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School CP - December 1907

Corpun file 19671


The New York Times, 12 December 1907

Teachers Favor Flogging.

Say Corporal Punishment Is Necessary for Discipline.

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That corporal punishment is a necessity in the public schools to protect the women teachers from degrading insults, the children from the demoralizing influence of bad companions, and to save if possible the few bad boys from utter ruin by the only power they will understand was the unanimous voice of the school Principals and Commissioners who met at the call of the Public Education Association at the house of Mrs. James A. Scrymser, 107 West Twenty-first Street, last evening. The subject for discussion was the conditions that have led to the demand for corporal punishment.

The speakers also acknowledged frankly that corporal punishment is actually in use in the public schools, brought about by conditions that make it practically unavoidable.

"The grossness of insult to which the women teachers suffer I could not recite in your presence," said John Doty, Principal of a Rivington Street school. "They suffer daily from indignities to which I do not think any human being could submit and keep their temper and their hands off the perpetrator. That is the very worst kind of corporal punishment -- it is not punishment, but retaliation, but I do not blame the teacher.

"I asked President Burlingham of the Board of Education what he would do if a boy of fourteen did thus and so to him. 'I would knock him down,' he answered. Then think of the effect of this disrespect for the law upon the other children.

"In 1872 or 1873, when corporal punishment was given up, we had two methods of redress, expulsion or elimination by a process of refrigeration. In 1894, when the compulsory education law was put in force, we lost that power, and I tremble to think what would happen if the law was really enforced. It is that which has led to the present conditions in the schools. All punishment is more or less corporal. The reform school is corporal punishment, and to my mind a flogging does less harm. There is no corporal punishment for men, but if a man resists arrest he is clubbed until he submits. Surgery does not cure, but it saves life -- gets rid of the evil that good may come.

We cannot leave punishment to the parents. I have known a father to knock his boy down and kick him in the ribs until I took him away. Flogging should only be resorted to in a few instances, but I have never known any punishment by God or man that was not based on the corporal."

Commissioner Nathan Jones, Chairman of the committee to investigate the subject of corporal punishment, told of the difficulty there had been even in having the commission appointed against the wishes of the city Superintendent. He told of a personal experience, where a young woman teacher in one of the schools had been sent to him by her Principal. One of her boys had used such vile language to her that she had felt obliged to punish him, and had gone to the Commissioner as a matter of self-protection to tell him the story.

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"I thought if that were the case with her," said the Commissioner, "there must be many others. Of all the Superintendents to whom I have written to ask about corporal punishment, the majority have been overwhelmingly in favor of it. The others have said that if they did not have corporal punishment there must be some method to preserve discipline.

Commissioner McDonald read extracts to be presented to the Board of Education asking for corporal punishment. William McAndrew of the Washington Irving High School said that he was theoretically and sentimentally opposed to corporal punishment, but from his experience with boys' schools he considered it necessary.

In a letter from Miss Lida Williams she said: "The chief cause of the demand for the return of corporal punishment is the persistent lessening by the Board of Education and the Superintendents of the authority of the school Principal, a consequence of the effort to administer every detail of this enormous system from 500 Park Avenue.

"There is a fourth right that a boy has besides that of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: that is the right to be led by compulsion or persuasion to obey where it is for his own usefulness and happiness."

The Public Education Association was not represented among the speakers for corporal punishment.

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