Teachers in England are debating the wisdom of reintroducing corporal punishment, following a decision by schools in Texas to punish pupils using a wooden paddle.
Three schools in the state’s Three Rivers school district have said that staff will be able to use the paddle to beat disobedient pupils. Children will receive one paddling for each infraction.
The district’s trustees voted unanimously to pass the motion. But teachers will only be allowed to beat children whose parents have consented to the use of corporal punishment.
The decision has caused controversy among British teachers. “Do you think this would work in the UK?” one teacher wrote on a Tes online discussion board. “I would give a school permission to hit my child.”
Another disagreed: “There is no place ever for violence towards children. This is ludicrous.”
Others adopted a more philosophical approach: do unto others only as you would have done to yourself. “What if, to give consent, first you had to be beaten with a stiff wooden paddle?” one suggested.
The Texas policy was first posited by Andrew Amaro, the Three Rivers elementary school’s behaviour coordinator. He told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that he was paddled as a schoolboy, and believed that it helped to improve his behaviour. He is advocating the approach for the pupils – aged between 4 and 12 – in his charge.
“If I got in trouble with a teacher and I was disrespectful – whatever the infraction was – I knew I was going to get a swat by the principal,” he said.
However, many of the British teachers commenting online suggested that it was overly optimistic – or even misguided – to assume that the policy would work.
“It’s tempting, but it wouldn’t work,” one wrote. “Some of the worst-behaved kids I taught were the ones with parents who beat them black and blue when misdemeanours were reported. Did it work?”
And then there are safeguarding concerns. Not for the children, but for those who were administering the beatings. “A lot of teenagers are as big as their teachers,” one commenter wrote. “What’s the chances some might hit back?”