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Sunday Sun, Bridgetown, 6 July 2008
No, No, Mr Minister, don't banish the belt!
By Chris Gollop and Wendy Burke
That was the terse response of some secondary school principals to a suggestion by Minister of Education Ronald Jones to abolish corporal punishment in schools.
"Any attempt to ban corporal punishment in our schools is an act of 'follow-pattern' that runs counter to our approaches to maintaining discipline in our schools and homes," said Matthew Farley, principal of Garrison Secondary School.
He added: "I strongly support the judicious use of corporal punishment for certain offences and under certain conditions.
"This stance, which is diametrically opposed to that mooted by the minister, is informed by 30 years as an educational practitioner, an analysis of the international context and my understanding the necessity for the school to enforce discipline in ways that help students make maximum benefits from our educational provisions.
"From my experience I strongly believe that corporal punishment must be retained as one of the strategies employed in schools to achieve desired outcomes with respect to behaviour."
Farley, however, made the point that students should not be punished "for their inability to understand concepts or for getting work incorrect".
The St Michael School principal Shelton Perkins agreed, noting that flogging should be a last resort, but not ruled out altogether.
Speaking to the SUNDAY SUN yesterday, he said his preference was to talk to the children and "get into their heads".
However, failing that and other efforts to instil discipline, then the strap would come into play.
"You have to change their thinking. Do not banish this form of punishment altogether. Let it be a last resort, but not ruled out altogether," he said.
Principal of St Lucy Secondary School, Anthony Austin, did not lean either side. However, if corporal punishment was abolished, then some other tool had to be placed in the hands of the educator, he said.
"You have to add guidance counsellors, social workers and those types of people in the schools. If you can't use the belt you have to use a lot of talking and you can't do that and teach too, as it is time consuming," he said.
Principal of Alexandra School, Jeff Broomes, said corporal punishment remained "on the books" and he would continue to use that form of discipline when required.
Farley, meanwhile, also took issue with concerns raised about the practice of male principals flogging female students – also a subject of discussion as stated by the minister.
"But get real, Mr Minister!" said Farley, noting that 19 of the 23 principals at secondary level were men "and as far as I am aware most of the deputies too".
"Is it the gender of the person administering the punishment that matters, or should the question be whether he or she administers the punishment according to clearly specified guidelines?
". . . My question to Mr Jones is where are the statistics to indicate that corporal punishment or the abuse of it is so widespread?"
He went on: "Mr Jones submits that flogging never caused children to learn. I ask, learn what?
"My grandparents and my teachers at St Jude's cut my backside when I was disobedient, when I was rude and when I showed disrespect. I thank them for the chastisement. I learned that there were consequences for breaking rules.
"I am not at all suggesting that this is the only strategy for achieving this goal, but certainly it will work for some children or students in certain circumstances," he said.
Sunday Sun, Bridgetown, 6 July 2008
In The Candid Corner
Corporal punishment: A global view
By Matthew Farley
LAST SUNDAY SUN carried an article on corporal punishment which included certain statements attributed to the Honourable Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development.
According to the article, Mr Jones advocated that "society should eliminate that form of discipline altogether". The implications of this suggestion must be clearly understood by all Barbadians.
The Education Act, Cap. 41, of the Laws of Barbados gives the principal/headteacher the responsibility to administer corporal punishment and to delegate that duty to senior teachers.
There was a time in our context when every classroom teacher administered corporal punishment. Currently, any teacher, outside of the principal and senior teacher, who flogs a student in any public school in Barbados is committing a criminal act, however lofty he or she might perceive his or her intentions to be with respect to the correction of behaviour.
If the ban is ever extended to include ALL classroom practitioners, including principals, our country which still prides itself for its otherwise very good educational system, would have effectively criminalise the entire teaching force.
But what is the global perspective on this issue? The fact is that 27 states in the United States have outlawed corporal punishment in schools while 24 allow its use for corrective purposes and under specified conditions. But the American school system especially in those states where corporal punishment is outlawed, is in total shambles. The removal of both the rod and God out of American schools has rendered them virtually unmanageable.
Across the Atlantic most schools have followed suit in banning the practice. In order to beat the system, however, many schools opt out of the state system in order to maintain some measure of control.
In South Africa where corporal punishment was recently banned, Mike Hagenann who is a Christian in a state school, notes that many of the problems experienced in United States ten to 20 years ago are starting to surface. He notes that "academic standards are declining and students are getting more and more uncontrollable as the humanists have stripped teachers of virtually all their authority".
One of the agencies that continues to fuel this anti-corporal punishment agenda is the United Nations (UN) with its charter on The Rights Of The Child. It is interesting to note that even its agenda has been challenged. In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of The Child, Article 19. This mandates the protection of children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse.
The UN Committee On The Rights Of The Child recommended that physical punishment of children in schools and families be prohibited and Section 43 be removed.
International covenants recognise the integrity of the family unit and indicate that parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and the development of the child. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) agenda is "to nag" all the countries in the world to abolish corporal punishment. This position by the UN committee has never been tested in a court of law or put to the vote by any democratic body.
The fact is that the UN has no legal machinery to enforce its own codes neither is it binding on any sovereign country to adhere rigidly to its dictates.
In reality, although many countries have legislated against corporal punishment, most of the near 190 parties to the Convention On The Rights Of The Child have not.
Barbados needs, therefore, to be guided by its Constitution, which takes precedence over any charters, and must assert itself as a sovereign state that has the right to determine its own destiny.
The situation that now faces British schools where corporal punishment was abolished in 1986 is instructive. According to Lynette Burrows, hundreds of thousands of qualified teachers left the profession as discipline plummeted and their ability to teach anything became impossible.
As a result, the overwhelmingly female members of the profession who have opted to stay struggle ineffectually to contain outrageous behaviour. They are insulted and victimised by pupils in a way that makes the term "sexual harassment" seem coined for another age. Behaviour that would not be tolerated outside the classroom has become the norm in many schools.
"Violence, obscenity, threats, outbursts of aggression, vandalism and theft," have escalated. In essence, the school, far from being a place where civilised values are taught and enforced, has become a training ground for thugs and potential criminals.
In conclusion, if Mr. Jones abolishes corporal punishment in Barbadian schools, not only would he have opted for all of the above which are already present in our schools, but he would have presided over the destruction of the social aspects of the soul of Barbadian education.
All that is required is for us to specify in the act what instruments are to be used, the conditions under which corporal punishment should take place, and the limits to the discretion of those charged with the responsibility.
Barbados Weekend Nation, Bridgetown, 11 July 2008
Don't hang up the strap
Let well enough alone!
By Donna Sealy
That's the view of retired educator John Blackman, who said corporal punishment has its place in schools but students should not be lashed willy-nilly and definitely not for every infraction.
He told the WEEKEND NATION yesterday that young teachers, particularly those who have just left university and entered the classroom, should not be allowed to down hands on people's children.
Blackman, who retired as principal of Deighton Griffith Secondary School, added he was "mortally against" anyone other than principals, who could delegate to senior teachers, lashing students.
"Let corporal punishment remain on the statute books. I used corporal punishment very sparingly at my school. I say it must be used only for discipline.
"If a child comes to school late and you speak to this child and you try to get it to correct the situation and it doesn't do it, then you find some other means or if it's for work, untidiness or something like that, but the minute you are rude I'm coming for your backside . . . ," he said.
Blackman has spoken on the issue for years and uses Britain, where flogging in schools was abolished in 1986, as an example. He gave statistics that showed an increase in suspensions from 1995 when there were 11 084 expulsions that rose to 12 476 in 1996 and to 12 668 in 1997.
He was pleased about the results of last Sunday's People's Say poll which showed that 80 per cent of those who participated said they would like flogging to be continued in schools, as opposed to 20 per cent who were against it.
Ever since Minister of Education Ronald Jones said two weeks ago the ministry was examining the issue of banning flogging at school as a form of discipline, debate has been raging about whether it should be allowed or not. He said there had been much discussion in the ministry during the five months he was minister and more people had raised concerns "about male principals flogging girls and we're having instances of boys rebelling very strongly to corporal punishment". He also said flogging never caused children to learn.
Another retired educator, Major Hugh Barker, agreed that this form of discipline should remain on the statute books.
He said when "we were young we got flogged left and right" but nowadays it could not be the only method of discipline.
"I did not in my 20 years at Foundation School flog more than four people. It is necessary for that measure to be instilled. It creates fear in the minds of individuals because a lot of kids don't like the idea of being flogged and therefore you'll find that it is a measure that helps to keep certain people in check.
"The people I flogged in the past, I flogged more than once or twice and they were the same people. In a sense flogging by itself does not do anything to recalcitrant kids to straighten them out," he added.
Barker said the right atmosphere at the school must be created where traditions could be maintained.
"You set a tradition of discipline in your school. You find that most kids when they come into the school would hear about what would happen and tend to go along with the traditions of the school. In my case I didn't really have to flog many people at all; I just looked at them very hard."
For acting principal of Springer Memorial School, June Howard, flogging was not a first option and she therefore used it sparingly, if at all.
She prefers to talk, give the students lines or meaningful passages that would make them reflect on their actions. She said she has also deprived them of their time through detentions.
Howard said the younger students should be flogged, not the older ones, because this form was more suitable and effective to those at that age.
Hilda Skeene Primary's principal Ivan Clarke said he didn't like flogging.
"It is a last resort and sometimes the problems that we have, lashing would not take away," he said. "The truth is that some of the people that should be getting lashes are the parents."
He is a strong proponent of parents' conferences, counselling and in-school suspension. With the latter, some students spend that time in his office talking to him and doing work.
"I think that what can better serve us is a system of counselling where we have counsellors within the primary school to deal with some of the behaviours that are manifested in the classroom," Clarke said. He added that "a lot" of the parents needed training, noting that some children had serious problems "that beating on them would not help".
Follow-up: 19 January 2009 - Limited lashing: Griffith-Watson: Flogging should be used sparingly in schools
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