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SCHOOL CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

Video clips: Taiwan

With comments by C. Farrell



Taiwan - school classroom paddling 2005

first frame of clipThis 26-second clip aired in news bulletins on Taiwanese television on 20 October 2005.

At a junior high school in Taichung (central Taiwan), a boy aged perhaps 13 or 14 is paddled in front of the class by a female teacher, firstly on his hands, where he receives about nine strokes as he stands at her desk with his hands outstretched. She then makes him lean forward, with his elbows on the desk, and gives him nine or ten rapid swats with the paddle on his backside. The boy's face has been obscured, presumably by the television company.


Student receiving punishmentThe film was taken on a videophone by another student, evidently without the teacher's knowledge.

The boy's punishment was reported to be for repeatedly failing to bring his homework, and to have been given at the request of his father.

One can infer that this was a pretty unexceptional event from the fact that at least one of the other students in vision is paying no attention at all to the paddling going on right next to him.

It seems clear that the boy is readily submitting to his punishment without protest.

Teacher paddles schoolboy (1)In some related text coverage, the implement is described as a wooden stick. It actually looks rather like an American school paddle, but I think probably quite a lightweight one, to judge from the rapidity with which it is being administered. There is also the culprit's lack of much visible physical reaction to the punishment, though perhaps he is just very stoical. He does straighten up somewhat about half way through his spanking, but that might just be because he thought the teacher had finished. In a related news story published on that day, an official of the school was reported to have said in the school's defence that the implement was such as to make rather a lot of noise but not to hurt very much.

It would be hard to claim this as a particularly exemplary instance of school CP. For one thing, if it was such a regular occurrence that other students aren't even bothering to look up from what they are doing, it suggests that CP is being used too often for it to be able to have the psychological impact it should, either on the culprit himself or on the other students.

Teacher paddles schoolboy (2)For another thing, the teacher seems to be in a bad temper and a big hurry -- neither condition being conducive to doing the job properly. She appears to be acting somewhat on the spur of the moment, at one point seeming to dither between giving the student more whacks on his hands and making him bend over to be paddled properly. And I have written elsewhere of my view that the hands are not a sensible target for punishment anyway, for several reasons, including the danger of injuryEXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window and the fact that it makes writing difficult, when writing is one of the main things we expect students to do in class.

And if the punishment is going to be given publicly, it's surely a minimum requirement that it should be carried out in a considered and careful manner, at a measured pace, and invested with a degree of drama and ceremony that will impress itself both on the recipient and on the witnesses. This is how school miscreants are publicly caned in Singapore, where the culture is likewise predominantly Chinese, albeit with residual British overtones. So I think one might argue that the present example falls between all possible stools.

Teacher paddles schoolboy (3)Still, it's a very interesting clip, not least because we have not previously had the technology to see classroom scenes caught sur le vif in this manner outside the control or knowledge of school staff. Now that mobile phones with built-in video cameras are becoming ever more ubiquitous among kids in many countries of the world, and for as long as the school authorities in some areas are failing, or not even trying, to prevent students from operating the wretched things even in the middle of lessons, it might be that such snatches of real-life documentary evidence will become more common.

Predictably, the film was seized upon as ammunition in the campaign to have CP outlawed in Taiwan. My own conclusion, if this example is at all typical, would be not that CP should be abolished, but that it should be regulated more carefully and employed more judiciously, and that teachers should be trained how to do it properly. The anti-CP case is also somewhat undermined by the fact that the boy himself did not complain about the paddling and that his parents supported it.

For two news stories inspired by the broadcasting of this film, see 21 October 2005, Corporal punishment should be banned by law, group advocates from an English-language Taiwanese news website, and 26 October 2005, Taiwan caning [sic] sparks heated debate from BBC News. The BBC article is inaccurate in one respect: it says that after the boy is punished on the hands he "turns around, and the teacher hits him again on his backside". In fact he does not turn around, but remains standing facing the desk; the teacher moves behind him as he dutifully leans forward over the desk to take the rest of his whacking on his rear end.


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