EDITORIAL: Flogging an ongoing debate
WHEN IT COMES to schooling in Barbados, no issues have engaged the attention of Barbadians at all levels and for as long as co-education, the Common Entrance Exam and flogging.
The current debate on whether corporal punishment should be retained in our schools in many ways is no different from that which has popped up periodically over the past quarter century, except that in this case we have a Minister of Education all but saying it is his intention to initiate the process that would lead to it being outlawed.
While those representing the two sides of the argument have been quite vocal in their positions, we don’t believe there is a clear national consensus on the issue.
A 2009 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sponsored survey undertaken by Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) showed 54 per cent supported flogging in schools. By contrast, a whopping 75 per cent supported flogging in the home.
The problem here is that if the arguments of the “experts” are to be accepted, the “where” is not important because the very act of flogging is harmful to the child.
In the words of Minister of Education Ronald Jones: “I have not seen any change in behaviour by beating up on anybody . . . I’ve never seen it. You have a suppression of the behaviour for a time but there is the development of a lot of anger in many of our young people as a result of that brutality.”
Just before she retired, Chief Education Officer Wendy Griffith-Watson said: “We have to be sensible but we do believe [corporal punishment] should remain on the statute books; and we will have a committee very soon to look at how [and] under what conditions . . .”
In 2008, while still principal of the then Garrison Secondary, Matthew Farley said: “Any attempt to ban corporal punishment in our schools is an act of ‘follow-pattern’ that runs counter to our approaches to maintaining discipline in our schools and homes.”
His colleague at the time at The St Michael School at that time, Sheldon Perkins, held a more tempered, yet supporting stance: “Do not banish this form of punishment altogether. Let it be a last resort, but do not rule it out altogether.”
Veteran educator and first principal of Deighton Griffith Secondary, John Blackman, said after retirement: “Let corporal punishment remain on the statute books. I used corporal punishment very sparingly at my school. I say it must be used only for discipline.”
The late Major Hugh Barker once said: “I did not in my 20 years at Foundation School flog more than four people. It is necessary for that measure to be instilled. It creates fear in the minds of individuals because a lot of kids don’t like the idea of being flogged and therefore you’ll find that it is a measure that helps to keep certain people in check . . .
“The people I flogged in the past, I flogged more than once or twice and they were the same people. In a sense flogging by itself does not do anything to recalcitrant kids to straighten them out.”
Our point here is that within the administration of schools the support for flogging appears to be overwhelming and should the option be removed without some form of agreement among those who manage these institutions, nationally we could be courting an even bigger problem.
There can be no doubt that inflicting pain on another human being, regardless of the reason, will build resentment. But in the absence of this method of punishment, however, do all our principals have enough alternative tools at their disposal to deal with the variety of challenges our children bring onto our campuses?
And so the debate goes on…