Corporal Punishment – for or against?

Kurseong Travel Blog

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One of the things I found hardest initially when coming to India was how to get my classes to behave. Majority of the classes were just a bit chatty and boisterous, however there were a few that had fights every lesson and never managed to do the work, this was and is especially true of my class 2.
Kate and I tried everything from shouting, sending them out, asking other teachers for help and keeping them behind after school, all of which had limited success. When we ask other teachers and our hosts what we should do, they often laugh and we’re told that being hit is all that the children understand. Well obviously if all they’ve ever known is being hit then that will be all that they understand, but if you introduce other punishments and sanctions they’ll begin to understand those also.
The effect hitting children when they do something wrong, as far as we’ve experiences, is that they hit and fight with each other every time they feel that they’ve been wronged. I think I’ve seen more fighting here than anywhere else, and no-one even seems to care. It’s not the same fighting as in the UK, it’s much more common and spur of the moment, and no grudge appears to be held after, but it is quite nasty – hair pulling, punching in the head, strangling, biting and trying to gauge each others eyes out! Clearly not all a response to corporal punishment, but they’re never taught how to have a pacifist response to someone/a situation when they have been wronged.
However, I can appreciate that at times a short, sharp tap can have a very powerful and long lasting effect on a child when they have done something wrong. I certainly remember biting my mum when I was very young (3 or 4 years old) and receiving a short, sharp smack that shocked me, rather than hurt me, and I’ve not bitten anyone since, clearly corporal punishment can be effective and not malicious or painful, but this is not the case in my school.
Punishment here is given out willy nilly, and often for ting things, or a long time after the “crime” was committed. There is no being sent to the principle, or regularity as to what punishment befits which crime, more an ad hoc “you’ve done wrong so I’m going to hit you wherever’s easiest with whatever I can find” there’s also no “do you know what you’ve done wrong?” or “will you never do this again?” – just a hit and that’s it. On one occasion a 6 year old boy got hit at dinner with a stick covered in rubber for a bad test result he got about 4 days earlier, when he started to cry he was comforted. How much more confused can a 6year old be? Punishment and then comfort, surely punish his less so he needs no comfort and can think about what he’s done wrong? This same boy is also noticeably more violent than when he arrived here about 2 months ago. At first he was sweet, polite and quiet, now he’s aggressive, cheeky and has begun to learn how strong he is, a complete flip of personality in just 2 months. If he were my child I’d be majorly pissed off.
However, such an effect doesn’t appear to last, and by about class 5 (12/13 years old) most of the violent behavior appears to have dissipated, to where I don’t know. Adults also, here at least, seem not to be violent towards one another, as opposed to the huge amount of violence and anger I’ve seen in the UK. With this in mind I wonder whether getting rid of corporal punishment is necessary, or whether it would even work. Of course in my heart and in my head I know that it’s morally wrong, but here it’s an accepted fact of live and who am I to say that they should change, especially if there are few negative, long lasting effects of it.
Conversely I feel that it is wrong, and that it breeds submissive, automaton children who’re unable to think for themselves and who’s only fear is being hit. Who do well or try had at school no because of a love of learning or a wish to better themselves, but because of a primitive, animalistic fear of pain. I’m aware that this is a generalization and is probably entirely false, but a part of me believes it.
India has definitely opened my eyes and confused me greatly!
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In the UK animals have rights, and there are organizations that make sure that these rights are enforced. I don’t know whether similar organizations exist in India, I’m sure that to some extent they do. However, as a vegetarian, a human being capable of moral reasoning and a firm believer that in being so we have a duty of care to all animals (including wasps), I find the attitude towards animals in India very troubling, or at least in need of some alterations.
I can appreciate that in the UK we have become overly bureaucratic about many issues, and that in many countries people don’t have the same means as in the UK. However, I refuse to believe that people are unable to let their chickens and goats walk freely about the countryside. There is ample space, and I’m sure that a large pen of some description could be erected with relatively little trouble. It’s horrid to walk past shops with 30 odd chickens clucking and squashed together under the counter, and it’s equally disturbing to see goats stuck in a hutch, not even able to turn around eating from a trough that they access by putting their heads out of a hole in the hutch.
The amount of underfed, emaciated animals is also outstanding, if you haven’t the food to feed your animals, don’t keep them. Easier said than done I fear, as many people rely on their animals as a source of income. However, I feel that if more people cared about the rights of animals, farmers would have more support and as such animals wouldn’t have to suffer.
Even in places where animals are meant to be preserved and cherished, as in the Darjeeling zoo, there is an astonishing lack of care and compassion. Many of the animals, although rare and endangered, were mangy skinny and in the most appallingly small cages I have ever seen. I just don’t understand it.
Pets are also regarded more as puppets or sources of amusement, rather than a member of the family. The dog here is regularly asked to walk on her hind legs, fed éclairs and pushed about by the children. She’s often pushed about, kicked out of the way, or wound up and made to fight with other dogs. It makes me very angry and when I mention it to people, they wobble their heads and go about life.
Another sight that makes me sad is all the emaciated, mangy horses and monkeys that are about for the amusement of tourists. It’s disgusting and clearly the animals receive nect to none of the money that the owners are paid. I don’t understand how people can allow it. But then again, does one pay money in the hopes that the animal with get some food, but in effect supporting the abuse or does one refuse to support them, but also deny the animal the possibility of more food?.
photo by: gert-n-bert