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School CP - January 1998

The Timaru Herald, 7 January 1998


A beating is a beating

It is a strange logic that suggests hitting someone is a great way to teach them a worthwhile lesson. All violence ever teaches is that there are bullies and the power they hold over weaker people on one side and victims and pain on the other. It is even stranger logic when a plea for violent punishment comes from the man in charge of New Zealand's law enforcers. In advocating a return to caning in schools, Police Minister Jack Elder is seeking to turn the clock black to a time when hitting boys on the backside was seen as the best way of enforcing discipline. It was a time when six of the best had nothing to do with what was actually best for the pupil, when even trivial offences like talking in class or not having socks pulled up might easily result in a beating.

Those who want a return to caning usually come up with no better argument than the lame proposition that "it never did me any harm", or that corporal punishment was a disciplinary measure not violence. What nonsense. How could hitting someone with a stick not be construed as violent behaviour? Would Mr Elder like to be whacked about the seat of his pants for talking when it was not his turn in Parliament? If someone attempted to do so then the minister would have a case for assault. So how can society have one law for Mr Elder, other adults and girls, who were traditionally excluded from corporal punishment, and another law for boys?

Also wobbly on the logic front is the contention that caning is some sort of magic cure for acts of serious misbehaviour in schools. Anyone who can remember back to the days when caning was common will recall that this was far from being the case among repeat offenders. In fact, there were boys who saw caning as a means of showing how tough they were and thought nothing of goading teachers into dishing out a beating. They then joked about such incidents, so reducing respect for both the teacher concerned and for discipline in the school as a whole. Also there was the fact that caning was welcome because it was quickly dismissed, unlike time-consuming activities like detention.

The most telling argument against caning is the way it teaches boys in particular that violence can be a normal human response to a difficult situation. If you want someone to follow your wishes, then the answer is to thump them. A Police Minister above all others should know the folly of such a notion.

Otago Daily Times, 14 January 1998



"SOCIETY in a noose" of lawlessness: of course a majority of New Zealanders would want a return of the traditional deterrents, punishments, and protections for society. And who believes that caning equals violence? This is an absurd equation. And why is the death penalty uncivilised? It is a sound principle of living together that whoever takes another person's life should have his life taken.

Talk to some teachers, and you may find they are looking for ways to send a very clear message to their students. I recommend corporal correction. And why does the law speak differently from what most people want? On what basis was it changed? Democratic? Media-led? Or a new theory from a few?

Yes, the results of the recent New Zealand Herald polls on physical penalties quoted in your guest editorial excerpt on January 8 could be somewhat disappointing to the engineers of this brave new society.

D.S. Mowat

Otago Daily Times, 16 January 1998



D.S. MOWAT (16.1.98) is so right: caning does not equal violence. The truth of physical discipline is that it is not the tragedy our New Age child psychologists claim it to be, so long as it is consistent.

A good parent should exert his proper authority, teach his son acceptable conduct and instil good attitudes in him. If this necessitates a spanking, then the father should by all means do it. School suspensions let a boy run wild on the streets, but a caning sends him a very strong message indeed with no schooling being missed. I believe that the present policy of withholding corporal correction is a form of neglect.

Alan Knight

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