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The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 2 September 1999
Letter to the Editor
Father's action shows responsibility
L.C. TEH, Sungai Petani writes (via e-mail)
I REFER to Ngan Siong Hing's letter, "Bizarre to let dad cane son in school" (The Star, Aug 31) and beg to differ.
Just as charity begins at home, discipline should be given equal prominence.
But here is a case where the father--having failed somewhere at home--redeems his act by bringing it to the school to show to all that it is still his responsibility.
This man should know his son more than anyone else and this is more of a moral punishment than physical or mental.
If we end up respecting the delinquent's human and moral rights above the rights of other law-abiding citizens, then we are doing Moral Education a disservice and taking a step backwards.
To prevent the other 99.9% of the population from thinking that doing bad is not so bad after all (if only token punishment is given), we need to ensure "enough" punishment is meted out against the delinquent, which will not maim him but teach him that he has to accept the consequences of his actions.
We witnessed quite a number of public canings in our school days in the 1960s.
And we never hear of any of those disciplined thus suffer from shame, psychological disorders or adverse after-effects.
The boy will be shamed for a short period, but if he is made of the same strength of character as the father, he will outgrow it in due course.
Copyright © 1999. Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd. All rights reserved.
The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 19 September 1999
Let's Hear It
Sam Tet teacher speak up on caning
AFTER reading "Schools have lost sight of their purpose" by Michael Wong (The Star, Aug 27 ), "Bizarre to let dad cane son in school" by Ngan Siong Hing (The Star, Aug 31), and a string of other attacks from both the Chinese and the English papers on the recent public caning of an errant student by his father in SMJK Sam Tet, we, the long-suffering and concerned teachers of the school are deeply distressed to see the issue being blown out of proportion.
We say enough is enough, silence is sometimes not golden. So let's set the record straight once and for all lest the public at large be fed with half-truths and distorted facts.
The Form Three delinquent student in question stole the lady teacher's purse in broad daylight. After a police report was made and a thorough investigation was carried out, the boy finally admitted that he was the culprit. He returned the money that was stolen but not her identity card and driving licence as according to him, he had burnt them.
The teacher concerned was considerate enough to drop charges against the boy as she cared about his future and not, as some quarters have made it out to be, in exchange for the father's consent to cane his son publicly during a school assembly.
Unfortunately, in spite of counselling, he was up to mischief again the following week. This time he was caught red-handed when he attempted to place a mirror under the skirt of another lady teacher, obviously with the intention of having some cheap thrill at the expense of the teacher concerned. It was then that the school summoned the father of this errant student. Probably in a fit of anger, the father volunteered to cane his son in public.
We teachers are not in a position to make a stand on whether it was a right or wise move to allow the father to cane his son in public.
But what truly appalls us is Michael Wong's audacity to imply that the school authorities harbour the intention of gaining some mileage from the publicity of the case. His insinuation is not only grossly unfair, but also preposterous to say the least.
After being so badly mauled in the local press following the "expulsion" of two pupils from the school two years ago, it is irrational to claim that the school authorities thought that there was something to gain from the publicity of the case. And what mileage indeed are we getting from this incident?
And what makes the whole affair so depressing is the appalling behaviour of some so-called journalists who chase news from their offices and who treat news as mere show business rather than seeking the truth. The case made front-page headlines in at least one Chinese broadsheet and one English tabloid. If such papers are so bankrupt of worthy news and stoop so low to consider sensationalism, bias, inaccuracy and private grief as journalistic scoops and a cause for celebration, then there is something amiss about the press standards of certain papers these days. Perhaps the Government should consider setting up a Press Complaints Commission like the one in Britain to address this issue.
Armchair critics of the school should realise that there is no such a thing as a single all-encompassing educational procedure that can cater for the needs of all students, and the same goes for discipline problems in schools. Counselling and suspension may work for some problem students and not for other delinquent students.
Corporal punishment, as many school authorities would agree, does serve as a useful disciplinary deterrent.
We, the harassed teachers, only know too well how stressful it can be to conduct lessons and keep disruptive and unruly behaviour under control in overcrowded classes, especially the weaker classes. Through knowledge born of hard experience, many teachers have learnt that it is the wiser course to tolerate verbal abuses and pretend not to hear swearing even if it includes the four-letter variety. And they know how frustrating it can be to deal with students who play truant and simply disappear during the school day. Even common courtesies like standing up promptly to greet a teacher entering the class is a tall order for many pupils.
Studies show that the lack of respect shown for teachers by children is a reflection of the lack of respect shown by society as a whole towards teachers and the education process in general. Nowadays parents do not trust the education system and are prepared to challenge any hint of perceived mismanagement and wrongdoing in schools. Many children these days bring more than just books and mechanical pencils to school. They bring along with them the confusion and uncertainty of a family under great stress, emotional and physical neglect and abuse.
We have dealt with parents who tell us without blushing that it is better for their kids to sleep in school than at home. We have parents who bemoan the lack of communication with their children while they, working in foreign lands, have no physical contact with their loved ones for months, if not years. And we also have parents who frankly confess to us that they can't control and manage their spoilt brats and then expect us to work wonders. As such, instead of asking: "What's wrong with the students of this famous school?", Ngan Siong Hing should have asked: "What's wrong with some parents of this school, especially those who have no qualms whatsoever about tarnishing its image and destroying its hard-earned reputation as one of the premier schools in the country?"
No, SMJK Sam Tet does not deserve such a bad press. One perceived mismanagement of a disciplinary matter should not be allowed to bring the whole school into disrepute. And let sanity prevail. We, the underpaid and overworked teaching staff, deserve some peace of mind to get on with our work.
Copyright © 1999. Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd. All rights reserved.
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