School life in the 1970’s was a time when students were subjected to corporal punishment. Teachers were respected and they enforced discipline without fearing angry parents abusing them for setting a consistent standard of good conduct, or suspension from teaching duties based on unsubstantiated allegations thrown to excessively liberal authorities that subscribe to the belief that no child would ever lie!
Times have changed and today it seems the attraction to a teaching career is looking less and less attractive. With multi-layered authorities, government departments and outside interference hampering effective methods of discipline and good conduct children today seem to get away with anything. Bullying and violence was a problem in my day however it was unheard of for any student to backchat, stand up to, threaten or even do physical harm to a teacher. In schools today teachers face a growing rate of violence and seem unable to even defend themselves in the event a child decides to go on the rampage any that do find themselves in court answering to charges of child abuse.
Violence, undisciplined and unacceptable behaviour in schools are no longer dealt with effectively. Time out so what, to children unwilling to do any school work time out is perfect. Suspension or expulsion so what, the child then has more free time to do what he or she wants without rules and the cycle gets worse as more school time is missed. Parents called so what, one of the fundamental changes between generations today is that teachers calling my parents spelled big trouble for me whereas today parents characteristically go to extraordinary lengths defending the most recalcitrant child irrespective of behaviour.
Few schools from the late 20th century equipped children to deal with the real world because consequences were either meaningless or non-existent. No pass or fail, award for participating while in the real world you compete, you either succeed or fail and there are no certificates for participating in the job hunt! Translate this principle to violent behaviour and the same results manifest in young adults suddenly finding themselves in serious trouble with the law and unable to deal the fact that their deeds now attract serious penalties.
The way forward from here is to reintroduce rules and enforce them. Underpinning the problem of school violence is lack of consequences and it starts in the classroom. Children need routine, consistency and like it or not discipline. Without any means to enforce rules teachers and increasingly parents are finding themselves governed by the whims of children out of control and the more extreme result is when violence erupts nothing meaningful is done, or even can be done.
Thinking back on times I received the cane because I failed to hand in homework on time, failed to stop talking in class or misbehaved in the school yard, or worse of all fighting it is now clear this served a purpose. To argue that violence begets more violence is appeasement, the only way to deal with violence is to ensure that meaningful consequences follow this intolerable behaviour and it starts in the classroom. Corporal punishment is not child abuse it is necessary as means to reintroduce the balance of action and consequence!