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School CP - September 2006

Corpun file 18446


Korea Times, Seoul, 5 September 2006

Corporal Punishment in Schools

By Ben Brown

There is no question that kids can be unruly. Over the past century criminological research has consistently shown that adolescents and young adults (males in particular) are more likely to engage in unlawful behavior than any other age group. Because most kids spend a substantial portion of their day in school, educators are charged with the task of controlling the often unruly behavior of kids and historically educators have relied on corporal punishment to discipline troublemakers. Over the past few decades, however, there has been a global increase in opposition to corporal punishment in schools and a concomitant reduction in the use of such discipline.

Much like numerous other nations which have struggled to come to terms with the query of whether to ban corporal punishment in schools, here in Korea the practice of physically disciplining students has been a contentious issue for several years. Starting in the early 1990s there was an increase in public discontent about corporal punishment in schools. Then, in 1998, the Korean government passed a law prohibiting corporal punishment in schools -- legislation which was rescinded the following year. Owing to outcry from educators who found themselves unable to maintain classroom discipline without the use of corporal punishment, the Korean government granted teachers the right to physically discipline students with the caveat that the measure be used only as a last resort.

Since that time Korean educators and policy makers have continued to wrestle with the issue, searching for a means to allow teachers to effectively discipline students yet minimize the potential for the abuse of power by teachers. For instance, limits have been imposed on the number of times a student may be physically struck, the areas of the body where a student may be struck, and the size of the rod with which a student may be struck. Now, nearly a decade after the Korean government initially tried to ban corporal punishment, Choi Soon-young of the Democratic Labor Party is trying to get legislation passed which would once again ban the use of corporal punishment in schools.

Although it would be foolish to suggest that there is no means of curbing youthful malfeasance other than the infliction of physical pain, that does not mean educators should be prohibited from using corporal punishment. It would behoove Korea's legislators to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of corporal punishment before trying to once again ban the practice. Consider, for instance, the situation in the U.S. Whereas corporal punishment was once commonly used in American schools, many public schools in the U.S. have abandoned the practice. As a result of the decrease in the use of physical discipline, a plethora of non-violent means of controlling student misconduct have been developed.

One means of curbing student misconduct, a measure that became common following the school shootings of the early 1990s (e.g., the incidents in Paducah, Kentucky and Littleton, Colorado), is the implementation of "zero tolerance" school security policies which mandate suspension or expulsion for any sort of violent student behavior. Another common method for reducing student misbehavior is to assign law enforcement officials the task of serving in schools. The most recent figures available from the U.S. Department of Justice show that more than 40% of municipal police departments and county sheriff departments have full-time officers assigned to serve in public schools. Yet another method for controlling unruly students is to administer psychiatric drugs such as methylphenidate; a drug best known by the brand name Ritalin. Recent reports indicate that between 2000 and 2005 the use of Ritalin in schools almost doubled and that, among ten-year-old boys, nearly one in ten is presently taking Ritalin or a similar drug.

It is not clear, however, whether the aforementioned tactics are more effective than corporal punishment. Despite the development of "zero tolerance" security policies, the practice of having sworn law enforcement officers patrol schools, the administration of psychoactive substances on a massive scale, and a plethora of other non-violent school security measures -- for instance, the use of drug sniffing dogs to search for drugs and the creation of teen courts wherein students accused of minor misconduct are judged by their peers -- student misconduct remains a problem in the U.S. Research continues to show that illegal drugs (e.g., ecstasy, marijuana) are available in American schools and that many students bring weapons (e.g., guns, knives) to school.

Furthermore, it is questionable as to whether many of the non-violent tactics used to control student misbehavior are more humane than corporal punishment. Is the administration of psychoactive substances such as Ritalin (a drug which has been linked to brain damage and death) more humane than spanking a child? What about the "zero tolerance" school security policies? Is suspending or expelling a child from school thereby depriving the child of educational and social opportunities more humane than corporal punishment?

No one likes to see children in pain and there is no question that corporal punishment causes pain to children. Thus, it is easy for political figures to get up on a soapbox, preach about the horrors of corporal punishment, and demand that the practice be banned. Finding alternative means of maintaining school discipline, however, has proven to be quite a challenge and there is little hard data to suggest that the alternatives to corporal punishment are effective. Moreover, it is not at all clear whether many of the non-violent means of controlling student misbehavior are more humane than corporal punishment. In short, politicians and school reformers in Korea who are calling for a ban on corporal punishment should be careful what they wish for. They just might get it.

The writer is a professor of criminal justice at the University of Texas at Brownsville. He is currently on a one-year developmental leave of absence, teaching English at Ansan College.

Corpun file 18444

Joongang Daily, Seoul, 9 September 2006

'Ban the rod, spoil the child' is widely accepted

By Kim Soe-jung

"I sometimes hit my students on their backsides," said a 27-year-old teacher at a boys' high school in Seoul who declined to be named.

"Ever since I began my career two years ago," she continued, "one of the most difficult questions was how to discipline my students. Because other methods did not really work on boys who are old enough to look down on a young female teacher like me, I decided to use corporal punishment."

The Education Ministry and the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers' Union, which have been fighting bitterly with each other on many issues, reached a rare agreement on the controversial issue of corporal punishment at schools: Ban it.

It was that proposed policy that drew this teacher's criticism. "I set a clear standard and make students understand why they are being punished," she said. "For example, I tell them that I would use a rod if they did not attend after-class study sessions without telling me. And if I catch them breaking the rules, I take them to a private place where no other student is watching and strike them 10 times. They seemed to understand why they are being punished."

Other schoolteachers seemed puzzled at the new proposals. "It is getting harder and harder for us to teach students. They became very defiant of teachers, while we have fewer and fewer ways to control them," said a 52-year-old female teacher at a girls' high school in Seoul. "These days, students curse and throw chairs at teachers when they are upset. Uncontrolled punishment driven by a teacher's instant rage should definitely be prohibited, but I do not agree with banning all corporal punishment," she said.

According to a survey last month conducted by the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations and involving about 3,400 teachers, 86 percent said they opposed legislative plans to revise laws on students' human rights that would ban corporal punishment and scrap regulations on student hair length and styles.

The proposal was submitted by Choi Soon-young, a member of the Democratic Labor Party, in March. Twenty-two legislators from his party and from Uri, the Grand Nationals and the Democrats have announced their support.

"Students have been beaten in the name of education. Students have not had the freedom of their own bodies. Education without human rights is nothing but violence," a group of legislators said at a press conference on Aug. 30. They also vowed to push for adoption of the proposal at this month's National Assembly session. The teachers' union and 19 liberal civic groups have started a signature-gathering campaign in support of the proposal.

The Education Ministry also said it would submit its own bill to ban corporal punishment and would hold public hearings to solicit the opinions of teachers, parents and students. The ministry assembled a seven-person team on Sept. 1 to investigate complaints of student human rights abuses, including violence or sexual harassment at schools.

Part of the problem educators and administrators have in groping for an effective way of maintaining school discipline is that expulsion and suspension of students is seen here as a drastic measure. Expulsion is prohibited except in high schools, and is obviously not a remedy to be used lightly. Suspensions are allowed at all grades, but can only be meted out for violent actions, not misbehavior. The ministry said it was also considering a loosening of the rules regarding suspensions in conjunction with its proposal to ban corporal punishment.

Behind the support of the administration, the teachers' union and legislators for the revisions is their awareness of public outrage over a series of incidents in which students received beatings from teachers, including one captured on video. The incidents were widely reported by the media and spread over the Internet.

On Aug. 14, for example, a high school student in Daegu was administered 200 strokes by his homeroom teacher because he was three minutes late for class. The student was hospitalized for several days. The 35-year-old male teacher was fired; parents of that student and of others who said he had abused them have filed criminal complaints.

Such stories have been carried by the media on occasion for many years. The video documentation of one incident in June involved a 53-year-old elementary teacher in the North Jeolla city of Gunsan. She was seen slapping the faces of two of her first-grade students. The clip spread rapidly over the Internet; protests poured in and the teacher was also fired.

The controversy even led to the release of a horror movie, "To Sir with Love," which opened this summer. It depicts the revenge of a group of seven students against their elementary school woman teacher who abused them mentally and physically when they were young. To promote the movie, the production company invited Internet users to dredge up bad memories of teachers; hundreds of people wrote, with unknown veracity, about how cruelly their teachers treated them during their school years.

"Watch out. I will find you and make you regret for hitting me with an iron rod just because I was not smart," one online commentator wrote. The production company awarded 10 winners tickets to the movie.

"The stories reported by the media are unbelievable to most of us teachers," said a 26-year-old woman teaching at an elementary school in Incheon. "These days, the education offices are very cautious about corporal punishment, and have ordered us to be very careful. Teachers have become very intimidated by parents and students, and most of the teachers at my school do not use corporal punishment at all."

She continued, "Some people ask why Korean teachers have to hit their children while other countries' teachers do not. But there are over 40 students in one classroom at an elementary school in large Korean cities. It is very difficult to control them. Because we have become more and more hesitant to punish students, some teachers have just given up disciplining them."

On Aug. 28, another incident appeared in the media, this one about a 42-year-old high school teacher in Daegu who slapped an 18-year-old male student 10 times on the neck because he was late for class. The young man's parents, enraged, reported the incident to reporters. But in this case, there was a different twist to the public reaction. Other students at the same school began posting articles on Internet sites defending the teacher.

"Our teacher does not use a rod routinely, and wakes us up by patting our shoulder when we are sleeping in class," an 18-year-old woman posted. "Many students are worried that he might have to leave us.

The parents of the young man who initiated the complaints later went to the school, said they had not realized how respected the teacher was and said they were withdrawing the complaints.

According to a telephone survey jointly conducted by and Daum last month, 70 percent of the 700 respondents over age 19 said that corporal punishment was an effective disciplinary tool. Three-quarters said they opposed the proposal for a complete ban on physical punishment. In a survey in 2004 of more than 2,500 people, corporal punishment had the support of 85 percent of teachers, 74 percent of parents and 65 percent of the students.

Those majorities agreed that corporal punishment was necessary for effective education.

"We agree with the concept of the revisions," said Han Jae-gap, the spokesman of the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations. "They are to protect the basic human rights of students. "But if relations between students and teachers were defined by law, it would be difficult to create trust between them. Some violent students who harass their classmates and interrupt classes cannot be properly disciplined with gentle talk. We think limited levels of corporal punishment are necessary for the students' sake. I don't think making laws will help improve students' human rights."

A spokeswoman for Haksamo, a parents' group, agreed. Ha Mi-yeon said, "We don't agree with prohibiting all corporal punishment. If there are clear standards, including under what circumstance teachers can use corporal punishment, what kind of rod can be used and how many blows a teacher can administer, that method should be allowed in necessary cases as one disciplinary measure. Teachers also should make their students understand why they are being punished."

Education law revisions in 1998 allow corporal punishment in schools only when it is "inevitable." The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended to Seoul in 2003 that it implement the recommendations of the Korean National Human Rights Commission to amend the laws to prohibit corporal punishment not only in schools but in all other institutions and in homes.

The Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies in Yongin, Gyeonggi province, banned corporal punishment entirely when it opened in 2004. As of 2005, about half of schools here had made the same decision. The foreign language high school is well-regarded and selective in its admissions policies.

"I tell students who are late for class or do not focus on lectures to stand on the podium in front of other students and complement each other while holding hands," said Yoon Da-woon, 26, a Korean language teacher there. "They are very embarrassed and other students laugh and enjoy watching them. It works especially on boys because they really hate doing it," she said.

Corpun file 18443


Korea Times, Seoul, 13 September 2006

More Feedback on Corporal Punishment

By William Roger Jones

Corporal punishment is an effective means to curb the stupid behavior of school kids. However, the one and only reason it should be discontinued is because of the stupid, abusive behavior of educators.

My take on correcting stupid behavior in schools is a bit different from most folks. (See Ben Brown's 'Corporal Punishment in Schools', Korea Times Sept. 6). I call it stupid because that implies it may be congenital or temporary. However the behavior comes about, let us make sure it's for a limited time only, i.e. very fleetingly.

Anyway there seems to be two distinct schools of thought on the contentious issue: those for it, and those against it. For those against it, you must quickly find an alternative treatment for the once corrected recidivist student. For those for it, you must consider professional demeanor.

What makes the issue complex is the assignment of appropriate penalty corresponding to the noted offense. In addition, how are the offenses to be graded across the range of primary and secondary students?

"Do-gooders" are always around (especially in America) seeking zealously to correct (often in an idealistic or impractical way) what they see as a social ill. They are naive reformers who are disposed to bettering the conditions under which others live. I think they are namby-pamby characters.

They are the sort of people who wish to "spare the rod and spoil the child." They preach no corporal punishment in schools, because they think it's abusive, bullying, and inhumane. They think and believe one can reason with recalcitrant students.

In my Texas early school days, I often succumbed to peer group pressure; and schoolboy pranks often brought discipline in the form of paddling (spanking). If I knew for sure that the following day I would receive a paddling, I would wear two pairs of jeans. But, that didn't fool my eagle-eyed history teacher who would put more force into the swing of the paddle to the bottom of my behind.

I assure you that it didn't take too many such exercises to cure me. Tears welling up in my eyes were the ultimate humiliation before my peers. Learning was fast; I conducted myself thereafter with a degree of caution. I didn't at that time think the discipline was "inhumane" as some modernists espouse. I knew very well that I deserved punishment. And, a paddling (3-5 whacks) was a lot less than what my father would have meted out.

Some indulging highbrows and pampering mothers of those students still attached to their mother's apron strings (mama's boy) often produce incompatibles. This kind of mollycoddling clearly disadvantages boys who suffer a rude wake-up call when they enter the real world where the men are separated from the boys.

Before it became fashionable to kowtow to psychologists, clergy, and psychiatrists, corporal punishment was an expected school policy. Abuses and "causes celebres" promoted by media and attorneys have caused it to be dismissed in most school systems.

I'm from the old school, the school of hard knocks. I believe that students who specifically and especially can not be rerouted by demanding and imploring, cajoling and coaxing, and reasoning, etc. should face severe consequences to bring them understanding. School-age kids know what school time and schoolwork mean. They know they must conform to the rules of conduct.

Delinquency must be punished. When a teacher's admonishments prove futile, then it becomes the duty of parents to chastise their child or submit him or her to some sort of behavior therapy.

Managing a class is no easy task. Class order must be maintained. Aberrant students must be addressed. Classmates are like a school of fish swimming together. Stanley Jones' "The Herd-Fear" serves as a deterrence to improper behavior. At any rate, for those who wish to rectify what they see as a misguided policy by certain school districts, let them also consider and emphasize parent responsibility for the guidance of their child's behavior.

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