Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The cane and the strap

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  • Paul Campbell,

    I distinctly remember being strapped in primer 1 (how could I ever forget) - the teacher never explained why - I remember being terrified for months afterwards ....

    years later my mother explained it had been because we were making noise in the corridor ... as if a 5 year old would not

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I'm glad you've picked up on this. The article infuriated me, not least because of the opening sentence:

    The removal of corporal punishment in schools has been highlighted as a root cause of the rise in violence against teachers.

    Omitting the crucial journalistic principle of "Who?" with the attribution of that kind of provocative statment until further down the page. It should read:

    The removal of corporal punishment in schools has been highlighted as a root cause of the rise in violence against teachers, by the conservative family lobby group Family First.

    OK, it's a minor point, but how hard would it have been?

    As for the utility of strapping and caning, sure, let's model the behaviour we're supposedly trying to get rid of. It was bloody useless anyway. The kids who acted up and got strapped were bragging about it within 15 minutes. For the kids who already suffer from the idea that being tuff and bolshie at all costs is a desirable thing, I certainly didn't get the impression that strapping did anything to mitigate it. Quite the reverse.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Andy C,

    Totally agree with Tracy Mac. I have always abhorred violence of any kind, why should schools be any different to the outside world?

    My school abolished corporal punishment shortly after it started up in 1976, and there were far fewer problems with violence between pupils there (violence towards a teacher was completely unheard of) than there were at a neighbouring and supposedly "better" school that still used corporal punishment.

    My dad was caned needlessly as a boy and he has held a bitter resentment of all school teachers ever since. I don't think that's the sort of attitude we want towards the people charged with guiding our future generations towards becoming reasonable and compassionate adults.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    I remember being surprised that the strap hurt more than the cane, as the strap was delivered to under-form 1s and the cane was introduced at form 1 and above. I always presumed the teachers had a cleverly worked out system of graduated pain dispensing, so that as our immunity built up they could counter this with by cranking up the volume. We used to look forward to when we'd be old enough to get the cane, to test our burgeoning manly skills against the next level. Well, we didn't have Playstation in those days.

    It was mildly amusing to find they'd got it the wrong way around. Interestingly, this revelation freed me from any fear of further punishment at the same time as my behaviour improved. I was in Form 2 and got a form teacher that I really liked, as simple as that.

    I also remember girls could be strapped but not caned. All very bizarre.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    The kids who acted up and got strapped were bragging about it within 15 minutes.

    At primary school, there was a Bad Girl in my class called Sharie who was the first and only girl to get the strap. Rather than making the rest of us girls behave, instead this created an aura of bad-girl awesomeness around Sharie.

    When she exclaimed, "I'm so angry I wanna punch someone," we feared her even more because she was the girl who'd had the strap.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    The most terrifying thing about the story is actually the poll that accompanied it. 3140 votes, and 69% supported the reintroduction of caning. Excuse me? 69%?! Did every member of Family First vote in the poll, or does it say something rather nasty about the Herald's readership and/or editorial policies. Given the "your say" comments they choose to post (which are improbably even more wincingly reactionary than those posted on stuff), possibly the latter.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 273 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    As for the "Family First" logo, in some ways it's a good thing. Without it, readers might mistake that piece for actual reporting, rather than the slightly recycled (if at all) FF press release that it is.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I was sort of surprised that I wasn't surprised that 9 out of 10 acts of violence are carried out by boys (Bad Girl scoring a mere 1 out of 10).

    Boys will be boys. But this suggests schools are still having difficultly dealing with the less socially evolved member of the species.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The Herald *is* a biased, authoritarian-conservative paper, just like the (English) Daily Mail. Unlike the Mail, it hides its bias behind little tricks like the one above.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Evan Yates,

    IMHO corporal punishment in boys' schools (my observation sample size being 1... mine) has exactly the opposite effect intended. Guys at my school were given an unspoken "coolness/toughness" ranking depending on how many times they had been caned. A "Punishment Idol" sort of thing.

    A few of the toughest got such high rankings that they graduated straight to gang membership and then jail. Woohoo! Score one for the "smash respect into the little buggers" crowd...

    We had one non-conformist amongst the staff. Mr. Roberts was an American math teacher and refused to cane boys because he grokked the way it became a "badge of honour" to be whacked.

    The regime did change when a newer, younger headmaster replaced the old. The new guy was the first one who had never been forced to spend time in the military. Co-incidence?

    Hamiltron, Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Nov 2006 • 197 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    i distinctly remember arguing with my brother out by the bike racks at primary school (remember when kids used to find their own way to school without the need of 4x4 assistance?)

    the principal intervened, but chose not to strap me.

    why? well, because he liked my brother less, even though i started the fight.

    my brother started anti-social behaviour within weeks.

    and to that i say: fck you, nobby clarke.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This is priceless. Family First has now released two press releases on its Five Point Plan for Action in which it calls for "establishing a non-political Commission of Inquiry comprising community leaders who are working with at-risk families to identify causes of child abuse and effective solutions."

    That would be the likes of Save the Children, Barnardos and EPOCH - the very groups that Family First spent months this year slagging off for their views on "smacking".

    Some of the looney blogs that championed the "Timaru Lady" are now listing assaults against children that don't seem all that different different from what she did to her children - and demanding that something be done about it. Go figure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Family First's press release, titled "Increasing Violence in Schools No Surprise" is here (PDF). For some reason, my PDF reader is not working, but someone might like to check how different or not this is from the NZPA story.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    Violence to stop violence.

    At best a pyrrhic 'victory'.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The underlying message from Family First is of an entire society to lazy to to be bothered to think beyond reflexive violence and to self-righteous to look in the mirror. A peculiar provincial narrow mindedness seems to be a hallmark of our society, and it just depresses me.

    My school had a "discipline master" who displayed a grotesque level of pleasure in caning. The rumour was he wanted to cane his way alphabetically through the junior school - just a rumour, but given his hair trigger temper and the delight with which he resorted to the cane, one wonders. Of course caning wasn't as indiscriminate as the school authorities would have led us to believe. Like all institutional violence, it was a weapon of class war and repression against the poor kids, the ones from the rougher parts of town - the "troublemakers." I observed and worked that out at the tender age of 13 that the only people who feared corporal punishment and when punished regarded it as unfair were the middle class kids - who were seldom caned anyway. The troublemakers never complained it was unfair - they had already got used to being shit on.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just realised that the Herald's story is NZPA-sourced.

    But here's the original Family First release. And yes, they are similar.

    Stuff, at least, qualifies the statement Rising violence in schools blamed on discipline changes by noting the source in its intro.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • ed hayes,

    So are Family First now more "dangerous" than the Exclusive Brethren?
    I am appalled that anyone would consider reintroducing capital punishment.

    I was caned within a few weeks of starting Third Form at Shirley Boys' High.
    The "crime"?... running in the Science lab.
    The teacher, Mr Groves, enjoyed the caning a little too much I think and I believe now that the school definitely saw caning as a way of scaring as many third formers as possible... as initimated in the beginning quote...

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The underlying message from Family First is of an entire society to lazy to to be bothered to think beyond reflexive violence and to self-righteous to look in the mirror. A peculiar provincial narrow mindedness seems to be a hallmark of our society, and it just depresses me.

    Like I said, read Fretful Sleepers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Must dig out my copy of Great NZ Argument...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    The Herald *is* a biased, authoritarian-conservative paper

    Is that a change of tone in recent years? I must admit I have been quite surprised on the odd occassion recently I have picked up the Herald at just how reactionary it seemed. In a way a hadn't noticed in the past.

    This from a DomPost reader, a paper whose roots are in the business community but which seems remarkably balanced in comparison.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Banning corporal punishment? Don't be silly.

    Apparently, it's really due to brown people, brown people, brown people (not that he's blaming maori), and the welfare.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Span .,

    One of the important points that seems to be getting lost in the media coverage is that this is not just about assaults on teachers. Teachers in schools are in relatively powerful positions - they have high union membership, are (usually) respected members of their communities, and are in general quite highly educated.

    But those being assaulted also include school support staff, who are often treated like second class citizens within their own workplaces and certainly do not get the level of respect from parents (or children) that teachers do. Support staff, in particular teacher aides, can lack support from their teacher colleagues, and only about half of them are in the union - they also face pretty precarious employment as many are on illegal fixed terms. They are often not in a position to challenge these assaults and sadly some principals are a bit too fearful of parental pressure to do anything to protect them... Not to mention the potential costs, when school budgets are incredibly stretched already.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 112 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Thanks for the link 3410 - though Russell appears to have been me to the reply with the scoop link.

    I'd have said FF were actually less strident than the Herald made out:

    The removal of corporal punishment in schools has been highlighted as a root cause of the rise in violence against teachers.

    Is much stronger than the media release.

    "All of these young people have entered a system of education and society where discipline and responsibility are being replaced by the politically correct nonsense of childrens’ rights,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Less than a fifth of students were stood down following an assault on a teacher – that is unacceptable.”

    “It is significant that as schools have removed corporal punishment, schools have become more dangerous. School yard bullying by pupils on other pupils and staff is now the new form of ‘corporal punishment’ in schools.”

    Family First may be nutty, but they never came close (in this release anyway) to calling the removal of corporal punishment the "root cause" of anything.

    Indeed. their most stringent criticism of the lack of discipline in schools relates to their observation that less than 20% of students who assaulted teachers were stood down (which may actually be a fair complaint).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3212 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    The removal of corporal punishment in schools has been highlighted as a root cause of the rise in violence against teachers

    This morning I also heard it was because of teh drugs and violent video games. OH COME ON PEOPLE! Whatever happened to violence begets violence? I thought that was still self-evident. Line up all those kids that have hit their teachers, then go check what kind of extra-curricular bashing they get. I bet there's a pretty strong correlation.

    At risk of wandering off on a (possibly apocryphal) tangent, I think family first are just exploiting a very narrow example of a wider issue; their idea being that if a teacher gets attacked by a pupil, the teacher can't retaliate in defense. I've heard there's a lot of regulation in place to protect students, to the extent that the scrutiny placed on male primary school teachers especially is driving them out of the field (disclaimer: anecdotal evidence only). I don't doubt that it's important to have such regulations, but I imagine that an unfortunate side-effect is that it aggravates those situations where a teacher's authority is already tenuous (either because the teacher isn't very good, or one or more students are completely unmanageable). Teachers feel less in control, smacking someone starts looking like a nice idea.

    So, I think there's a valid issue: empowering teachers that have problems exercising authority, without eroding the safety of students. Family first has conveniently rewritten it into a false dilemma: EITHER you support re-introduction of corporal punishment OR you support violence against defenceless teachers. Ingenius lunacy!

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    "At primary school, there was a Bad Girl in my class called Sharie "

    Ahh the joys of labeling kids as Bad.

    I got 10 of the best in primer 1 (I still cringe at my actions at 5yrs old - but the play ground had stones on it - what are ya gonna do).

    Mrs Cook decided life would be easier for me right handed. Her ruler increased my reflexes no end.

    Ironically there was no corporal punishment in the Army but the memory stick was an unoffical reminder.

    Is anyone aware of a movement against verbal violence?

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

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