responsibility comes consequences, and facing consequences is difficult. Most of us don't want to admit our mistakes, nor accept the consequences of our actions. But those of us of character, those of us with courage, will admit our faults and take our punishment. Perhaps not with a smile or aplomb, but at least with dignity.

What I am talking about is establishing a society that creates gentlemen and gentlewomen of courage and strength. And we can do this by re-establishing corporal punishment in schools.

Corporal punishment, by its nature, is a fearful thing. Children do not fear other forms of chastisement. Losing privileges does not scare you. It's inconvenient and annoying, and it has disadvantages, but it's certainly nothing to _fear_. It requires no _courage_ to face not being able to watch TV or a week or losing the right to drive the family car. The same goes for other punishments: detention, busy work, manual labor, suspension or expulsion. (When I was in school I always thought it was heavily ironic that the punishment for skipping school was suspension!)

Corporal punishment is feared because it _hurts_. It's embarrassing, uncomfortable, and undignified, but most of all it HURTS. And to be effective, corporal punishment must hurt. It must hurt a great deal.

I know there a tender-hearted people out there who worry that little Jonny can't take six paddle swats and two are plenty -- but truth of the matter is that to be effective corporal punishment must be intense. It must take a child out of their comfort zone. Sure, two paddle swats might wake a kid up, might make him say "ouch" a few times, might leave the seat warm for a few minutes, but two swats is _not_ punishment. Corporal punishment must not be symbolic but harsh -- that is the whole point.

Thus I am not only advocating restoring corporal punishment in schools, but restoring _severe_ corporal punishment. I believe the standards must be much higher than the watered-down correction applied during the last fifty years.

Now it's beyond the scope of this document to get too specific. I'm not going to say that six strokes is plenty and nine is too much, or anything like that. I will proceed in vague terms because there are many factors that contribute to the severity of a punishment: the individual's familiarity with corporal punishment, the implement used, the methodology used, the skill of the disciplinarian, and the amount of force used. For example, six strokes is ridiculously modest for a handspanking but severe for a caning.

However, if I had to give you my ideal corporal punishment scenario, I would say that it would work something along the following lines. Please don't take anything too literally as this is just a guideline, and everything would be subject to negotiation and agreement.

First, and most important, I believe corporal punishment is wasted on the young. Very young children do not have the physical bodies to properly endure physical punishment; it is much too easy for adults to unintentionally abuse the child. Nor are the minds of children ready to understand. The cannot distinguish between violence for education and violence for abuse.

No, corporal punishment should be reserved for older children. At least those into double digits, perhaps only teenagers.

There should be some judgement involved. Children mature at different rates. If an administrator senses that a child isn't mature enough to handle corporal discipline, an alternate form of punishment should be used.

Second, corporal punishment should be a final resort and used for repeat offenders. When a child fails to respond to traditional discipline, that's the time to bring in corporal punishment as an option.

Now it's *extremely* important that the child be given plenty of advance notice and warnings that corporal punishment is in the cards. This is vital because there are a few children who are too sensitive and could be traumatized by corporal punishment. We don't wish to harm the fragile psyche of a child; we just want to correct behavior.

Thus I would see CP being used something like this. A child misbehaves. Let's say he gets into fights frequently. He's given a traditional punishment such as detention. He's warned: corporal punishment will be in the cards if he doesn't shape up. But he continues to fight. He loses privileges, is suspended, etc. Each time he's warned CP is coming. Finally an ultimatum is presented to him. Corporal punishment is now being brought into play. If he's caught fighting again, he will be spanked. Severely.

At this point, the boy's fate is his own. If doesn't want to be spanked, he can modify his behavior. This gives the boy plenty of time to prepare. If spankings traumatize him, he'll change his behavior. If he's willing to risk it, it's his bottom that will pay.

Once a child is being corporally punished, of course, that should be the main method of punishment for him or her. Forget the traditional punishments at that point. This child has lost the privilege of non-CP discipline. (Perhaps a plan could be in place to reinstate those privileges; for instance, if he remains CP-free for one year.)

But my main point is that we use other discipline first and if that fails, we resort to corporal punishment. This eliminates abuses where a respectable student with no record of indiscipline suddenly commits one grave fault and faces severe corporal punishment -- which often outrages parents and terrifies the child.

Third, the administration of corporal punishment should be extremely formal. By this I mean the discipline is not off-the-cuff, emotional, inconsistent, or personal. There should always be a witness as well as audio-video recording, if the latter is possible. This is to protect the administrator as much as the student. There should be clear and specific rules governing exactly how a spanking is administered and those steps should be followed precisely. The witness and the video recording allows third parties to ensure that proper procedures were followed.

Because I desire this formal atmosphere for punishments, I am very much in favor of using implements for the discipline. Whether this be a paddle, a cane, a strap, or something else, is irrelevant. What's important is that the we want to minimize personal contact between the spanker and the spankee. An implement helps with that.

An implement also facilitates a more severe chastisement, and as I wrote earlier, I believe corporal punishment must be severe or it has no deterrent effect.

Now within the "formal discipline" policy we have the questions over mode of dress for punishment, as well as the sex of the spankee and spanker. I will address those points now.

Children should not be subject to bare skin chastisement from strangers. That is inappropriate. How parents discipline their own children is a different question, but no bare bottom punishments from strangers.

However, we must be fair about these punishments. When one child wears thick jeans and another thin slacks, the punishment is unequal. Many schools dictate the "single layer of clothing" rule, usually implying an undergarment, but even that rule is inconsistent as underwear varies in thickness. For instance, it is popular among girls today to wear "thongs" which essentially leave the backside bare. The girl's sex is covered, but not her bottom. So does a thong constitute a "single layer of clothing?" The rule is unclear.

Another problem is that asking a child to partially disrobe is excessively humiliating. For instance, a girl might be asked to raise her skirt or a boy to drop his pants. Depending on the modesty level of the child, this can be traumatizing. What the child is wearing can also have an effect. For instance, if the girl's wearing a one-piece jumpsuit, would she be required to take it entirely off?

My solution to these problems is a standardized punishment uniform. This uniform would be simple -- probably like a large night-shirt -- and it would unisex. The child would be completely naked underneath the uniform, thus ensuring a common denominator among those being punished: the single layer of clothing would be identical for all.

When a child was due corporal punishment, he or she would have to go into a private room and change into the uniform. There would be privacy for this so the humiliation would be minimal as there is no actual exposure -- yet just the act of wearing a special costume for punishment would be deep humiliation and an intense deterrent.

As for the sex of the administrator and spankee, I think that's a red herring. There are some schools who insist that girls must be spanked by women and boys by men -- but these days we all know that sexual preference is a variable thing and we have no way of knowing what sexual combination will appeal to whom. I see no problem with girls being spanked by men or boys being spanked by women. The real issue here is one of potential abuse and if we have that covered via our witness, AV recording, and strict procedures, the sex of those involved is irrelevant.

Now one concession I'd be willing to make is that the witness must be the same sex as the spankee. While this is not entirely necessary, it does make some sense: the spankee has a numerical advantage. For example, a girl being spanked by a male principal with a female witness can ensure that the girl is not being abused in any way. With two adult males presiding over the spanking of a girl one runs a slight but potential risk of collusion. (However, just as a male teacher could be gay and abuse a boy spankee there's nothing that says a male-female administrator-witness combo couldn't collude to abuse a child.)

The bottom line is I don't think this is that significant but it could be a source of comfort for the spankee or for the child's parents so where's the harm?

Fourth, corporal punishment must be administered equally across sexes, races, economic means, religions, or any other dividing factors. I am very much against discrimination of any kind. It is completely unfair for one child to be spanked while another gets a different punishment when both have committed the same offense and are at the same discipline level (i.e. both are repeat offenders ready for spanking).

The most common form of discrimination in the past was based on sex: in many schools, boys were spanked but girls given other forms of punishment. That is blatantly unfair and children do pick up on such things. It separates them, tells them that there are differences, and allows them to manipulate the system. For instance, just as adult criminals lure teens into crime as their punishments are lighter, boys will lure girls into mischief knowing that the girls will get off easier if caught.

There's a historical myth that girls are weaker or more sensitive than boys and this is simply unscientific. Women actually have a higher pain tolerance than men (which is a good thing since women have to suffer the agonies of childbirth). There is no factual basis for treating females different from males when it comes to discipline. Whatever procedures are put in place to administer discipline must be unisex and work equally well for boys or girls.

Fifth, all corporal discipline should be applied to the buttocks. Now there are some who favor other portions of the body, such as the hand, which is ridiculous. Hands and feet and other parts of the body are vital organs, required for schoolwork, walking, etc. Even if the damage is temporary, it is risky to corporally punish such important, functional parts of the body.

The buttocks contain the strongest muscle in the body and are well-covered with a layer of fatty tissue. There are no major organs nearby that could be injured by an inaccurate spank. In fact, the buttocks are so ideal for discipline it's as though they were designed for such a purpose.

The buttocks can take extremely severe discipline -- much, much more severe than anything schools would be expected to administer -- just fine. Despite tremendous bruising or even bleeding, the buttocks heal quickly and within days or weeks the flesh is completely untainted. Most people would be astonished at how severely a bottom can be spanked without significant damage to the spankee.


I hope my arguments have persuaded you. Corporal punishment, when used correctly, is non-abusive, safe, and effective. Children dread corporal punishment and modify their actions to avoid it. Children who do endure corporal punishment find that they are better adults because of it: stronger, braver, responsible (willing to accept the consequences of their actions), and more willing to take reasonable risks because they aren't so afraid.

Corporal punishment in schools must be handled carefully. It must be done right or it will fail in its purpose and actually have negative effects. But if handled correctly, as I have demonstrated in this document, it is not only effective but has many positive character benefits as well.

The End