Saturday, October 6, 2007

Corporal Punishment

I remember back to when I was in Junior High School (Junior Middle School for those in China, Middle School for those in Korea). I was standing in line to get my lunch with my good friend Henry. Henry was a passive individual who was much more interested in mathematics than in anything physical. Standing in line was always an ordeal because it put your in a confine place with very little escape.

Our class had a bully by the name of Jerry Foster. He wasn't really big...more fat than anything. He always picked on Henry, pushing at him, threatening him. Eventually Jerry began to think that because I was Henry's friend, that I was the same pushover. Well, one day I had had enough. I don't know why Henry hadn't done anything before, but I was not going to allow things to continue.

I stepped forward and swung my clenched fist wildly at his head. I hit him in the ear and his overly white skin turned a deep shad of red where the blood had rushed to the point of impact. He was shocked at first but gathered himself quickly. I didn't allow him to have a chance to fully regroup and gave him a shove before he had regained his footing. He fell to the ground and all the other tortured souls in our class were cheering.

Well, all the noise was going to be a problem. The vice-principal had heard the noise and was quickly on the scene. Our school had an interesting form of punishment meant to really make people think twice about doing anything wrong. The school cafeteria also served as the school's auditorium, with a stage at one end of the room. Jerry and I were marched up on stage in front of the entire student body. We knew what was coming. We were to bend over and grab our ankles. And with his large 1/2 inch by 6 inch, hole-drilled aerodynamic paddle, the vice-principal reddened our back sides.

It was the only time in school I ever received such a punishment. It went on but I was never one to do something to receive it. I have to believe that it was limited greatly.

I have to say, for me that one time it was worth it. I learned to assert myself a bit, I stood up for my friend, and Jerry never bothered us again. Given the same situation I would do it again. The paddling was a sober reminder the rest of my academic career. I don't know if that is what kept me out of trouble directly or if it simply served to instill in me a strong sense of the consequences of right and wrong actions. Who knows. I could have gotten that from watching Leave it to Beaver or Brady Bunch reruns.

But I wonder how much is to much. I work at a school now in Korea where the teachers regularly beat their students. I am surprised at how much it happens. Barely a day goes by that I don't see some student down on his knees being beaten with some bamboo or wooden stick. It almost seems brutal. Teachers equipment to go to class, beside their lesson book and materials, is always there paddling stick. It is really quite a shock to me.

left: student being punished in Korea.

Corporal punishment had been banned in Korea, as it is in many places in the United States, but in 1999 it was reinstated as an attempt to get control of rebellious students. My feeling is this should not be handled but teachers, however. This should be handled by staff and should be a much more limited event. I think students may have gotten to the point that they no longer care much.

I think everyone wants to completely ban corporal punishment until they become teachers. Then they change their song a bit.

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