Jan 222010
 

(Note: All photos for this article were obtained by walking to the closest school today and saying, “I’m an American teacher and have never seen a punishment cane. Can you show me how it works?” It may seem bizarre to be smiling in photos about corporal punishment, but here, the whole affair is discussed with levity.)

“How many of you were beaten with canes by your teachers TODAY?” I asked the YCC students as a logical follow-up to our class discussion on corporal punishment in Ghana.

Ten hands shot up.

What?! I gasped. These were the loveliest, most well-behaved students on earth! “Why did your teacher cane you?” I asked, aghast.

They went around the circle and shared.

“I was late to class.”

“I was talking when the teacher was talking.”

“I didn’t bring my homework.”

WOW.

“Where do they hit you when you get caned?” I pried.

“Oh anywhere,” said Esteria, smiling shyly, “your back, your arms, your… buttocks.” Everyone giggled.

“So what do you think of this practice?” I asked. This was fascinating.

“Well, it’s good and bad,” replied Reuben. “It’s good, because it really teaches you a lesson, and it keeps the class well-behaved. It’s bad because sometimes you are crying so hard afterwards that you cannot concentrate on the lesson.”

For all the outcry this may cause in America, I have to admit: I see both sides of this issue.

In my years teaching in corporal punishment-free Boston, I’ve watched an awful lot of detentions and suspensions and calls home be utterly ineffective.

And the truth remains: I have never worked with such kind and well-behaved students in my life as I have this month in Ghana.

“The government of Ghana is starting to phase out caning,” explained YCC Administrator, Oliver. “Now there are other physical punishments like forced exercise, or making a child squat on the ground while crossing his arms and holding his ears for as long as the teacher says.”

Today as we were visiting the local school, one student was kind enough to demonstrate this punishment, pictured, right.

But the stark differences with American schools don’t stop here. In Ghana, there is also the concept of a “Student Prefect.” Apparently, one student is assigned the role of “Prefect,” and it is his or her job to write down the names of all of the chatty or disobedient children in each class. At the end of each day, the Prefect gives this list to an administrator, and the administrator beats these children with a cane.

Imagine being that Prefect!

“Sometimes the Prefect gets beat up on the way home by people he has reported,” admitted one student today. “Or sometimes he abuses his power and will put the name of his enemies as disobedient and his friends as well-behaved.”

WOW.

“Make sure to put some of these details in your penpal letters to America,” I directed my YCC class, chuckling and shaking my head. “Your American friends will be shocked.”

“Really?” asked one girl incredulously. It’s hard sometimes to believe that other parts of the world are as different as they are.

“Really.”

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  19 Responses to “Beating Students with Canes”

  1. Because it’s physical, it tends to get looked at as distasteful by modern Westerners, who tend to look down on anything physical and only respect the mental (which they mistakenly thing is separate from the physical.) In fact, any kind of touching is now interpreted in a Freudian manner, thus, everything physical is considered to be sexual, and therefore corporal punishment is considered to be both sexual and violent. Therefore, punishing students mentally is preferred – so things like segregating them, sending them home and so on are the preferred ways of “discipline” in much of the West (but they don’t really work, of course. “Behaviour” students are lumped together in “go-nowhere” classes and not trained out of their bad attitudes – basically, they’re left to rot.) However, this anti-corporal punishment mentality is clearly cultural stuff, and not based in any real science. I lived and worked in South Korea at a time when corporal punishment was very common in both school, and in the military and so forth. No one there seemed to think they were a brutal society or anything like that. South Korea was a terrifically ignorant and poor country 60 years ago. In classes of 60 to 100 students, they educated their youth, and the corporal punishment kept the kids quiet and scoring high on tests. South Korea is now a very rich and powerful first world country. The proof is in the pudding – corporal punishment was part of their success, and it is a good thing, overall. Having lived in both cultures, I think the Western World is out to lunch with its Freudian paranoia about anything related to physicality. However, the value of education seems to be so ingrained in modern Westerners that there is apparently enough intrinsic motivation for students to try to learn and succeed, generally speaking. I’m not sure if this attitude will hold out in the long run though. I would tend to see corporal punishment as having a net benefit on society. I don’t think the “you can’t touch me” attitude is sustainable in the long run for a society. It breeds chaos. But the best thing is intrinsic motivation and self-motivated respect for learning, teachers and so forth.

  2. I am 53 years old.when I was about 6 years old I found myself in a terrible class where the teacher was male who caned at the least excuse.i was a good student,he never got a chance to cane me but I spent my Sunday afternoons wailing because for the next 5days i will be seeingMr Adofo (that was his name).My mother was a teacher,my father had been a teacher.they got so scared that I will have some form of breakdown that they removed me from that school.in my new school corporal punishment was rarely used ….I did get caned once and the teacher had to chase me round the class before she could get me to cane.
    I changed my children’s school twice because of this inhuman act.your child wakes up in the middle of her sleep crying…mum dont let me go to school tomorrow…I will be caned because I got a low mark in Ga,a local language.My daughter hates teachers because of this .she will not ask questions even when she doesn’t understand something taught and though she is now in a school where corporal punishment is not allowed.
    We must all do what we can to have this terrible thing banned.you have to inflict pain on a child to force them to understand what you have not properly taught.Shame on all who call themselves teachers who resort to this act to teach.the greatest teacher of all…Jesus ,was so gentle.
    You are even caned for being late to Rosary prayers.Shame on all who support this.

  3. Dear Lilie,
    Thank you so much for your profound and interesting article. My mother and sister were both teachers and principals. They both used corporal punishment for academic and misbehavior .as other teachers did. They had polite and academically most successful students. Now that that practice is not used as often as before, students are unruly and less successful. That does not mean that no student is successful or polite, I only mean that it overall worked for betterment of students. As you know 21 US states still practice it.I was against it before but later was convinced it should be available as an option.In some schools in Alberta /Canada it is still practiced and a female principal who uses strap told that the fact that it can happen is often of enough deterring effect for most students.Please do not change your mind so fast.
    By the way male students were punished often with a fresh stick/ a branch of locust acacai( pain/ burning lasted 5-6 hours) or apple , soar cherry) and girls with a ruler, but sometimes both were used for both sexes!
    Personally I received it twice , grades 4 and 9 by female instructors using acacia. I was an A student and it made me even more careful and better one!( The teachers were both friends of my mom!!!)
    sincerely yours,
    john
    Please comment on this!

  4. Caning should completely be stopped unless it is needed for a child. This is as a fact that kids can maintain serious injuries by a teacher caning them. Even after sustaining such injures the teacher goes unpunished worst of all, the teacher won’t face any charges.

  5. I think that caning is both good and bad, but the forced exercises don’t look like they would be fun at all.

  6. This article was very interesting on how such well behaved students got in trouble in their life as a kid too. I think the punishments they had was pretty good for the cane, because it had taught them discipline and respect towards their school. On the other hand I felt like beating them with the cane isn’t really fair either cause they could get hurt real badly and it could affect them both emotionally and physically. For this issue I’m glad America isn;t like this and instead we have detention or another type of punishment. I’m also glad that now they have different punishments in Ghana now. I think that being a prefect on the other hand, is cool though because I would definetley get revenge on my enemies at school>:), and I would be like the teachers assistant. If I were the student in Ghana I would definetley try my best to be the prefect of the day cause that would be awesome. Thanks for posting this article I enjoyed reading it.:D

    • For me the biggest issue is the effect it has on GOOD kids. This aspect is all too often missed. We have a serious problem with this in Thailand – good kids are just too scared to go to school becasue they fear they will make a mistake and be beaten. They see it every day and they are terrified despite the fact its 100% illegal here. This often leads to high drop our rates.

      Bottom line is ALL kids surely have a right to learn WITHOUT fear – thats means all kids not just the bad ones. It breaks my heart to see good, well behaved, eager to learn children being absolutely terrified of going to school.

  7. For all the outcry this may cause in America, I have to admit: I see both sides of this issue.

    In my years teaching in corporal punishment-free Boston, I’ve watched an awful lot of detentions and suspensions and calls home be utterly ineffective.

    And the truth remains: I have never worked with such kind and well-behaved students in my life as I have this month in Ghana.

    Oh what a surprise: Terror is working.

  8. If it is ilegal then teachers should be the last people breaking the law. For me its that simple. Its irrelevant whether its good or bad (most surveys show bad) teachers should not break the law. What kind of example does breaking the law and using violence give to kids??

    Ghana is opne of VERY few African countries who have not banned this practice.

    This is how kids feel about it.

    http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=184249

  9. Why so different? Corporal punishment is still legal and regularly used in 21 States in the USA. We always hold ourselves up as defenders of “right” but this disgusting practice takes places every day in these 21 states. lets get our own house in order before we start preaching to others.

    PS – the 21 States use a paddle not a cane but the principle is the same.

  10. It is punishable under law here in India,but some teachers here still beat students.Every now and then there’s an article in the news about some kid having been thrashed by the teacher/principle.Even kids as young as two + years are not spared by these maniacs.The reason it’s in the news is because the child was hurt real bad .Either an eye was lost,arm broken or something worse …NO IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THE KID.There has to be a way to make kids enjoy school and the lessons should be taught in an interesting way.Kids will be kids ,they need guidance , encouragement and an understanding teacher.

    • Powerful and convincing comment, Charmine!

    • You highlight a major problem. Imagine this scenario

      10 teachers hitting children. 9 believe it is “right” and 1 is a pervert,

      How do you stop the one? The only way is to stop them ALL as it is the only way to take away the perverts cover and excuses. There is NO doubt that some (few) teachers do this simply becasue they enjoy it and they will forever exist if others give their actions credence.

  11. One thing to remember is this: less than a century ago, our schools in the US essentially did the same things.

    When I went to elementary school in California (grades 1-4, early 80s), corporal punishment was still legal, but the teachers did not hand it out. The principal would send a permission slip home to the parents to get consent. Since my parents (one of which is from the south) did spank me at home and OK’d it at school, I occasionally ended up with ruler and ping pong paddle marks on my butt.

    When I moved to Alaska, corporal punishment had already been outlawed there. When I was in middle school and high school, the more common punishment (especially with the teacher/coaches) was calisthenics like push-ups, crunches, laps, up-downs, etc. Yes, that could be construed as torture to some, but for the able-bodied, it actually became positive reinforcement in the long run.

    One of three long-term outcomes can come from corporal punishment, be it in schools or at home:

    1. The child grows up normally, but believes in corporal punishment enough to practice it on their children, continuing the cycle.

    2. The child becomes submissive to the point where he/she will not have to emotional strength to stand up for him/herself. There may also be some emotional trauma.

    3. The child grows up to resent their parents and may possibly stand up to said parents, which could provide results ranging from a heated argument and estrangement to a physical brawl to the death of one of the people involved.

    Here’s my belief (and how I turned out):

    * While in high school, I stood up to my father physically (I became a decent wrestler in HS). Nobody was injured, but let’s just say I scared him straight. He never hit me again.
    * I would never raise a hand to my daughter. The most I have ever done was yell at her (usually a 1-2 word sentence). If I got to that extreme, I would talk myself (and her) back down again and discuss the situation.
    * In school, sometimes you see a few bad apples who deserve whatever punishment they get. As a wrestling coach, I subscribe to the extra calisthenics method. I would also subscribe to the detention-at-one-of-my-wrestling-practices method. What is that method, you ask. This is for tough guys that think they can take on the world and beat up all the weaklings. They get to come to practice and do all of the conditioning that my athletes do. Then I can pair them up with a wrestler who does not have a workout partner (or me if I feel I need a workout). Eight times out of 10, the little punk gets the snot beaten out of him (legally, but not traumatically) to the point that he does not want detention again………..EVER! In the other two times out of 10, he may be able to handle the rigors enough to come to more of my practices, in which case I get a new athlete and he refocuses his energy into something positive (and stays out of trouble). BTW, I have seen quite a few wrestling coaches do this and in most cases (at least here in Arizona) it has worked like a charm. One of those kids won two state titles and now coaches at his original high school, where he had the privilege to coach an olympic gold medalist.

    Of course, this is just my humble opinion.

  12. Anonymous said…
    interesting post – you really seem to think it is not such a bad idea, so would you consider using it yourself if one of your students was being especially awkward?

    sam

    January 22, 2010 5:20 PM

    Lillie M. said…
    Sam,

    Excellent question! As I mentioned in the article, I am keeping a very open mind about different world discipline policies, as I see the excellent behavior the Ghana version has produced, but I am also aware of the problems that physical punishment can create.

    As for my own use of such methods, I would be promptly fired if I caned a student in Boston, so that’s not even an option. Even in Youth Creating Change, Sogakope, where I am teaching now, they have a no-caning policy.

    If I took a full-time job in a Ghanaian school that used caning, however, I think I would either have the option of caning with my own hands or having an administrator do it. In truth, I am not sure which path I would choose in such a situation! Other teachers and readers, care to weigh in? What would YOU do?

    Thanks for writing!
    – Lillie

    January 22, 2010 6:16 PM

    backpackingranny said…
    I am not a teacher but I would NOT cane and I would not suggest the administrator do it either.

    January 22, 2010 6:40 PM

    Mr. Willhoit said…
    As a public high school teacher in the US, I too would be instantly fired if I ever caned a student. Even if I had the option to use caning, I never would, because it results in creating an atmosphere of fear. I strongly believe that in order for students to learn, they need to feel safe and comfortable. Caning might produce short-term results, but the long-term impact could be far worse. I focus on trying to create an atmosphere that my students want to come to.

    January 22, 2010 7:32 PM

    Sofia said…
    The thing that surprised me the most must be the “Perfect”, this must really mess up these kids?! Talk about making things worse…! I’m kind of lost for words here.. is it a different kid every day that takes on the role “perfect”?

    January 22, 2010 9:15 PM

    Franny said…
    Sofia – it’s a “prefect” – although I mis-read it the first time too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefect

    January 22, 2010 10:31 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Hi lille, having grew up in England I had the luck(!!) to go to schools where both canes and prefects were still in use.

    My experience was between the two extremes of the argument that you hear, on the one hand it wasn’t the abusive horror that some people suggest (children tend to take everything as normal), and so far I don’t seem to have grown up into a homocidal psychopath.

    But on the other hand, it was pretty scary to get it, and painful too, and I am not sure it actually helps such a lot, since children just don’t think in terms of ‘consequences of their actions’ like that, unless of course they are really terrified, which I am sure is not the aim!

    And if you want to know first hand – why dont you get someone to try it on you instead of just posing for pictues, and let us know what you think :D

    January 23, 2010 11:00 AM

    Lillie M. said…
    Anonymous,

    Many thanks for your clear-headed and informative comment! It certainly helps this debate to hear from someone who’s actually felt the sting of the cane growing up.

    Indeed, you are correct that I should have been soundly lashed as research for this article, but this is how the morning conversation went:

    Me: “Please actually hit me with the cane.”

    Teacher: “NO! It will hurt!”

    Me: “I know– I’m trying to actually get the full picture.”

    Teacher: “NO!”

    Me: “Come on!”

    Teacher: “Okay, how about this…” (tiny little cane tap)

    Me: “Seriously! Try to actually do it!”

    Teacher: “No!”

    I will continue my attempts to actually be caned, and once I am I think I will determine that the whole thing… hurts.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting! Keep it coming!

    January 23, 2010 12:34 PM

    backpackingranny said…
    Interesting that the teacher refused to cane you because it will hurt. Will the same teacher cane a child without a second thought?

    I am wondering what will hppen to the prefect if they refuse to write the names of the misbehaving classmates.

    This blog is making me squeeze my face.

    Love Granny

    January 23, 2010 1:47 PM

    Anonymous said…
    i dont think you should squeeze your face that much, we actually grew up with this kind of punishment in our area but actually it is fading out. all what Lillie is doing is just comparing what happens out there and what is happening here.

    thanks lillie for making us know the kind of worlds we live in.

    January 23, 2010 8:53 PM

    Luddy Sr. said…
    If the only criteria were results then it would be caning all the way.

    I know it’s easy for me to say but I think when you hear the word “caning” that it sounds much more brutal than it actually is. Seems to be akin to a rap on the knuckles with a wooden ruler (which was the norm here in America not long ago wan’t it?).

    January 24, 2010 4:19 PM

    Lauren Quinn said…
    Interesting exploration of cultural differences in education and child development. I like the non-judgmental way to discuss the issue.

    January 24, 2010 6:29 PM

    Anonymous said…
    @backpackinggranny – I also thought it was a bit ironic that he refused to use the cane as it would hurt!

    @Lille – It was me who wrote the post describing where I ‘felt the sting of the cane’, sorry for posting Anonymous, i dont have any of the other identities registered.

    You are saying that the cane seems to have a good effect in schools in Ghana as the children are so well behaved, but I noticed you had already been to Japan (actually that is how I came across this page), and my experience of Tokyo schools is that they have the most amazingly well behaved and hard working children I have ever seen anywhere! But there (so far as I know) there is no physical punishment.

    Now though I am really looking forward to hearing what your opinion of a good ‘six of the best is’! But one bit of advice, don’t let him do it on your hand, there are too many small fragile bones in there which can be easily damaged. Just touch your toes and take it like a real woman :)

    sam

    January 25, 2010 5:27 PM

    Maria said…
    Lillie,

    Thanks for the post! It was funny and well written.
    But even though you haven’t actually gotten the punishment cane yourself, you could probably still compare the feeling to, say a childhood punishment you received.
    Were you spanked by your parents, for example? How did it make you feel? Do you remember a particular time it happened?

    March 18, 2010 2:12 PM

    Lillie M. said…
    Thanks for all the comments!

    I now declare, two months after writing this article, that I am moving steadily towards the anti-caning side of the debate.

    Check out Easteria’s first-hand account of being beaten for more insight: http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/2010/02/easterias-article-beaten-with-cane.html

    Precious’s article shows another shocking (in my humble American opinion) punishment: http://www.aroundtheworldl.com/2010/03/preciouss-article-kicked-out-of-school.html .

    Interesting and important debate, this. Keep the comments coming!

    – Lillie

    March 18, 2010 2:27 PM

    whitepier said…
    Thoughtful and informative writing. Like you I have mixed feelings: I got the impression from your articles that in practice the cane is used too often and too randomly, but in theory it’s not necessarily such a bad thing to have there as an option.

    I remember being very surprised at my (non-caning) primary school – when my class was asked for a show of hands on who agreed with such punishment, most actually did. As long as it wasn’t used on them personally, of course!

    As others suggest, you need to experience more than a tiny little tap to really have a clear idea.

    March 18, 2010 10:00 PM

    Anonymous said…
    First I have to apologize for my bad English.
    Nevertheless, I would like to bring some aspects into the discussion.
    I have read your article and the discussion here with great interest. Just because at the moment we have a public debate about the earlier abuse and beatings at church boarding schools here in Germany. Especially in my case, an interesting discussion.
    Today, it is difficult to understand but one must always bear in mind a different era and the culture had changed since then .It is not so long ago that in several European countries, corporal punishment in schools and home was used. The positive thing about it was another kind of respect for the teachers and parents than the kids have today. Nevertheless it is by today’s discretion a less acceptable type of discipline in Europe.
    One of my friends was even a time as a teacher in Africa and she had started a aversion against corporal punishment. After some time she has changed her mind and adapted as it was impossible for her to bring that many children to rest. I myself could not agree with her but she said that it was effective. The children were accustomed to receive lashes if they misbehave. Just the presence of the cane in the class helped her with the discipline and she argue that it is just a different culture. Okay that´s her opinion and okay it’s a different culture
    but she grew up without this kind of punishment. Rather violently that she has done that then.

    Since I grew up very religious, because my mother was a Jehovah’s Witness, I know how a cane stings. Believe me, it hurts a lot. If you still want to try, don´t forget a pillow !
    Well you should make your own experiences and try out what is in your opinion the most effective. I only can not imagine how you’re running by the class with a cane in your hand as well as I could not imagine what my friend did.

    -Monika

    March 19, 2010 12:19 PM

  13. I actually volunteered in 2008 at a school in Mississippi where they still use corporal punishment. Though appalling to our group from ME, it was nothing down there.

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