This is a very well known catch phrase. Who said that? Actually it was first used by an English poet, Samuel Butler (1612 - 1680). He wrote in hudibras:
By spill Butler meant spoil. English was written in such a way in those days.
The big question is what are your views about this phrase? I will write it for you again, not with a full stop but with a question mark, spare the rod and spoil the child? I found this question very puzzling.
Plato, Socrates and many others, endorse this phrase but there are others who don't. I thought I should ask the children themselves.
I started with primary school children and kept my question very simple. Do you like being beaten at home or at school? They gave me all sorts of weird answers. Most of them did say that they don't like being beaten at home or at school. They were hoping that I would give them some sweets.
One of them did say that he likes being beaten. I believe this child didn't understand my question. The children I spoke to were in Piaget's concrete operational stage of learning (7 to 11 years). Accordingly, they could think logically about objects and events but their cognition was not sufficiently developed to form an opinion.
I then thought of Czech philosopher Amos Comenius (1592 - 1670) who is often considered as the father of modern education. He used to say that the children are the most precious gift of God.
I then thought of Rousseau (1712 - 1778), who is regarded as a figure of Enlightenment. At that time it was believed that man, particularly child, is essentially evil and that the only way the evil can be taken out of the child is by beating the child.
Rousseau believed that the child is naturally good. He writes in his book Emily: God made all things good: man meddles with them and they become evil.
I then thought of speaking to a few CJSS students.
I kept my question as simple as before. Do you like being beaten at home or at school? And then. Can you explain your yes (or no) a bit? The children I spoke to were in Piaget's formal operational stage of learning (13 to 16 years).
In this age the child becomes concerned with the hypothetical, the future and ideological problems. All of them said No to my question. Many of them didn't give me any explanation. Those who explained their no didn't do it well. Their answers were flimsy. A very few of them gave me reasonable explanation.
Many times we are not told why w e were beaten or what did we do wrong. At times a teacher beats the entire class without giving any reason. One of them said, sometimes our teacher will say, it is very cold.
Let me warm you up and then he would give two strokes each to the whole class. Another student said, I don't like being beaten while others are looking. If I have done something wrong, then before beating , the teacher should take me somewhere where no one is looking. Wow! I said to myself.
I thought of BF Skinner, modern education is based on his theory of operant conditioning. He believes that punishment is an aversive control. Organism will stop emitting an unwanted response if punished but start eliciting another unwanted response. Correct and acceptable response will be elicited only if any step emitted by the organism in the right direction is rewarded.
Supposing if the parent or the teacher have a very strong reason for beating a child then child should be told why he is being beaten. Besides, one human being beating another with a stick is not a pleasant sight for others to see. Such an unpleasant exercise must be done privately. In our schools, students who came late, are held outside the school and the corporal punishment is accorded to them while the onlookers watch the unpleasant scene. Some of them are in combies.
There are pedestrians who will watch the scene. There are others who are in their cars. Some of them are visitors from South Africa and other countries. All of them are allowed this unwelcome sight. I am not saying that late comers should be ignored.
There should be a decent way of dealing with them. What about Botswana Education Act 1967. here are the relevant lines: Caning should be 'moderate and reasonable and shall be administered only on the palm of the hand or across the buttocks with a light cane not more than a metre long and at the thickest end, not more than a centimetre in diameter.
"No male teacher except the school head shall inflict corporal punishment upon a female student. All corporal punishments shall be recorded in a register and every entry in the register shall be signed by the person who administered it and the person who witnessed. In our schools, this clause is blatantly ignored by all concerned. Luckily the students and their parents condone those who disobey this clause. Otherwise some of them could be in trouble with the law.
I spoke to a few senior school students. These were around 18 years. Fully grown, adults with voting rights. If they could pass the test, they would get a drivers license. If they had money, they could open a bank account.
The society is quite willing to accept them as responsible adult member. Many of them are muscular and strong. Some of them can take the one quite easily who would assault them. These people aren't young children.
They have dignity, self esteem, and self respect. Beating them with a stick is not merely inflicting physical pain but it also does a lot of psychological damage. Beating also invokes in them negative traits such as anger, revenge etc. My question was: what are your feelings about corporal punishment? All of them said very firmly that they don't like it and that it is not the physical pain but being insulted which bothered them.
Many of them also said that they tolerate the pain and the insult merely because they don't want trouble in the school for themselves. They said that they want to quietly pass their time in the school and obtain the certificate for which they are working. Their answers made me think of human rights. I am righting here the fifth Article of UN charter of human rights 1948:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
How can one human being be give such enormous power and authority that he can take a stick and beat the hell out of the other human being? I spoke to a few parents as well. The parents I spoke to were from lower middle class.
These were the people who actually had their children in the government schools. My question was: What is your feeling about children being beaten with a stick or otherwise at school? Many of them just smiled and didn't say anything.
A very few of them said: we send our children to school If teachers beat them for correcting them then it should be okay but they ( teachers) shouldn't beat them without any reason. One of them argued seriously against corporal punishment and maintained that it should be abolished. Finally I spoke to teachers as well.
My question was: why do you beat students? I didn't get any positive feedback fro them. Almost all of them started with: In Botswana we have to....... I need a break here. Are kids in Botswana any different from kids in the other 250 countries?? Somewhere in the triangle of freedom authority and control (discipline), there has to be a decent way of moulding a child's unwanted behaviour.
Mmegi 19 May 04 printed an article by Alice Banda spelling out the vices of corporal punishment. Time to call for a paradigm shift? I have taken a lot of your time, but, I have my question? Spare the rod and spoil the child? I am going to say: spare the rod and spare the child.