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Home > Culture and Society

WAWIBF... Spoling the child

26 June 2004

Obviously, for better or for worse, the days of children limping home from school with their backsides covered in cane welts or slipper swellings have long gone. Whilst some social commentators approve of the phasing out of corporal punishment, others have argued that the death of institutional child-beating has led directly to a widespread rise in insubordination, teen pregnancy, child obesity and knife fights. It's difficult to know what to think. But some children really could benefit from a good hiding. Surely?

It is nice therefore to know that some teachers are risking their reputation, and indeed their livelihoods, to ensure that discipline is maintained, and that rowdy pupils are not allowed to ruin the education and opportunities of others. One such teacher is Avril Mackenzie. Fed up with classroom chaos - particularly year four boys talking, giggling, passing notes and so on - Miss Mackenzie enlisted the help of a bunch of year five girls to go around rapping knuckles and whatnot with rulers.

Sometimes ordinary wooden one-footers, sometimes those whacking great metre-sticks. One assumes the size of the stick depended on the severity of the classroom crime. Fair enough. Or so you'd think.

However, on Monday Miss Mackenzie was charged with assault and fined 750. It is unlikely she will ever teach again. In his summing-up, a rather nave Sheriff Alasdair MacFadyen told Miss Mackenzie: 'When parents entrusted their sons to you, they were entitled to expect they would not be assaulted in the classroom.

Equally, other parents did not expect their daughters to receive instruction in the infliction of pain on classmates.' Foolish man. How else does he expect us to raise future generations of law-enforcement officers and soldiers? And teachers come to that.

On a similar theme, a teacher in Tokyo was last week suspended (although just for a few days) for forcing a 17-year-old boy who had had the temerity to fall asleep in class to write an apology in his own blood. The teacher took the pupil to the staff room and left him alone with a box-cutter and a piece of paper. The pupil did as requested. Interestingly, once the incident had come to light, neither the boy nor his parents requested a change of teacher. That's the Japanese for you. They know the meaning of the word character-building.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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