Sir Frank Peters
June 4, 2017: Whoever came up with the preposterous idea that hitting children would aid in their development, should be flogged – mercilessly!
And that applies to teachers and parents who still hold a bulldog tight grip on such ludicrous dangerous thinking.
The massive stack of facts against corporal punishment speak volumes of good sense, but there’s a malady in Bangladeshi society, similar to a virus that corrupts a computer, that’s blocking rational thinking and preventing common sense from kicking-in.
They say old habits die hard, but corporal punishment exceeded its use-by date in medieval times and has no place whatsoever in an enlightened modern society. Let’s examine some facts; corporal punishment is often erroneously described as disciplinary action, which is totally improper, incorrect, and an insult to the very essence of discipline.
Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who abhorred corporal punishment, said: "To discipline means to teach, not to punish”. And that’s the BIG difference in a nutshell: one benefits a child while the other destroys the rare individual qualities installed at birth.
Many people are fond of quoting Holy Scriptures to justify the brutality of corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, 'He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him'.
‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is another hackneyed expression that’s been tossed about for generations from misinformed parents to their offspring, generally causing more harm than good – but that shouldn’t be the case. Both are actually irrefutable solid pieces of good advice that should be etched eternally in marble, but the problem lies in the misinterpretation of the word ‘rod’.
Do not spare the ‘rod’
In Hebrew the word 'rod' is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, 'thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.' The shepherd's rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat, hurt or damage them. No farmer would deliberately damage his stock.
The correct interpretation of the proverb, therefore, should read 'spare GOOD GUIDANCE and spoil the child'.
To discipline is to demonstrate love through teaching and explaining to children in a caring manner the difference between right from wrong and guiding children to learn acceptable behaviour expected of them to enrich their personal development and benefit society on the whole. There is no anger, no aggression, no violence, or hitting of any kind involved… not even the rise of a vocal octave in anger.
How is it possible to love or respect anyone who is aggressive towards you? If someone slaps you in the face, it’s not something you’re likely to forget in a lifetime and, most certainly, never with appreciation and respect. Both adults and children alike feign respect to avoid being hit again – it’s a built-in self-preservation mechanism that kicks-in under worry and stress. Corporal punishment is ALWAYS a slap in the face irrespective of the form in which it is delivered.
Worse than that, it’s an exercise in utter futility. It achieves absolutely nothing that’s beneficial and good and serves no useful purpose whatsoever, but causes significant damage. Some teachers (and parents) think it beats hell out of children, when in fact it beats hell into them.
If we are to believe that every child is a gift from God, we must also accept that every child is made in God’s own image, pure, perfect and worthy of love and protection. So, if children are already perfect at birth (hand-made by God, so to speak) what changes could any mortal on earth make to better His perfection?
There are those who believe that nobody owns a child. Parents are mere custodians responsible for their upkeep, welfare, schooling and so on, but they don’t actually own them as one might own property, a car, or knick-knacks.
They believe that children are not only ‘on loan’ from God, but they are a life-long given test parents must pass if they’re to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Many ‘teachers’, regrettably, fail this test daily; so don’t expect to find unrepentant ‘teachers’ in heaven!
Irrespective of views held by individuals to cushion and protect their own ignorance and misdoings, corporal punishment has been the scourge of school children for much too long.
Corporal punishment, criticism, mockery, condemnation and belittlement have no place in a school.They are totally negative, destructive, and stunt a child’s development. No school should be a hellhole that’s feared, despised, and hated because of the behaviour of one or more ignorant and alleged ‘teachers’.
No school should be a hellhole
Every school should be a Fun Park of Learning where children want to be. Yipeee! Children learn much quicker when they’re happy and in an atmosphere of mutual trust, protection, and respect. A teacher’s smiling face, an encouraging look, and the odd joke thrown to the pupils to lighten things up, can make all the difference. There is absolutely no trust and respect where there’s corporal punishment… its impossible for them to co-exist.
In 2011 Justice Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed the dehumanizing, ineffective, medieval practice of corporal punishment in schools and madrasas throughout Bangladesh, declaring it to be: 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom'.
The ugly practice diminished considerably over the years, but ignorance in remote villages where ‘teachers’ are looked upon God-like and allegedly know what’s best for those in their charge, still reign supreme. It’s always sad when ignorance is in control.
Whether you believe or not that all children are a gift from God and should be respected as such, corporal punishment makes no sense whatsoever. Striking another human being is never right and striking a child is totally defenceless. Violence is never a solution. Violence begets violence and everyone suffers.
Striking an adult is deemed to be a crime of assault. Why, therefore, are alleged ‘teachers’ (and some parents) allowed to assault and inflict such pain, hurt and suffering on the youngest defenceless members of society, perhaps causing them irreparable damage?
Striking a child merely confirms the ignorance and character flaws of the assailant.
To prevent your child from becoming a victim of corporal punishment in school or in a madrasah, simple take the time to visit the establishment and inform the headmaster and teachers you forbid the practice. (Surely, you love your child that much, at least.) Bullies and cowards back off quickly when they sense potential rebuke and reprimand.
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a humanitarian, a royal Goodwill Ambassador and a foreign friend of Bangladesh.)